Blog: Pj Jacokes

Thinking on the fly takes talent, but it's one that can be taught. Pj Jacokes, comedian and producer of the Go Comedy! Improv Theater and Go Improv Academy, makes a career out of showing Metro Detroiters how to be fast on their feet. His sketch this week outlines why we should care about improv and fostering those bursts of imagination.

Post 3: Ice Cream and Me

Why I Stayed: Four Weeks that Changed My Life

Over the years, I've watched friend after friend pack up and leave town - for improvisers Chicago is Mecca, for actors and writers it's New York or L.A. But for lots of reasons, I stayed: family, friends, the chance to do what I love on a daily basis, my son, the improv community, relationships, the list goes on. But last year, over the course of four of the strangest weeks of my life, encompassing unreal highs and lows, I realized the number one reason I've stayed is support.

So here's my story:

On a busy Tuesday, I stopped by the doctor's office because I had a sore throat. I was supposed to go to Baltimore the following weekend with dad, brother and brother-in-law to watch the Tigers and Orioles play a weekend series and I figured, if I was sick, it'd be a good idea to get medicine early so I would be OK on the trip. At the end of the appointment, after the doctor gave me the OK for the road trip, she asked if there was anything else. I mentioned that my side felt weird. She expertly poked at it. I screamed and she sent me to the hospital to have my appendix removed. I would not be going to Baltimore.

(As a side note, Jonathon Ericsson of the Red Wings had the same surgery on the same day and skated in the Stanley Cup finals three days later. My dad will never let me live that down. I stand by my argument that if I was being paid a million dollars, I would have made the trip.)
Pj: 0 Life: 1

The day after the surgery, as I lay in the hospital on heavy painkillers, my phone rang and a San Francisco area code showed up on the screen. I probably should have let it go to voicemail but drugs and boredom prevailed. On the other end was a very nice woman who was very excited to tell me I was one of five finalists in the Edy's Ice Cream "A Taste of Recovery" contest. A few weeks earlier, I had randomly entered the contest online by writing a short essay on how I could use $100,000 as my "Taste of Recovery." I wrote it and then promptly forgot about it. (The actual essay appears below.) The next step was to make a two-minute video based on the same topic.
Pj: 1 Life: 1

Two weeks later, on June 11 at 6PM, it became clear that my marriage was coming to an end.
Pj: 1 Life: 457

Literally one hour later, Edy's called to tell me I had won the grand prize - $100,000 and a year's supply of ice cream.
Pj: 457 Life: 457

On June 20, Edy's came to town and gave me a giant check and we had a little party. The End.

That's a whole lot of life crammed into 25 days, but the thing is, through all of it, the fairy tale highs and the woe-is-me lows, it became abundantly clear to me why I stayed. I stayed because of community.

The essay:

I live in Metro Detroit, an area that has been recovering for the past 50 years. With all of the recent automotive hardships, things here have been rough for everyone. I'm entering this contest with the hope of winning a chance to continue my dream. As the co-owner of a new small theater, I'm trying to keep my head above water and the community in good spirits. I can't offer many new jobs, I can't save the economy, but I can offer of taste of recovery. Our goal is to keep Detroit laughing, while we, as a community, figure out what's next. I can't change the world, but I can do my part. Plus I love Ice Cream - which isn't nearly as lofty, but totally true.

6 months ago, I, along with 3 others, opened a improv comedy theater in the Detroit area, our goal is to bring laughter to an area that needs it more than ever. The first few months have been good but not great. This money would allow us the opportunity to get the word out and keep us afloat until we do. Community plays a big role in our vision. Ferndale, the city we're in, has been incredible to us. The people in the area have shown a lot of support. We want to give back as much as we can. We have already had fundraisers here and given away lots of tickets to charities. We even have a monthly unemployment night for those who can't afford regular tickets. Starting a new business in Detroit in these times is hard, the money would give us time, which is essential to recovery.

When we opened, we spent every penny we had. As a result, we opened with much work to do. I'd spend the money to complete our vision and promote our dream. While Improv comedy is a lot of fun to perform or watch, I also believe it goes deeper than that. At its core improvisation is about teamwork, adapting to make do with what you have and believing in yourself. Those three things are critical if you're going to build a community, and more so if you're working to repair one. That's why I believe Detroit needs us and that's why I'd put the money towards the theater, which, in its own way, is offering a taste of recovery to the area and its residents. Thank You.