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Acting Resources

TJ Jagodowski: That Dude From The Sonic Commercials

If you never gone to iO on a Wednesday night at 11:00, do it. That’s when TJ and Dave perform in front of sellout crowd, each and every week. For a mere $5, you get to see some of the best improv you will ever see. That’s not just me talking – especially, for those not connected to the Chicago acting and improv world. Universally, TJ and Dave is considered one of, if not, “the” best show going.

Dave is Dave Pasquesi. He’s a former Second City mainstage performer, who’s won Jeff awards, performed at the Goodman and has all sort of notable TV and Film credits. He was also the voice of McDonald’s for a stretch. So, in addition to the weekly sold out shows, he’s doing OK…

TJ is TJ Jagodowski. The guy I’m writing about here. There might not be a better improviser going today. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him perform with some pretty famous comedians. No matter who is on stage with him, TJ shines brightest. He’s simply phenomenal.

Like Dave, TJ is not a household name, but you might recognize him or, at the very least, you might have seen him and not even known it. TJ did have a scene stealing role in Will Ferrell’s “Stranger Than Fiction,” but he’s probably most well known for being that guy from the Sonic commercials (which, from what I hear, are completely improvised by the way). If you need a refresher, I’ve include a clip below (TJ’s the blond haired dude on the left).

This last part I wanted to include for the the TJ fans out there as well as the Chicago improv community. A few years back, the Chicago Reader had a fascinating article on TJ covering his chance at fame as well as his battle with a mysterious ailment. You can read the story – Life Without a Script – by clicking here.

Now, for the improv world, in an old workshop, TJ somewhat famously (at least within the community) once shared his “Seven Hooks for Starting a Scene.”  I’ve included the list below courtesy of Ben Bowman’s blog “Boiling Point.” You can find his great article about it here – definitely worth a read.  Gotta give some guy named Mark Logsdon credit too. Apparently, he’s the one who took these notes:

Go into the scene…

1. Immediately after a huge event has happened, and be in the middle of reacting to this event.

Examples:  You just got out of an elevator that has been out of order for 5 hours.  You are standing outside a building where someone called in a bomb threat.

2. With a mantra or catchphrase.

Examples:  “I’ve been there before.”  “I guess that’s what they’re teaching kids these days.”

3. With a secret that directly affects your partner.

Examples:  You cheated on a huge test that your partner just failed because it’s graded on a curve.  You can’t stand your partner’s apartment because it smells like cat piss.  (Please avoid “I’m secretly gay” and “I’m secretly in love with you.”)

4. With a large assumption about your scene partner.

Examples:  I know you hate me right now, and… You need me to feel safe and protected.

5. With a physicality that has consumed your character.

Examples:  You always point the toe of your right foot to the ground.  You take a sip of water after everything you say.

6. In the middle of solving an obstacle.

Examples:  “Oh, you just put this into lever A, and you have yourself a model airplane.”  “And…there we are, got that splinter right out.”

7. With a hugely specific want from your scene partner.

Example:  I want him to think that I really know my French wines.  I want her to know that I’m putting in equal time with the kids after work.


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