Dave Pasquesi and T. J. Jagodowski
David Pasquesi and T. J. Jagodowski, the creators of the TJ & Dave show at iO, share a tender moment.


After all these years, this Chicago classic is still selling out. 

COMEDY Until last Wednesday, I had never seen T. J. Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi’s famous iO show TJ & Dave. I’d seen each of them perform in other settings—at The Second City, in Jagodowski’s many commercials for the Sonic fast-food chain, or at the Chicago Improv Festival (which, incidentally, opened its 13th season yesterday)—but never their two-man, one-hour show on Wednesday nights at 11 p.m., mainly because it conflicted with falling asleep on the couch and watching SportsCenter.

TJ & Dave, the show, has the formal austerity of a Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle—no theme, no gimmickry. T. J. and Dave, the performers, take the stage, introduce each other, say "Trust us, this is all made up," and begin. It has none of the rules and games of ComedySportz, no planned musical interludes like iO’s The Harold, and not even any suggestions from the audience. Opening lines carry the inklings of a full drama, with multiple characters (in the show I saw, there were four characters, often all "on stage" at once, some of whom were played by T. J. and Dave at different times), multiple scenes, conflict, storytelling, and, almost as a byproduct, humor.

I won’t bore you, dear reader, with the clever, enthralling, dynamic, intelligent story I saw. Hearing someone recount an improv performance ranks somewhere near dreams, vacation photos, and Seinfeld episodes on the you-had-to-be-there scale. As with those things, what’s lost in the retelling is the nuance that gives it sparkle, what makes it true theatre. And as the Saturday Times puzzle is intended for crossword connoisseurs, TJ & Dave is for lovers of improv theatre.

Last Wednesday, T. J. and Dave played to a sold-out house, as they do most every week. I suspect the inconvenient time limits the audience to true die-hards. (But the price doesn’t. It’s only $5.) I got home at 12:30, wondering why I’d taken so long to see it.

GO: Wednesdays at 11 p.m. $5. IO, 3541 N. Clark, 773-880-0199.

  • Gothamist’s review by John Del Signore of the team’s show in New York, 2/18/2007.
  • The Onion’s A.V. Club asked T. J. and Dave for their personal culture recommendations, 4/3/2009.


Photographs: Courtesy David Pasquesi