Jet Eveleth may not be famous yet, but she should be. She WILL be. The LA comedian (by way of Chicago) is one of those rare performers that make you feel lucky to watch. Eccentric, hard working, and damn funny, she has been inspiring young improvisers and delighting audiences for years. She’s been part of the most respected improv groups in the Chicago, performing at iO with The Armando Diaz Experience, and The Reckoning, touring in various two-person shows with former “SNL” cast member Paul Brittain and “30 Rock”‘s Scott Adsit. She’s performed in the Andy Kaufman Awards, the “Best of Chicago’s Stand-Up” at The Lincoln Lodge and was listed on Chicago’s New City magazine’s “Top 50 Players” in 2010 and 2012. Multi-talented, Jet is also a gifted physical comedian. She’s done work with The Chi-Town Clown Revue and transforms herself into the characters she plays. On top of all this, she loves sharing her passion with others, teaching and coaching improv and serving as an artistic director for The Chicago Improv Festival. All this experience and dedication has led to You Should Be Famous, a satirical documentary that follows the story of six individuals as they vie for a fictional talent show. That’s right, Jet Eveleth should be famous. It’s something that Chicago has known for years and now it’s time for the rest of the country to catch up. Check out her Indiegogo campaign and support her if you can.
Serial Optimist: The trailer for You Should Be Famous is fantastic! Tell us about how the concept for it came about.
Jet Eveleth: Thanks so much. I was working on a pilot for MTV and this was one of the pitch ideas. I made a test pilot with two filmmakers, Chris Cummings and Joe Dressel, from Minneapolis. The network decided to go with my other pitch idea more in the style of an Ali G show. We still wanted to work on the “You Should Be Famous” concept, so we pitched it to other networks and are now developing it into a film.
SO: I’ve seen a couple of these characters before and I know personally I can’t decide which one I like best. Which one is your favorite and why?
Jet: It usually is whichever one I’m playing. I like variety and they are all such different types of fools. Barb has so much heart, Lil Bit is so physical, Adora is so sexual, Tara is so desperate… I like developing characters that are deeply flawed, but still somehow recognizable. I want them to feel human, so I got to find myself in them. Lucky for me I’m pretty flawed too.
SO: Yeah, they definitely feel real, not just over-the-top caricatures. How do you typically create and craft them?
Jet: Most of them came out of shows at the iO Theater. When I improvise I can kind of stumble upon characters I would never think to create behind a computer. And I’ve been lucky enough to have the freedom to play a bunch of idiots for the past 12 years, because is the type of ensemble that welcomes anything.
SO: Especially funny! One of the things I really admire about you is that you’re you’re super Zen about things. What do you do to stay patient and chill in this crazy and often frustrating biz?
Jet: There are high highs and low lows when give yourself over to something. I read autobiographies of the people I admire most and that reminds me that obstacles are just part of this ride. That being said I’m ready for some of those high highs.
SO: Nice! I do that too, but I’ve never been able to put into words why I’m so into autobiographies. You’re right, it’s inspiring and reminds you that everyone goes through ups and downs. And I’m sure those highs on their way! So, you pitched “You Should Be Famous” to the networks and in the end decided to do a feature length film. Is the script written yet or will it be improvised? Any fun previews or insider’s scoop you can tell us about?
Jet: There is a first draft and it is always changing. We are still debating how many characters the film can truly hold. And we will of course leave room for improv, it offers some spontaneity and dimension. On the set, once we got all the coverage we needed the director would jokingly say, “Okay now we can have some fun.”
SO: Speaking of having fun, you are one of the most “in the moment” improvisers I’ve ever seen. It’s a real joy to watch you perform. You also do a lot of performance coaching and I can speak from experience, it’s really helpful. I learned a ton from you. This is a pretty general question, but what are some tips you like to give young performers?
Jet: Thank you. I guess lately I have just being saying, “Love it.” If you love it enough you’ll watch it every night, you read every book on it, you’ll work three jobs to study it, you’ll jump on stage every moment you get, you’ll write a bunch of shows, you’ll teach it, you’ll direct it, you’ll even have dreams about it and most important you’ll find people who love it as much as you do and they will become your family. These people will become the backbone of your experience.
SO: Yep, once again, good advice! I know you mentioned that the networks wanted more “male related content”, which is totally stupid, what is your take on the importance of women in the industry?
Jet: Women are half the population, so they are half of the reality that comedy represents/pokes fun of/relieves the pain of. So pretty important.
I feel lucky to have met amazing women in this work. The iO Theater in Chicago was my home for 12 years and is owned by a woman. Charna (Halpern) opened her doors to me, as weird as I am, and for that I will always be grateful.
SO: Ok, one final question: I know you’re a Yogi and you are constantly working on your craft. Is there anything that you don’t do in a perfectly disciplined way? Like on a Sunday night would we catch you eating Cheetos in your underwear or watching reality TV or something?
Jet: Umm… I’m trying to think of my most guilty pleasures and they all sound lame. I’m an adrenaline junkie so all my pleasure comes from some sort of pain.
This question really has me thinking… I mean even when I was a kid I had my older siblings write up fake math exams for me to take in my free time. What a weirdo.
I love pulling pranks, like putting a huge dildo (I’m talking a fleshy penis AND balls combo) in my friend’s carry-on luggage in the hopes that she gets a “random search.” I love that shit. And that is just for fun. Does that count?