Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Writing the TJ & Dave Book (#7): Living the Documentary

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.]

We spent a few hours on an early spring Sunday afternoon of 2013 talking about God and improvisation in David’s Air BnB studio in Soho. The work when focused – which is about 60% of the time – was fascinating, challenging, and fun. But TJ and Dave got distracted easily. Or perhaps it would be more apt to say that they did their thinking best on their feet and with palette cleansers of movement and joking around. The image of David pacing back and forth with his long legs like a caged tiger in the tiny, tiny studio while I push and pry to expand and fully comprehend their ideas will stick with me for a long time. After every 15 minutes or so of work, they'd stop to go to the bathroom or talk about something else or pretend to electrocute each other with a hanging lamp.

TJ & Dave
Barrow Street Theater (2013)
Photo credit: Pam Victor
The coolest thing about working with them on a show day is seeing parts of our conversation end up in the show that night. Yesterday, one of their work breaks was a detailed discussion of ball bearings and if that was how a BB came to get its name. Later that night in their show, they played two teenage boys cleaning up a yard of sticks. Taking a break to lie in the grass, idly wondering how so many sticks wound up littering the yard, David's character - who confessed to feeling "squirrelly" that day - hit upon the idea that squirrels were the probable cause for all the sticks. That lead to a discussion of killing them. Which lead to BB guns and ball bearings. The conversation moving from one moment to the next absolutely without force or agenda, just one little step at a time. And there I was, smiling my ass off with recognition, alone in the packed audience.

TJ & Dave
Barrow Street Theater (2013)
Photo credit: Pam Victor

Back in our Soho nook, another break was taken to get coffee for David. (I dearly hope David's wife gets to experience the same tender affection and whole-hearted love that he heaps on a good cafĂ© americano. And if she does, she is a lucky, lucky woman indeed.) Walking down a New York City street with David Pasquesi is like being a contestant in “The Amazing Race.” With his long legs and purposeful, direct stride, let me tell you, that dude can book. There was David beelining it towards the coffee shop as if he was the only person walking down the street, with TJ and I frantically dodging people and lampposts, struggling to keep up and laughing together at the antics. “He neither dillies nor dallies,”  said TJ as we broke into a run to cross the street in time. 

On the way back from coffee, I pointed to a beautiful, little hidden garden tucked into a corner with meandering pathways, benches, water features, and freshly opened flowers. David and I sat on a bench –
(I know how much of a creeper
it makes me that
I took this photo on the sly.
Please forgive me, Dave.
I wanted to remember.)
rather I sat on a bench next to David – while TJ stood a distance away, smoking and poking at his phone. While Dave was teaching me about opium harvesting, TJ came over and said, “Hey, Dave. Look at those two women over there on the bench. Looks like they’re on a first date or something.” TJ and Dave examined the women, who really did appear to have some mysterious air to their interaction or at least a relationship not easy to read from our distance. As they were sharing their analysis of the scene, I was thrilled to realize they were assessing the Heat of the relationship, a concept we had just written about manuscript. Here were TJ and Dave warming up for their show that night in a New York City park. Just like they had done in their documentary Trust Us, This is All Made Up. And nobody else but me was there to see it. 



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

The latest is about the self-flagellation we do after a show, 

Or perhaps you'd like to read interviews with great minds in improvisation in the Geeking Out with... series here?

Might I suggest


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

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