Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Writing The TJ & Dave Book (#1): Getting Grilled by Cute SNL Dude

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 series here for free.]

“So how did you end up writing a book with TJ and Dave?”

Very early on in our writing endeavor, this pointed question was lobbed at me with a bit of a proprietary and protective air by a cute friend of TJ’s in a Manhattan bar after a TJ & Dave show. I was being vetted by this guy, who incidentally works at SNL, so I guess that gives him fair enough right to guard great comedy. Doesn’t it?

“I know, right?” I laughed lightly, not really faking my own sincere disbelief. I skirted around answering him directly. Maybe I was feeling a bit defensive about his questioning my credentials. Maybe I was feeling like I had no credentials. Maybe I actually had no credentials. (All three were true.)

“No, really,” he persisted amicably. “How did you end up working with them?”

“I know, right?” I laughed again. “It’s insane!” If he wanted me to confess to bagging the book through blowjobs and blackmail, it wasn’t going to happen, buster. 

“Have you even written any books before?” he asked me point blank.

“Actually,” I said squarely. “I have.” I didn’t mention that it was a children’s chapter book that uses sci-fi to teach social and communication skills. I may also have left out the fact that it sells so
poorly the publisher rarely sees the need to bother cutting me a check.

The conversation ended jovially, but the message was clear: Who am I to think I could even look at a book with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi, let alone take pen to paper to write one? I’m just a nobody from Nowhere, Massachusetts – Population: Me and a few other kale-eating, gay-loving tree-huggers. I didn’t begrudge Cute SNL Dude one bit because I’d had the very same discussion with myself many times (and with my sleepy, reassuring husband in the anxious wee hours of the night). How did I end up writing a book with TJ and Dave?

With only a decade of performing under my belt, I was a relative newbie on the improvisation scene. Stranded in the lovely valley of Western Massachusetts where there were a grand total of five professional improvisers (now that total is up to ten!), I'm largely autodidactic by location -  I’ve spent the last dozen years or so cobbling together my improvisation education, tempting teachers to my neck of the (literal) woods with kind words and cold, hard cash. It's only in the last few years that I've been able to travel to Chicago and Boston get more training and experience. But back in early 2012, I spent the vast majority of my days homeschooling my son, doing other mom stuff, and writing my blog. Still to this day, three years later, my comedy career is held mostly in place with a little spit, a lot of willpower, and a single-minded and shockingly enthusiastic passion for improvisation. 

I’m not sure where my determination and drive comes from, but I am sure of one thing: I love improvisation so fucking much, you guys. Improvisation makes my heart hum. Improvisation makes my life make sense. Improvisation stimulates me artistically, intellectually, spiritually, romantically, and (sure, why not?) sexually. Less than a year before being gently grilled by Cute SNL Dude, while on my quest to educate myself, I had happened upon the documentary about TJ and Dave, Trust Us, This Is All Made Up. It was at that moment that my vision of what improvisation was capable of expanded exponentially, blinking from black and white into Technicolor. 

"Oh ... I see. THIS. This is why I love improvisation," I thought as I sat alone on my couch in Western Massachusetts.

If you care to be honest, I'm sure at this point even YOU are as dumbfounded as Cute SNL Dude … how did I end up writing a book about the art form I love more than anything with the two humans working at the pinnacle of it? 

The short answer is: I still don't know myself. The long answer is coming in "Writing The TJ & Dave Book (#2)."

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?


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-a "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book,"  due out Spring, 2015. Currently, Pam teaches  "The Zen of Improv Comedy" and "Mindfulness Through Laughter" in Western Massachusetts.

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