Jacob McGuire is a longstanding pillar of the St. Louis improv community. He’s a kind and generous player who always seems to have fun and joy as his overall goals for any show. He’s never afraid to make a move, and he’s constantly supporting his teammates with a quirky character or well-timed walk on. Jacob embodies a lot of the ideals of improv, and you can tell he lives them every day.
Currently, he plays with Meowsers, one of St. Louis’ premier long form teams, and most recently, he’s been performing with Ulysses, Mississippi, and Baconwinners. He also really likes setting up impromptu softball games.
Meet Jacob McGuire:
Why did you get into improv? How long have you been doing it?
I became interested in improv after watching Whose Line is it Anyway as a kid. My high school held a short form competition at the end of every school year. There were no coaches or instruction so we were figuring it out as we went, and it was a huge failure, but it was my favorite thing I did in high school.
During college, I had in the back of my mind that I was an improviser, but there wasn’t really any opportunity to do it except for some lady that Googled “rules of improv” and tried to pass it off as a class. Luckily my college pal and fellow Meowser, John Laloggia, got the SNL book Live From New York. It had cast interviews, and it seemed like almost everyone started out doing improv, so my plan was to move to Chicago and start classes.
After graduation in 2011, I moved home, and while I searched for a job in Chicago, LaLoggia found The Improv Shop, so we went and saw Magic Ratio at the Tin Can. I had never seen longform improv at this point, so I was just trying to grasp what the hell was going on and at what point they would play The Dating Game. I was blown away. Laloggia and I signed up for classes immediately, and I realized St. Louis had a good thing going.
Although Meowsers is currently on a break, you guys are one of the most respected teams in STL and have been performing for several years. What have you learned from playing with such a longstanding team?
I have learned so much from being on this team. We were fortunate enough to have Eric Christensen as our coach and the first thing he asked us was what we wanted to get out of the team. I think that’s an important question to ask when starting a team: what are we trying to do here? It doesn’t matter what the answer is just as long as everyone is on the same page about what the level of commitment is going to be. Is this going to be a practice every once in a while mess around thing or is this a practice weekly with a coach and only miss if you are dying, work for a run of shows, submit to festivals, be comfortable kissing each other team?
I love all the guys in Meowsers, and the most important lesson I have learned is how to do as many scenes as possible as a group of suburban dads that are trying to recapture their youth.
Pat Niday taught me how to see a show as a whole and give it what it needs. If the last two scenes were a little low energy, he can bring the energy into the next group game. Pat has taught me how to support moves and make your scene partner look good. He also taught me about the importance of marketing a show.
Lorne Cox taught me to relax, that I do not need to try to control the show. Also that I do not have to desperately try to get the audience to like me.
Jake Sellers is just purely funny, one of the funniest people I have ever met, and he taught me how fun it can be to explore a funny character on stage. How a character can come from just saying one funny phrase and exploring what else that character would do.
John LaLoggia taught me to be a student of comedy. There is so much to learn out there from our idols and John is great at finding it. He also decides he wants to do something, whether it be create a team or try a new form, and he does it.
You’ve played on several Harold teams before. What’s new, exciting, and different about Ulysses?
This was the first team I joined that had people that I had never actually talked to, so it has been really cool getting to know people and their play styles as we go. Everyone on Ulysses is very theatrical and energetic and loves to have fun on stage. We will break out in song at the drop of a hat. Our coach Melanie Penn has been awesome at encouraging us to follow this energy. My favorite thing about being on Ulysses is the joy that everyone plays with. We don’t get too hung up on plot. As we get to know each other more, our group mind is growing, so come check us out.
How do you deal with being frequently confused with Sellers? Since you’re older, did you tell him to stop stealing your name and look?
I completely understand the confusion, but if you look closely you will notice that Sellers has a heart-shaped mole on his left butt cheek. That’s the tell tale sign.
Can you share some words of wisdom with those just starting out?
I looked back at your previous blog posts and I realize I am repeating some of the advice from before, but that is because you I agree.
Try not to get too high or too low after a performance. I have sat up all night, cringing, thinking about a scene I “ruined” in the SDP, and I have also had to remind myself that I am not Chris Farley after having a show I felt good about. This is a long journey and you’ll have good shows and bad shows, so just enjoy the process.
The ball is in your court to get whatever you want out of this experience. Set up practices, put a team together for the lab, see shows, take workshops, go to Compass Open Court, or host a short form jam in your living room. The STL improv community is growing, and there are so many opportunities. Create the experience you want.
What is the best improv advice or note you have ever received?
We are so fortunate here for all of the great teachers and coaches we have as well as the workshops that consistently come to town:
Bill Arnett “A guy with a broken arm is not a character choice. A guy with a broken arm that is too proud to accept any help is a character choice.”
Eric Christensen “The biggest compliment you can do for someone is call back their move in some way.” I love this one because not only is it a compliment for a teammate, but it makes the show so much better and helps with group mind.
Rick Andrews (Paraphrasing for sure) “If you make a choice out of joy, your teammate will gladly accept and justify a mistake because you will be having so much fun.”
Kevin McKernan “You can do anything as long as you’re with your friends.” I love this one. The greatest feeling in the world is knowing that making a weird choice will be supported.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from improv that translates to your real life?
How important it is to laugh, make people laugh, and be around people that are ready to do bits. I work with families with sick children, I am around a lot of serious situations every day, so to have a huge community just waiting to do the dumbest bits keeps me sane, and as a result, allows me to be better at my job.
Do you have anything going on that you’d like to plug?
My Harold team Ulysses performs at the Improv Shop on Thursdays
I am also on an independent team called Mississippi and we should have some shows coming up at The Improv Shop so check those out.
Now is the time to submit to the Compass Improv Festival. Get your team together and get your submission in at www.compassimprov.org The festival is Nov. 12-14th. Best weekend of the year, more details to come.
(Optional…well, more optional than the others). Is there a video, podcast episode, blog post etc about improv that you find particularly inspirational or inspiring?
Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier is my favorite book on improv
The episode with Keegan Michael Key on the You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes podcast is so good.
Also not so much improv but comedy in general, the Norm McDonald episode of WTF with Marc Maron podcast is incredible.