Even if you’ve never heard of the improv duo TJ and Dave, you know TJ and Dave. TJ Jagodowski is the fair-haired guy in the Sonic commercials. TJ’s had several movie roles, including a small role in Stranger Than Fiction. Dave Pasquesi is that guy who looks a lot like Adrien Brody. He’s also had a lot of movie roles, as well as roles on Strangers With Candy and Veep. Trust Us, This Is All Made Up (2009) explores the pair’s unconventional partnership and methods.
Honestly, the beginning kind of drags if you’re not familiar with their improvisation show. The focus in the first twenty or so minutes is on their pre-show rituals, such as walking the streets separately (TJ would prefer that they were together, but Dave insists they have different people-watching experiences) to look for material and inspiration. For the first half hour, I was convinced that Dave is in love with TJ. He looks at him frequently all wide-eyed like he really wants to make out. I realized by the end of the show that it’s probably more of a platonic crush, a professional admiration that crosses over to personal mega-fondness.
The doc moves on to a performance at the Barrow Street Theater in New York. These guys are amazing. My slight boredom subsided as soon as the improv started. It’s just the two “Second City” veterans with no props except for three wooden chairs. This particular performance centers on corporate softball team angst. Magic emerges from the mundane. There are seven characters and two different settings, and they jump from character to character seamlessly. Sometimes they even switch roles with each other. TJ and Dave both have a fantastic ability to move from tangent to tangent without forgetting the original plot or the traits of each character.
After the show, the two discuss their characters and plot, analyzing the transitions and audience response. After watching the improv, I found this part of the documentary extremely engaging. Although the show is only an hour long, their characters, as TJ puts it, go on. They feel that the show is already in progress, they just pick it up somewhere and then leave it again. Their artistry isn’t truly understood until the end of the doc, until we see how much the process and the story mean to the duo.
They’ve been working together for about sixteen years, and their bromance has blossomed into a moving work of art. Their willingness to surrender to the subliminal power that directs their art yields unbelievably successful results. Each show is a unique viewing experience. TJ and Dave are as excited as the audience is to see what happens. They are merely players, showing a story in progress.