Marc Evan Jackson & Paul F. Tompkins JFL42, Toronto ON, September 23
Published Sep 24, 2018This incredible display of improv was both a feat and a treat that ultimately had an appreciative crowd on its feet. Elegantly clad in tuxedos, frequent collaborators Mark Evan Jackson and Paul F. Tompkins engaged in a brief and hilarious monologue about the pair's experience at a Blue Jays game (Jays lost to Tampa Bay; at least one fan seemed sure that the first base ump had the same last name as current Jays' skipper John Gibbons), and the show began in earnest.
They asked for a single word suggestion to provide a theme for their set and, after bypassing either "boning" or perhaps instead "pony" (Tompkins wasn't precisely certain which of the two someone yelled out into the darkness), the pair settled upon the rather surprising "honesty" and went forth.
The hour was full of focused randomness, as the pair created ridiculous scenarios and characters who all lived within some tension or another. A somewhat reserved parking spot dispute led to rather bizarre admissions between strangers about a wedding gone awry. A couple of dads might not have really been dads and we all felt sympathy for a poor baby, maybe named Briggs. A restaurant meeting was awkwardly undercut by a series of benign half-truths that were ascribed the heaviest gravity. And through all such encounters, there were callbacks and meta revelations, as the duo did their best to remain in character and go wherever the other thought they should be going. It was actually awe-inspiring to witness.
It's particularly difficult to capture the magic of an improv set after the fact. It's such an in-the-moment experience and possesses a fleeting sort of nuance. How to properly convey that the room lost its mind when an eyebrow was raised or a knowing grin was executed just so or the dryness of a "Not really," was the perfect way to say such a thing?
Improv in lesser hands can certainly be awkward and unrealized. But with masters like Jackson and Tompkins, it's a true wonder of the world. Personally, I have not laughed harder at JFL42 and hopefully these two fine gentlemen will be entertaining audiences for years to come.