I was lucky enough to interview Marc Evan Jackson at New York Comic Con this year. While part of the wildly popular podcast/stage show “The Thrilling Adventure Hour,” Mr. Jackson has also been in numerous TV shows, including Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99, and Workaholics. He has also had parts in 22 Jump Street and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Along with his work on stage and screen, Mr. Jackson is the co-founder of the Detroit Creativity Project (http://detroitcreativityproject.org/), which is having a fundrasing gala in Los Angeles this coming Sunday, November 1st. For more information, please follow the link (http://detroitcreativityproject.org/join-us-at-the-detroit-party-on-nov-1/). “The DCP was founded back in 2012,” he says, “by a lot of people from Detroit (now based in LA), who were looking for a way to give back. We have this big party planned by a group called ‘Laugh on Behalf’ for the DCP, to fund our flagship project, called ‘The Improv Project.’
“[The Improv Project] is an arts program where we go into middle and high schools in the Detroit area and teach free improv of charge. You can witness in the course of the 10-week program the confidence building and communication skills that build in these kids. It’s something we’ve all experienced and feel it has great value.” Given how much Detroit has been struggling through bankruptcy, sometimes the creative side of children, and the city, has been forgotten. “We have such high regard for Detroit and the students that go to school there; to us, art is not an optional elective. The arts, to me, are just as important as math and science.”
In regards to his own career, Jackson feels that his career advanced gradually. “I came to it very late,” he said, “I was a year out of college already. I did some theater in high school, and college, but not much. I was involved in a lot of music, though. After college, a few of my friends were putting together in improv group, and they needed a piano player to accompany them.” Marc smiles, shaking his head. “I was at the first rehearsal, and within the first ten minutes I had an ‘aha’ moment. I just told them they needed to find someone else to play the piano, because I found what I want to do, for the rest of my life.
“I knew that I had a lot of learning to do, and a lot of things I needed to do, to get there,” Marc gestures slightly, giving a nod, “You have to have the willingness to fail. A lot of the things you do, in the beginning (for years and years), aren’t going to be hilarious. They are going to be tone-deaf and dumb. But you learn with each step.”
He was a member of the famed Second City comedy group, which is actually how he made his way into The Thrilling Adventure Hour. “I was teaching at Second City at the time; Ben Acker was also teaching writing there, but I hadn’t met him at the time,” Marc says, “On Wednesday nights, the instructors would do an improv set for the students, to show what was possible with the art of improvisation. After one of those shows, Mark Gagliardi introduced me to Ben Acker.
“Acker explained to me what the Thrilling Adventure Hour was going to be, and the character of Sparks Nevada.” Marc laughs and states that one of the great things that improv teaches you is to try and say yes to everything–which is what he did, when offered the spot within the show. “We went over Ben’s house to read the first script, and I thought it would be amazing, first thing off. We never thought it would go on for ten years, but it’s been a great ride.” When asked if he ever gets to put in his own ideas, Marc says, “We rely mostly on the writing, but Ben & Ben are pretty open to what we might have to say, as long as it works within the idea of the story. One of the things I started doing was adding in all the interjections of Sparks, and the writers trust me to do that, at least.” But he feels the writing is so clear that it doesn’t need much else added to it–just the gift of their voices.
When talking about working on Brooklyn 99 and Parks and Recreation, and the feeling he had when he received the phone calls that he would be working on those shows, Marc laughs, “I sometimes I have to just stop and say ‘computer, freeze program’, expecting to wake up on the holodeck and realize this entire thing is a dream.”
For more information about Marc Evan Jackson and the Detroit Creativity Project, please visit http://detroitcreativityproject.org/