TRUST US review…

March 30, 2011 at 3:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trust Us... TJ & Dave

I watched TRUST US, THIS IS ALL MADE UP on Amazon-On-Demand the other night ($1.99). It is a documentary/concert film that records one of the shows by TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi’s – known as the duo TJ and Dave – at Barrow Street Theatre in NYC.

From a June 15, 2008 article in The New York Times: “Mr. Jagodowski and Mr. Pasquesi  have to pull an hour’s worth of story and anywhere from 5 to 12 characters out of thin air. They’re not even assisted by plot suggestions from the audience, something they see as the tired gimmick of many another improv outfit.”

I’ll grant the duo this, they are very, very good. Technically, they portray distinct characters, keep the story of their scenes mostly moving forward and work incredibly well together (this last point may account, really, for the secret of their high status in the improv community).

I couldn’t help comparing what Swearingen and I do as Fun Grip to that of TJ and Dave. They are two men who do long-form. They, too, play each other’s characters. They, too, follow mostly one narrative line with small tangents of word play and games.

What sets Fun Grip apart from TJ & Dave is first, a subtle improv snobbery.

Also in the NYTs: “When you take suggestions, a lot of it is to prove to the audience that you’re making it up,” Mr. Pasquesi explained. “But it doesn’t prove it. Also you do it to engage the audience into thinking they’re participating in the evening, which I don’t think we need anymore.”

Don’t get me wrong. Jeff and I think we are awesome. But we don’t make platitudes about the Art of Improv. One way is not better than another. Improv is big enough to encompass all kinds of approaches.

The second thing from the film I noticed is that TJ & Dave, at least in the performance committed to video, are extremely measured. They play for versimilitude, for realism. Their characters are subtle and low key. They are, in fact, mostly talking heads who move about the stage in predictable patterns (meaning, chairs are chairs. There is lots of sitting and standing. very little creating of dynamic space). This is not a fault, it is their style of play. There is room for all.

Fun Grip on the other hand, is very theatrical (at our best) and we constantly create outrageous situations, outlandish characters and a variety of “giant robot” moments. We give each other a good-natured hard time as much as we work together earnestly.

We, Fun Grip, are not as innovative as we have thought ourselves to be, but we are original in incredible ways.

I tip my hat to TJ & Dave. They have paved a path, and though we trail-blaze ourselves, Jeff and I must acknowledge a road does now exist and thanks must be extended to TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi… those who have gone before.


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