An Interview with The Pajama Men
Monday, June 9, 2014 12:00 AM by Kiley Peters
Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez are The Pajama Men. If you're like me, you may be wondering why grown men are performing absurdist comedy on stage in their pajamas and where the name came from. Well, Shenoah and Mark were kind enough to answer a few questions and turns out they've been in their pajamas for well over a decade. Can't get mad at a man who wants to be comfortable, that's for sure.
How did the two of you meet?
SA: We met in the performing arts center at La Cueva High School in 1993. We were there to audition for the high school improv team. I remember seeing Mark and thinking, he looks funny and nice and I just walked up to him - I had three ridiculous, side-by-side Mohawks at the time - and asked if he wanted to be my partner for the audition. He agreed. We both got in. The team did one performance and then disbanded, but we stuck together.
I see. So how long have you officially been “The Pajama Men?”
MC: We've been working together since the end of high school, but it wasn't until 2000 that we toured with our first show, so if you do the math we've been going at it for a long time. But we've been called "Pajama Men" for 10 years.
Where did the name “The Pajama Men” come from?
SA: In 2004 Kelly Leonard (executive vice president of The Second City) saw us perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We were pretty green. I think Kelly was one of four or five people in the audience that night, but he saw something in us and said, "Hey, why don’t I bring you out to Chicago and The Second City will produce you at Steppenwolf." We were thrilled! In shock even. It was the first time anybody had taken a chance on us. We were called Sabotage at the time but we always performed in pajamas. Kelly thought we should use our look to brand ourselves and come up with a name that fit us better. We tossed a lot of iffy ideas around. In the end I think Kelly came up with the name Pajama Men. It’s worked out.
So Kelly Leonard essentially named you. Interesting ... Who are some of your greatest comedic influences?
MC: Movies like "Top Secret" and "Airplane!" had a huge effect on me when I was young. I don't think I was necessarily thinking in these terms back when I was 10, but it is pretty amazing how comedy heavy (visual gags, word play, etc) each scene is in those movies. The lengths the the directors (the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams) went to in order to make something work is pretty spectacular. I also really loved Steven Wright back then. Then later I got into Christopher Guest's films; I love the level of commitment that he and his cast achieves with their characters. Chevy Chase was always a favorite of mine as well.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
SA: Narrative-sketch. It’s fairly aggressively strange, I think. We rely heavily on big characters, jokes and we always leave room to improvise.
What are you most looking forward to during your time in Chicago?
MC: I haven't really thought past what it will be like to perform in Chicago again - it's been a while and I'm really looking forward to doing our show at UP Comedy Club. Honestly, I think that's what I'm most looking forward to. That and the amazing architecture. And the pizza.
Catch The Pajama Men at UP Comedy Club June 12-15th. Buy tickets here.