The “five fierce women” of improv group Ms. Jackson are holding a special ticketed event at Central Library’s Dweck Center (Thursday, March 19, 7 PM; purchase your ticket by calling 212.868.4444 or visiting SmartTix online). Members of this group have appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and 30 Rock, as well as at comedy venues around the city. I put them on the spot for a couple of questions:
Your group’s name has everyone in our office singing Outkast. Are we right on, or is the name otherwise inspired?
Bayne Gibby: We originally were going to form this group to do one show in a festival in 2000. Jessica was filling out the forms and needed to make up a name on the spot. The Outkast song was popular at the time, so she said Ms. Jackson. I love the name.
Tara Copeland: Back then we used to choreograph dances to open the show with and we did a dance once to “Nasty Boys” by Janet Jackson, which has the line, “No, my name ain't baby. It's Janet. Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.” Though we weren’t named for that, I really like that association with us.
How do you explain the chemistry between the five of you?
Jessica Allen: We are friends who love to have a good time and find each other endlessly fascinating and funny. Our love translates on stage into 100 percent trust, which makes our shows very fresh, real and funny (of course).
Gibby: We just gel together very well. They are the funniest women I know.
Copeland: We’ve been friends for almost 10 years. The bond between us is deep. We are each others’ best friends, confidants, bridesmaids and therapists. We are always learning from each other, IM-ing each other, supporting each other and loving each other. Moves to other coasts and other countries, deportation, and motherhood could not break us up. We are more than an improv group and always have been. We are family.
Because you do improv, do friends and new acquaintances always expect you to be funny on the spot?
Allen: We hang out with so many other improvisers that we end up doing a lot of bits and then we go into the real world and people sometimes find us a little too energetic (or at least me).
Copeland: Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes people will say something like, “Oh, you do improv? Do it for me now.”—which is really annoying.
Speaking of which, do improv right now. Wait, I’ll give you a topic: chicken feet. Go.
Copeland: Oh. Um ... disregard my last answer.
Gibby: Ok, here I go. I’m a chicken with feet! I need some new shoes. Let’s go down to the Chicken Shoe Store. See how that works? Hilarity ensues.