“Every improviser in the world is here!” an excited young man said to his friend at a recent Friday-night performance of TJ & Dave. Indeed—Chicago-based Second City vets and masters of long-form improv TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi have earned a loyal following for creating one-hour plays on the spot.
“Trust us, this is all made up,” the duo reassured us at the Barrow Street Theatre before launching into a very funny piece about two buddies looking for romance and relaxation aboard a cruise ship. While Pasquesi’s uptight character struggles to unwind, Jagodowski’s is ready to cut loose (“You’re not on vay-cay till you have something from a blender,” he says). Both men received big laughs throughout as they deftly riffed on a range of subjects, from the size of whale penises to mattresses with “Space Age” foam. (” ‘Space Age’—is that still the future?” Jagodowski asks. “It’s like Kennedy-Johnson foam.”)
But the show is not just a long string of jokes; we quickly begin to care about the characters, too. When Pasquesi finally meets a woman—played by Jagodowski—we root for him to succeed and are crushed when, in a tender moment of trading secrets in her cabin, he confesses, “By the way, I’m dying.” It’s a heartbreaking way to end what started out as comedy, but ultimately it’s these brilliant twists and turns, pulled out of thin air, that make a night with TJ & Dave so unexpectedly captivating.