James Clark of Governor Jack on improv, and making a web series about a web series
Governor Jack -- a group comprising James Clark, Rollie Williams, Jason Metter, Asa Erlendson and Max Schwartz -- is campaigning to make improv a more visible part of Denver's burgeoning comedy scene. The group produces the improv show Governor Jack Watches You Sleep at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, with material growing out of live interviews with "local celebrities" (think television-friendly lawyer Michael Sawaya.) The goal? To create a stronger presence for improv -- and maybe boost visibility of Governor Jack's own web series, aptly titled How to Make a Web Series.
James Clark, Rollie Williams, Jason Metter, Asa Erlendson and Max Schwartz are Governor Jack.
After the group asked me to be a guest on Governor Jack Watches You Sleep last month, I talked with its longest-running member, about how Governor Jack came together, the status of improv in Denver, and what it plans to do with its web series.
Westword: Can you talk a little about who you are and how Governor Jack started?
James Clark: I've been doing improv for about six years -- I moved to Denver from South Dakota, where I went to high school and college. I grew up in Washington, D.C. I went to Colorado Film School and UCD, which is what brought me to Denver.
Governor Jack kind of came about from different people in the comedy scene that I had performed with, admired and became friends with. We've gone through several iterations -- when we started, there were four of us. I'm the only remaining member. People have moved on -- three members moved to Chicago, one to New York. The group has been together about four years, and the current cast about six months.
When you sort of cycle through new members, do you approach comedians or do they come to you directly, or how does that work?
We go out and look for people who we think would fit with us -- it's just about finding people with the same vibe, same sense of humor, same comedic aesthetics. We add one member at a time; we'll bring a new comedian on and bring them into the fold and then add someone else. Jason (Metter) and Rollie (Williams) are the longest-running members other than me -- I think they've been with Governor Jack for at least two years. We just make sure to go out and see shows, check out the scene and see who we might work well with.
What attracted you to focusing on improv, say, over stand-up?
I don't know? (Laughs.) We've all done different comedic ventures. Rollie's good with stand-up, Jason is hilarious on Twitter, Max (Schwartz) is a very serious actor, I do film and sketch. I think that it's particularly freeing -- you never know what it's going to be, so there's a bit more of a gamble to it. It makes it interesting. I also think that there is a kind of a void for it in Denver -- with a lot of other big comedy towns, improv is a big part of it. Denver doesn't have that quite yet. I think that's why we've stuck with it for so long, even though I know it is kind of the stepbrother that doesn't get as much love. We want to build it up.
All of our friends who have moved to places like New York, Chicago and L.A., that is part of the reason. There's already a scene there for improv. It's already a thing. It can actually get you somewhere.