Philadelphia comedian Jacquie Baker has made her mark on local sketch comedy, by writing, directing, and acting in numerous shows. Some of her work appears on the web in videos; other work appears in flowcharts. She’s traveled to perform across the U.S. and Canada.
How did you get started in comedy?
Back in 2011, I signed up for an improv class back with the intention of using it as a jumping off point for a luminous standup career. Four years have passed. I primarily do sketch comedy, and I’ve never done standup. Sometimes a dream stays a dream until you’re ready to ride that unicorn. And sometimes, like in this case, you decide that that unicorn isn’t the right unicorn. Also, unicorns aren’t real. Sorry.
So then what comedy projects are you active in now? What have you done before, if not ever standup?
I’m in a sketch duo called The Incredible Shrinking Matt & Jacquie with my comedic (and domestic) partner Matthew Schmid, and we perform at various venues around the city. I’m also in The Flat Earth, a sketch house team at the Philly Improv Theater, and we do shows quarterly at the Adrienne Theater and have gotten to perform in sketch festivals in San Francisco, Toronto, and Chicago which were the best business trips I’ll ever go on. This year, I started directing an all-female sketch group called Barbara Bush, which has been a really fun departure from writing and performing. I also periodically produce and perform in shows for Five Dollar Comedy Week and Good Good Comedy. From 2011 to 2013, I was in an improv group called Nielsen. I really liked the people in that group, but I hated being put on the spot without any preparation, so that’s why I’ve stayed monogamous with sketch.
You & your groups, especially The Incredible Shrinking Matt And Jacquie, have converted some stage sketches to videos. How does that process work?
The vast majority of the sketch stuff that Matt and I have filmed were sketches originally written for the stage. When we decide to film something, we review the script and think about what can be cut or added in order to make it translate to film. The feeling of watching live sketch is very different than watching a video because it’s not really transactional: when you laugh at a video, the people in the video obviously can’t hear you. Sometimes, live sketches have jokes or lines that help sustain a certain energy, but you can cut them on video if they’re not moving things along. The very kind people who’ve agreed to film, direct, and edit our stuff also bring their ideas to the table, and they always elevate our material. With video, you get to focus the viewers’ attention with cuts. You can play with rhythm and easily jump between different settings. You can use aesthetics to underscore the tone of the sketch. The freedom that video affords you is insane, and you can really dream (reasonably) big with things. With live sketch, we usually have to pare things down to make performing material as easy as we can since we a) have no money and b) are doing everything in real time.
Speaking of aesthetics, I’ve always been delighted with your costume choices for sketches. Where do you find your comedy wardrobe?
My comedy wardrobe is mostly clothes I already own, plus a couple of wigs I’ve accrued over the years. I’m like a frumpier Madonna in that I’ve gone through a lot of weird phases since my 20s, which is why I own both an 80s space vamp dress and government khakis.
What do you do outside of comedy?
Professionally, I work part-time doing admin/HR stuff for two small, local companies. As for spare time, I’ve become very wrapped up in comedy and I’ve purposely afforded myself very little of it. When I babysit myself, I just end up staying up too late for no reason, playing a lot of Soda Crush, and letting my friendships die.
How do you get inspired for the sketches that you do?
I like comedy (and drama) that is personal, genuine, character-driven, and visual. When I’m thinking of ideas, I tend to focus less on premise and more about what kind of relationships or characters I’d like to explore. Unfortunately, this makes for a lot of half-ideas. Also, probably the only cool thing about being a really moody, insecure person is that I’m always discovering new fears. I can always comedically tumble those crappy rocks if I want.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise consuming these days?
I just re-read Harriet The Spy which was so perfect that I mentally high-fived my 10-year-old self for having good taste. I watched the dance documentary Pina the other day, and it was really evocative and made me want to run away and join an emotional dance cult. The newest albums by Beach House and CHVRCHES are solid. I recently remembered that “Moon Safari” by Air exists, which makes me happy. My ears and eyes are always hungry for things that are sad/funny or sad/pretty.
Final question: anything else you want to share with Geekadelphia readers?
Murder your unicorns. Just kidding. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!