Jet Eveleth is a self-proclaimed serial monogamist. She's done more than a handful of two-person improv and sketch shows, so many that she admits she's embarrassed to give us an official number — she thinks it might make her sound promiscuous.
We can only assume the total is pretty high, since it seems like Eveleth comes to Charleston every year with a different two-person show, whether for the Charleston Comedy Fest or Piccolo Fringe. There was Tulle at last year's fest, and who could forget I Live Next Door to Horses (in 2008), Roseville: A Suspenseful Comedy (in 2009), and Ted and Melanie with Saturday Night Liver Paul Brittain (in 2011)? And we won't even go into her group shows.
"Maybe my goal is every year I come down with a new person," she laughs.
This year, that person is Scott Adsit, who may be more recognizable as Pete Hornberger, Liz Lemon's sad sack TGS producer on 30 Rock. He's also a veteran Chicago improviser and one of Second City's many notable success stories. "Scott is sort of everyone's favorite from Chicago, because he's just the epitome of what everybody wants to do in improv," says Eveleth, who spent 12 years hitting the stage in the Windy City herself.
Like many of her other two-person shows, Eveleth paired up with Adsit completely by accident. The two found themselves alone together in New York at what was meant to be a group show. Even though they were friends, it was the first time they ever played together. And it worked. "Then it became one of those things where it was like, 'Let's just keep doing this,'" Eveleth says. "That's the beautiful thing about this work is you follow whatever's happening as soon as it leads you down a much better path than something you could have predicted. A group show would have been great, but instead I got to play with Scott alone and we found that we had great chemistry."
According to Eveleth, it all comes down to the dynamics. "When you see groups like Cook County [Social Club] or Shakespeare or The Reckoning, it's the camaraderie that they have that we're actually often watching for, whether we realize it or not," she says. "Yes, we love great performers, but there's a lot of great performers out there. What takes the work to the next level is the play between the players."
And when you're an improv or sketch comedian, you play with a lot of people in order to find out who you're best matched with. Once you find that connection, you want to keep playing with that person, and then the comedy doesn't feel like work. Eveleth has found that kind of harmony with Adsit.
Adsit and Eveleth employ what Eveleth calls "patient improv." It isn't a high-concept act, and yes, it starts off of a suggestion from the audience. But the scenes are longer and less hurried than what you might normally see. It's slow burn, with wacky results. "It's a good balance of being patient and creating rich characters, and that's balanced with the fact that it gets pretty absurd and bizarre," she explains. "That's one thing that's definitely unique about Scott. I feel like one moment it feels very real, and the next moment it goes somewhere I never thought it would go."
But it's a show that doesn't get to happen too often. Recently, Eveleth left the cold clime of Chicago for Los Angeles, where she's working on a pilot. Meanwhile, as anyone who watches 30 Rock could tell you, Adsit resides in New York. "We've always worked long distance. We just meet up in New York or Chicago and just play that way," Eveleth says. "I think it adds a little bit of the energy and ignites us that we live far apart. There's an element of like, oh, this is special, because we both journeyed to come here."
So when you see Adsit and Eveleth, you're seeing two Chicago improv old-timers, approaching the work with their individual talents. "We have very strong styles, so together it kind of feels like this awesome perfect storm, like a cold front and warm front that both really know what they like," Eveleth says. "And they complement each other. We create the best tornadoes."
Fri. Jan 18, 9:30 p.m. Sat. Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m. $12.50. Theatre 99