Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing The TJ & Dave Book (#4): The Moments

by Pam Victor

["Writing The TJ & Dave Book" is the series plucked from the journal I kept while writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. You should buy the book here. (I mean, if you want to.) 
You can see the whole behind-the-book blog series here for free.]

The Moments: Journal Entries from Early 2013

“Anyone like ‘The Moment’ for a possible book title?” That was TJ asking on a text thread between the three of us. (Be still my heart. Would there be a time when this was a ho-hum occurrence? I hoped not but feared so.)

I didn’t say this out loud (and by “out loud,” I mean in the text,) but if I have to be perfectly honest, the title “The Moment” brought up immediate images of Debra Winger in a ‘80s Lifetime movie in which she falls in love with Robert Redford on a sailboat to a Celine Dion song, and then dies. But when it comes down to it, this ain’t my book. So I texted back, “I’ll put it on the list of possible titles.”

We continue to exchange few more texts in which we discussed our first rejection from a literary agent (“Our first rejection!” I wrote, “I’ll put it in our scrapbook!”) And then David texted, “TJ. I do.” 

And then David added, “Oh god, that was for The Moment suggestion. I hope you don’t think that I meant … But I would that too. I mean do.”

“Awwww! That is definitely going in the scrapbook!” I girlied out all over their text thread.

Another TJ and Dave moment to an audience of one. Me. One lucky motherfucker. If the whole book thing ended tomorrow – and I half-expected it would just because Dorothy doesn’t get to stay in Oz forever – at least I would have moments like that.

* * *

In a whispered hush with my BFF Laura, I shared my nagging worry that in writing this book, I will be the catalyst of the demise of TJ & Dave. I suspected that one of the reasons they resist introspection and glory stems from a fear that such belly button gazing and over-analysis would harm the show. 

Perhaps TJ & Dave is perfect because it remains unexamined by them? What if their protracted introspection kills the magic of TJ and Dave?! I can just hear what people would say in the dark corners of improv theaters and classrooms, the fable that would be handed down along with things Del Close may or may not have said, “TJ and Dave were the best…until…” And then in a barely audible whisper, “…the book…” 

I would be the person who killed TJ & Dave! I would be persona non grata in the improv world, forevermore to be referred to as “she who shall not be named.” WHAT IF I KILL THE MAGIC OF TJ & DAVE?!

* * *

A friend who does Tarot card readings offered me one to allay my fears about stepping into the unknown with this book. The last card that came up, the “outcome card,” was a fireworks of celebration. I didn’t want to talk about the reading with anyone, fearful of tempting fate. All I could do was look towards the next meeting …


TJ, David, and I were having a phone meeting about the book, again going over titles. One of David's favorites was "This Shit is So Fucking Easy." Through slightly gritted teeth, I told him that 95% of the people who would hopefully hold the book in their hands actually don't find the shit very easy. I know I don't. 

He said, "That's just because people want to think it's hard, so it is hard." 

I'm pretty sure he was yanking my chain. (He likes to be ornery.) However, perhaps there is some truth there? If a chapter ends up being called, "This Shit is So Fucking Easy," you'll know where it comes from.


In my effort to absorb as much TJ and Dave as possible during this data-collection phase of the book, I found myself wandering over to YouTube and watching a couple Sonic commercials. However in geeking out over a bunch of damn Sonic commercials - WTF, Pam??? -  I wondered if I possibly crossed a line of decency and propriety.

Please don't look at me. I'm disgusting.

I watched the commentary version of “Trust Us, This is All Made Up.” Probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen the show, though first time I’d watched the commentary. I found it delightful and insightful, and I laughed a lot when TJ signed off at the end with, “Thanks for watching, dorks.” He was talking to me! 

(I know this for a fact mainly because I’m probably the only person who watched the whole commentary.)

(Oh? You watched it too? That’s great, you fucking dork.) 

* * *

Jonesin’ for more TJ and Dave ammunition for the book, I shot off an email to David asking if he could get me some DVDs of their iO shows. His response was, “How many do you need? All I need is an address.”

A year ago, this interaction would have blown my mind clear off my shoulders.

Yeah, David Pasquesi personally is delivering TJ and Dave shows to me. I feel like I’m going to be struck down with lightning just for writing that sentence.

Follow up: I slowly savored the shows, parsed out over several months. Each show is different and brilliant in its own way. Some are fast and hilarious. Some are slow and immensely skillful. But, holy fuck, they are all … yeah … my challenge will be finding the words to describe their brilliance for the book beyond the words “holy fuck.” 

* * *

Last night, I had a dream that they made the TJ & Dave show into a movie. 

As a puppet show.

One day, David and I were talking on the phone going over material for the first chapter. He was at a hotel while on location for a TV show. He stopped mid-sentence and said with delight, “Oh. TJ is on TV right now.”

All I could think was, “What is the new world I am in?”


Zip Zap Zop. I was talking to TJ and David about that game. I had this strange fantasy to make a video of them playing Zip Zap Zop. (TJ sagely warned me to back off from that idea if I wanted David to ever speak to me again.)

“South of the equator, they play Zop Zap Zip,” I quipped during the meeting. “You know," I added when they didn't laugh. "The Australian drain theory?” After a contemplative pause, I added, “I heard somewhere that it’s a fallacy that the water goes down the drain in the opposite direction.” 

Dave said, “Yeah I heard that somewhere too.”

Me, genuinely trying to wrack my brain, “Huh. I can’t remember where I heard it though. It was a good fact.” 

Dave replied, “Probably a couple guys who didn’t know what they were talking about.”

And it was at that moment that I realized I had been quoting as fact something I’d heard in a web series. A web series called Graveyard. Starring Christian Stolte and … blerg … David Pasquesi. 

You can watch that episode here. And please by all means, go ahead and tell me if in three weeks you don’t remember it as coming from a science book.  

God. I’m such an idiot.

* * *

The hardest part about working with two of the smartest and funniest improvisers in the world is that I never get to be the smartest or the funniest in the room with them.

Don’t tell TJ and Dave I said that though.

One day during a meeting, I actually blurted out, "You know, I really am very smart!" (How can you tell when someone is not smart? They are the person who has to say out loud that they are smart.)

It's exceedingly frustrating what an idiot I act like around them. (Fuck you, nervous energy. Go away.) It's like the more I act like a stupid idiot, the more they see me that way. And the more they see me as a stupid idiot, the stupider I feel. And the stupider I feel, the stupider I act. Gah! I am better educated than both of them. Hello, Smith College, cum laude! Plus a Master's degree! (How can you tell if someone is not smart? They have to tell you about their academic degrees.) Everywhere else in the world, I am seen as a fairly intelligent, insightful, well respected human. And then I get into a meeting with these two ...


If you're interested in reading more of my slurry, check out

Or perhaps you'd like to read interviews with great minds in improvisation in the Geeking Out with... series here?
Like maybe  Geeking Out with...The Harold (What Makes a Harold a Harold?)


Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in Western Massachusetts. Pam writes (and performs) the Geeking Out with... interview series. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle."   TJ Jagodowski,  David Pasquesi, and Pam are the co-authors of the newly released "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book." Currently, Pam teaches  "The Zen of Improv Comedy" and "Mindfulness Through Laughter" in Western Massachusetts.

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