Interview with David Pasquesi, Improviser, Actor, Comedian, Meat Man

Odds are, you've seen David Pasquesi or heard his voice, though you may not realize it. Of the seventeen movies he's appeared in, six were directed by fellow Second City alums, including three by fellow Chicagoan Harold Ramis. He played Stew the Meat Man in the television show and movie Strangers with Candy, and Jeff Garlin's best friend in Garlin's recent I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With. With T.J. Jagodowski, he does an improv show called "TJ and Dave" at the ImprovOlympic, a venue co-founded by his teacher Del Close, one of the creators of modern long-form improv. (Among iO's many alums is Ali Davis and the Upright Citizens Brigade.) In addition, he works as a stage actor in Chicago, and he is one of the more prolific commercial and voiceover voices on television.

I consider myself an improviser, but do not mind when people call me a comedian or actor. I guess I like anything when it goes well. When people laugh, I like it. In regards to performing comedy versus more serious plays, I think there is comedy in all of it. When I am pretending that I am an actor... to me, that's funny.

I am a Chicago-area native. When I am not in Chicago I can't seem to get past the notion that there is a better place to live and it is Chicago. I have been tempted to live elsewhere, but then I look at my situation objectively and realize there is no better place for me to become a better improviser than here in Chicago.

However, the comedy scene in Chicago has changed quite a bit since I first got started. Back then, there was one stand-up club, Zanies, and the more alternative Chicago Comedy Showcase. Then the stand-up boom of the late 80's came, and there were at least a dozen stand-up clubs. Now there is only Zanies again.

I started in comedy back in... let's see... it was around 1981. My brother was in Law School and he went to an improv class. I had never been on stage but I tagged along. I was at once enamored with it and started to study about it. I lucked out to have a great teacher for my first class, a Second City alumna, Judy Morgan. Improvisation seemed to fit the ideas and hopes I had about the way things should be.

I decided to try to do this and nothing else around 1984. I had graduated college and was working in an office. One day I just quit, lived on a friend's floor and started doing stand-up and taking classes with Del Close. The only reason I wound up at Del's class is that I benefited from some advice given to my friend, Joel Murray, from one of his brothers. I admired Del for his intelligence, dedication to improvisation and well-masked generosity... very well-masked.

Comedic improvisation was not considered a good career move. There was one place that would pay you to do it, The Second City. So the people that were involved were people who were interested in improvisation as an end in itself. I think that is different now. I think there are more people who see it as a stepping-stone to a more commercial end. I'm not saying it is wrong or right, just that it is different. It used to be a stepping-stone to absolutely nothing else.

I suppose my dream is to do things I find rewarding and challenging with people I respect and enjoy. As an improviser, I currently love to do the show with TJ and am tickled that we perform regularly in New York in a 'legit' theater and are reviewed as theater and not as comedy or improv, but actual theater. I think that is a step forward for improvisation and I am honored to be a part of it.

As for people I admire... Harold Ramis is wonderful. I think he is a great example of someone who is extremely intelligent, talent, funny, generous and kind. He is a great director, performer, writer and filmmaker. Not bad, if you ask me.

Have the parts I have played in movies affected my career? ... gosh, now that you ask, I notice that I am not a big-shot movie star, so... not that much I guess. Sometimes people say something on the street. It doesn't happen often, so I still get a big kick out of it.

Favorites are tough to pick, but I'll try. Honestly, I truly enjoy doing the things I choose to do, so if I am working, I enjoy it. But that's not what you asked. As a comedian, I loved working at Second City. I had Del as my director and got to work with a great cast which included Joel Murray, who had been my roommate in college. As a stage actor, the best thing I got to do was to play Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Steppenwolf. The cast, director, play, production, all of it was a blast. Other than that, the things I find most satisfying are the things I've done that I was in way over my head. Making a feature with Mitch Rouse, writing and making a TV pilot with Tracy Letts, improvising a TV show with Rouse, Jay Leggett, Michael Coleman and others from Second City and ImprovOlympic. It is a great thing to goof around with your friends doing things that make one another crack up.

The things that were unsatisfying were the things that didn't last long.

I honestly enjoy all of it for different reasons. Just by the nature of improvisation, one is constantly surprised.