Most Comedy Fest groups have never met before being thrown in a lineup together, but that's not the case with this show. iO Theater acts Michael Pizza and Tulle have shared the stage on numerous occasions in their native Chicago, and Tulle member Jet Eveleth says they're a good fit. "The audience has told us that it's kind of fun because our show is more tension-driven so it's more leaning forward, and their show is more like sitting back and buckling your seatbelts because it's way more physical and [full of] boyish charm," she says. Get ready for a wild ride.
As with any successful team, a well-oiled improv group requires that each member fill a complementary role. And the four members of Chicago-based Michael Pizza do just that. Brett Elam does a great radio host impression, for example. Eric Christensen has a knack for pop-culture references, and Ben Kass has an ear for music. And Josh Logan, well, "Josh loves to play with himself," Elam says. "It's kind of like improv masturbation. If he's not having fun in a scene, he'll go off and have fun by himself."
The multitalented foursome met while taking classes at iO Theater in Chicago, where they realized that they each shared a serious love of the improv craft. "We'd just go to a bar after class and discuss what we had learned," Elam remembers. "We really found that we were all 'improv nerds' in the best way, so we started practicing together. It wasn't until we graduated from the iO program that we started doing shows under the name Michael Pizza. But we had spent many nights just sitting in an apartment discussing improv, not really knowing that we were actually forming a group."
Their performance style is similarly organic. They typically go into a show without a distinct theme; the goal is simply to have fun. "We have more fun than anyone I've ever seen do it. We have more fun some nights than the audience. We'll leave the stage and say, 'Well, that audience hated that show, but at least I had fun!'"
Jet Eveleth has been performing at Comedy Fest and Piccolo Spoleto for several years now, but don't be surprised if you can't remember her face. Over the years, the chameleonic comedienne has played everything from a talk-show host to a cat-loving little girl in acts like Touched, I Live Next Door to Horses, Ted and Melanie, The Reckoning, and Roseville: A Suspenseful Comedy. True to form, she returns this year with a fresh new show called Tulle.
Eveleth teams up with fellow comedian Sarah Fineout for the long-form improv offering. The pair has worked together on numerous projects in Chicago, and Eveleth holds her partner in very high esteem. "Sarah's one of the best character actresses in Chicago," Eveleth says. "She plays this naivete which is really lovely and beautiful within her characters."
Eveleth says the pair's chemistry lies in their similarities — they're both character actresses who enjoy playing the straight man. "Sarah and I sort of have a similar style where we play characters that are somewhat based in truth so the person seems somewhat real, but there's always the element of exaggeration. And we also love sometimes to play the same types of characters so we can flesh them out, whether it be two over-dramatic Southern women or two boys who are delinquents in junior high. It's fun to play the same energies."
The show works in a pretty standard format, taking a suggestion from the audience and going from there. But the result will be far from ordinary. "What makes us different is our style of play versus our structure," she says. "Our style of play is more truth- and tension-based and character-driven."
Although this might be your only chance to see Tulle in Charleston, Eveleth says you can count on her coming back to town with something brand new down the road. Most recently she's been working on writing a book with The Reckoning, training with Philippe Gaulier (Sacha Baron Cohen's teacher), and creating a pilot for an American Idol-style mockumentary. "I try to follow my bliss, although sometimes it's disguised as fear," Eveleth says. "So I'm always working on being more brave by finding inspiring mentors and working in new mediums."