Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Writing The TJ & Dave Book (#5): The World's Sexiest Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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.]

On the afternoon of April 4, 2013, I spent four precious hours with TJ and David in the deliciously dank pit of Cabaret Theatre at iO [on Clark.] We managed to edit all of one chapter. I am not entirely sure why it took that long. We were focused for the most part – save the brief settling in period, lunch break, and ample joking around time – but we hadn't hit our groove yet at that point and the going was slow. Though not unpleasant in the least. 

Things I did that afternoon:

Writing The TJ & Dave Book
(April 3, 2013)
  • Talked about improvisation for hours with TJ and Dave 
  • Said “That’s what she said” to David Pasquesi (for the first but surely not the last time)
  • Talked to David about when Del was dying
  • Listened to Dave talking about the creation of The Harold as he experienced it
  • Held my own (I think)

Half of me was thinking, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT! LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!” The other half of me was thinking, “Ok, guys. Get to work. Focus. Let’s get this job done.” But the pace of the process was the pace of the process. Looking back, I can say we were writing a book at the speed of life. (Ar, ar.)

I also had the privilege of talking about the previous night’s TJ & Dave show, asking some questions and basically observing them re-live some moments they enjoyed. I have to say, that part was spectacular. At one point out, David referred with bemusement to a scene in which they were playing cops getting into a cruiser. TJ had played a really funny officer in the passenger seat, not wanting Dave to drive recklessly and spill his coffee. There was talk of gyroscopic mechanics, if I remember correctly.

That day-after-the-show just a couple feet where they had performed, David was remembering getting into the car and “finding” the seat way pulled back

That spine-tingling moment
at the top of a show in 2013
“I could have put the steering wheel anywhere I wanted,” he laughed. “But for some reason I put it way out here.” He mimed again holding a steering wheel at arm’s length. I think his delight in re-living this moment stemmed from truly being in that discovery sweet-spot, where the improviser surprised his own damn self.

I believe a little bit of that moment made it into the book during our conversation on Heat and Weight.

For me, a particular highlight of our rare in-person work session was at the Salt and Pepper diner, next door to iO. (Sadly, this part definitely didn't make it into the book.) While we waited for our take-out lunch, I stood there for about three awe-filled minutes watching TJ and Dave do a mimed bit about a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich which morphed into sexual innuendo, to my great delight, the jokes silently ricocheting between them. They were performing for each other. And maybe if you're feeling generous, you could say that they were performing for me as well. But mostly for each other. It was one of those out-of-body experiences that often popped up in those salad days, when I remembered who I was working with, what we were attempting to write, and the weight of the talent in the room with me. 

At that time, my role during their most playful moments was the character constantly trying to catch up without betraying the fact - in vain, I suspect - that I was trying to catch up. There I was, stumbling clumsily along behind them, trying to figure out if they were being serious or teasing, and desperately attempting to decode the private, mental communication bouncing between them. But reading between the silent lines constantly flying through the air between TJ and Dave was nearly impossible. Half of the joking was said out loud, a quarter was delivered in subtle body language and eye signals, and the last quarter was in a silent, private twin-language only they understand. The recipe of the TJ & Dave magic.

I sure do hope some of that might have made it into the book, if you look real hard.


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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