It all starts with a look. Improv masters TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi have become cult sensations due to their one hour improv shows that always start with both men staring quietly at one another. Then, after a few seconds of quiet contemplation they’re off to the races in a constantly evolving stage show that is always made up, night after night and never ever the same. Filmmaker Alex Karpovsky films the duo gearing up for a show and then takes us into the theater to watch the fireworks in his new documentary/concert film, “Trust Us, This is All Made Up.”
Pasquesi and Jagodowski are simply amazing. It’s nearly unfathomable how they can manage to not only improvise a fresh and entertaining show nightly, but also how they can manage to spend endless amounts of time together to the point where they almost know what the other will say before they even know they will say it themselves. Karpovski starts his film with some interviews of the two and their start in acting (Pasquesi was a key element of Chicago’s “Second City” comedy troupe alongside Chris Farley) and gets some interesting insights. I also enjoyed watching the men people watching all day long, mining society for angles they can use in their show.
However like any concert film, being at the actual concert is going to be about one thousand times better than seeing it on the screen. For me I started to wish I had been there at the show rather than watching the act in a cinematic form and as a result, my mind wandered. Something definitely got lost in the translation for me. Karpovski does an excellent job capturing the show and uses a multitude of cameras and perfect editing, but aside from a few huge bolts onstage, I never experienced the exhilaration that the audience seemed to be experiencing.
Again, that’s not a knock on Karpovski or on “Trust Us, This is All Made Up,” I just feel there’s an inherent loss of energy when you take something live and organic and process it for others to see. That being said, if you love improv, this movie is for you. Jagodowski and Pasquesi are masters of the stage and their professionalism and constant honing in on truth and human nature are flawless. One minute the scene is funny, then the actors change roles or seamlessly bring in a new character. Some improv moments run their course and the team moves on but then later in the show, the characters pop back up. Seeing people who can do this is truly a sight to see, I only wish I could catch them in person.