Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fawning it in

Last night I stumbled into one of the best shows I've ever seen.

A bbq was breaking up and we were figuring out what to do and the question came up, "Are there any good comedy shows going on?" And I said, there's this one show called TJ and Dave up IO, but it's on Wednesday nights at 11. After exhausting every other option we thought, what the hell, let's see what else might be playing there late on a Friday night. I was expecting some half-crappy student show.

Turns out? TJ and Dave. With special guest Tracy Letts (Steppenwolf actor, playwright and penner of the screenplay for Bug). What an amazing night.

I'd heard about these guys since forever, and saw TJ perform a sketch once at Second City. Anyway, they're legendary in improv circles. Definitely two of the best improvisers in Chicago, which makes them two of the best in the world. (Which you wouldn't necessarily know from the bewildering commercials they do for Sonic!)

I've sat through easily more than a hundred improv shows in Chicago and, as anyone will tell you, it's hit and miss, to the say the least. Or maybe to say the best? So it's a wondrous thing see it executed at this high a level.

TJ especially. In an hour-and-a-half, he never yelled, he never fell down, never ran around the stage, never mugged unnecessarily or flailed his arms or made farty noises or anything else. Instead, he filled the stage, the whole room, with a genuineness and honesty that's hard to find in legit theatre, let alone improv.

For example, in the opening scene, they each took a position on the stage facing each other and as the lights came up and after a moment of silence, TJ transformed himself into an awkward teenage boy trying to get an adult to buy him some beer. He never once said "dude" or did a Spicoli impression or stabbed the air with Eminem-style hip-hop hands. Something just came over his face and his posture in the most subtle, barely detectable way that spoke volumes.

The whole show was like that. Just incredible. The others were impressive, too, of course. And Tracy, I don't know how much improv background he has, but he was right there with them the whole time.

I used to hate to see good shows because it depressed me, sharpening the spotlight on my own mediocrity. But this was truly awesome. I was so caught up I neglected to snap a pic with my camera phone! Check 'em out.

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