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NOTNothing in comedy defines expertise quite like Chicago improvisers, TJ and Dave, at work. They’re the OGs of long-form improv, and watching them simulate a play on the hoof is, to me, about as happy as a live performance. They’d probably be mortified by this hype, mind you: TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi are the more modest duo, going about their improvised affairs without the nervous energy or the theatrics of gaze sometimes (and sometimes unfairly) associated with their form of ‘art.

Even the usual ritual of soliciting suggestions from the public is removed. The duo just got the ball rolling, picking up clues wherever they are on stage, letting one inference lead to the next, one idea blossoming into another compelling scene. As tonight’s storyline takes shape (a three-person bachelor party at a lapdancing club), the duo seem more interested in characters than jokes, less focused on eye-catching effect than small details that build a picture of where and who they are, and why that might be important.

All of this only intensifies the comedy. Jagodowski’s bluffing dad character (a role that, like all the others, quickly passes between the two performers) is a never-ending source of humor as he obsesses over the logistical engineering of the strip club and drops gormless (“if I could fill a pool with anything other than water, it would be socks”) lines all over the place. Pasquesi’s hectic witness is given in select small doses, just a silly cameo – until he emerges as the bearer of our story’s surreptitious emotional burden, a bunny staring into the headlights of a soundless bachelor life. now married best friend.

Maybe we’re not getting the full story; it stops rather than ends. But it seems true to TJ and Dave’s understated way. It’s not about crescendos and catharsis, it’s about regular lives unfolding: things happen, most of them fun, some surprisingly meaningful, and all of it out of nowhere by the two veterans. The show is virtuosic without being remotely known as such, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.