Actor Marc Evan Jackson joins Atlanta improv artists in Valentine's weekend performance

Actor Marc Evan Jackson, known for his roles in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "The Good Place," will join some of Atlanta's top improv artists this Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8:00 PM in a performance at the Plaza Theatre.(Courtesy of Marc Evan Jackson)

 Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and you can celebrate your love for improv comedy in a special event featuring comedian and popular actor Marc Evan Jackson, known for his roles in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Good Place,” among many others. Jackson will join some of Atlanta’s top improv artists this Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8:00 PM in a performance at Atlantic Station.

The show is presented by Vaguely Specific Productions, co-founded and owned by Atlanta-based Jon Carr and Kevin Gillese. They joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom, along with Marc Evan Jackson, to talk about their Saturday performance and the beauty of improv.

Interview highlights:

How Marc Evan Jackson stumbled into a life of improv:

“My history with improvisation, like a lot of things about my life, is completely accidental,” said Jackson. “After college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. In fact, for two years after college, I was a deckhand and first mate aboard old, tall ship sailing schooners in the Great Lakes and in Maine, and I went back after a couple of seasons of that to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where… some alumni of my college were putting together a short form improv troupe that played games, sort of along the lines of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?'”

“They asked my former college roommate to come play the piano for them, to be their accompanist, and he said, ‘I don’t want to do that. You go do that.’ I was truly at my very first rehearsal for River City Improv in probably 1993 or ‘4, and witnessed them improvising, and within ten minutes, said, ‘We have to find somebody else to come play the piano because I want to learn to do what you do, and I want to do it for the rest of my life,'” Jackson recalled. “Improv is just such a life-opening, world-opening, curiosity-building, fear-erasing, empowering skill, and it has improved my life immensely. “

Joyful and inclusive improv culture, and the hotbed of ’90s Detroit: 

“People often ask us what was in the drinking water in Detroit in the late ’90s, because out of that generation came people like Mary Beth Monroe, and Keegan Michael Key, and Sam Richardson, and Tim Robinson, and Larry Joe Campbell and Jamie Moyer and throngs of others,” said Jackson.

“Along with ‘yes, and’ as one of the basic tenets of improvisation, making your scene partners look good is another basic thing. So it’s baked-in empathy, it’s baked-in kindness, and it pervades to off the stage as well,” Jackson added. “You realize that success is not a zero-sum game. Other people doing well doesn’t diminish my happiness or success; you have to really celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and successes, and life is not the competition that we think it is, and more people should improvise. I am an evangelist for improvisation. Whether you have any hope of being in the arts or in comedy, or a writer or director, anything, accountants, coal miners, everyone should improvise. It’s good for everyone.”

Kevin Gillese shares a sweet V-Day story about his comedy partner and wife:

“I’m really lucky that for this Valentine’s Day comedy show, I have my wife, Amber, joining us in the cast. So it’s not like I’m ditching her to go do something else. We’re doing a thing together, so I feel like that was some 3D chess that I was playing, setting this whole thing up,” said Gillese. “She and I had been colleagues and friends many, many years… before anything romantic ever happened, but we ended up spending some more time together once I had moved down to Atlanta, and I thought I was maybe feeling the vibe but didn’t want to jump the gun.”

He continued, “One night, we were hanging out late, and there was kind of a ‘third wheel’ friend of ours hanging out with us real late… and eventually things got late enough that everyone left. And I texted Amber, and I said, ‘You know, it’s too bad that our friend was there so late because if not, I was thinking I might lay a smooch on you.’ And she said, ‘Go for it.’ And so, at that time, I didn’t have a vehicle. She was already back at her house in Virginia Highlands, and I was at my apartment in Little Five Points, so I ripped out of my apartment, and I ran all the way to Virginia Highlands and knocked on her door, and she opened the door. And without saying a word, I gave her a smooch, and we haven’t been apart ever since.”

Due to inclement weather, the “Marc Evan Jackson & Friends: An Evening of Comedy, Improv and Romance” show will now be at The Plaza Theatre on February 11th at 9:15pm. Tickets and more information are available here.