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Friday
Feb182011

INSIDE WITH: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of 'The Pajama Men'

The Pajama Men | Photo: Nolan Rudi

By: Meghan O'Keefe

The Pajama Men started out in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2000 and have been delighting international audiences with their unique style and chemistry ever since. If you've never heard of them, others certainly have: In the last 10 years, the duo has earned a Perrier nomination and a Barry Award. And this week they're in New York performing at St. Ann's Warehouse. I spoke to The Pajama Men (aka Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez) about what inspires them and what animals they'd most like to be.

You guys have performed all over the world and are Fringe Festival favorites. Do you notice any major differences between what audiences in New York laugh at versus Australia or the UK?
Mark & Shenoah:
Not really. Sometimes comics make the mistake of thinking they have to make kangaroo jokes if they're in Australia or what have you. At the end of the day we've all got a lot in common. We're all stinky old humans, so there's a lot to relate to in each other even if we're from different countries.

Photo: Nolan RudiAlbuquerque isn't the traditional hotbed of American comedy. How do you think being from there has affected your work versus comics who come up through Los Angeles, Chicago or New York?
Mark & Shenoah: WHAT? WHAT??!? No, you're right, but being from no-where's-ville really helped us. We didn't have any examples. No Second City, no Groundlings, no UCB, who are all awesome in their own right, but not having anyone setting the standard in our hometown allowed us to create our own style.

How would you describe your show to newcomers?
Mark & Shenoah: Hrm… it's a little tricky, or is it? I guess it's just two guys wearing pajamas, playing lots of different characters and telling jokes that all adds up to a story by the end of an hour. We've always had a little trouble describing ourselves because we don't fit nicely into any genre.
You performance style reminds me a bit more of long-form improv than traditional sketch comedy. Can you describe how improv has informed your approach to your work?
Mark & Shenoah: Our roots are in long-form improvisation and we develop all of our material through improv. And then once the show is up and running we continue to improvise within the structure we've created. So yeah, we'd agree that we are much more like long-form improv than traditional sketch.

When you performing in 2000, you were "Sabotage." What inspired the change to "The Pajama Men"?
Mark & Shenoah: We were already performing in pajamas back then; people were already calling us the "pajama guys." Then in 2004, Kelly Leonard from Second City became the first person in the industry to take a real chance on us.

Photo: Nolan RudiHe brought us out to Chicago and started developing our brand at Second City and ran us at the Steppenwolf Theatre. Through that branding process we agreed to change our name to something that fit us better. I mean, we were wearing PJ's. It wasn't much of a leap.

Are there any particular recurring characters that you guys love doing?
Shenoah: There's a ghoulish, idiot vampire I play called Leopold that I really enjoy. I'm also quite fond of a possessed, but relatively normal, and sometimes undead, teenage girl named Jennifer. In many ways because of the relationships that character has to other characters Mark plays.
Mark: I'm fond of playing a tiny little creature known only as "Cute Thing," mainly because I think, really, it's how my innermost self reacts to the world most of the time. Also, I like a character I play named "Derek" who is a total cheese head. Its nice to embody something that really annoys you. Maybe it's therapy?

I noticed you incorporate a lot of animals (a chess-playing bat, a smiling horse) into your scenes. Is there an animal you haven't done yet that you'd really like to do?
Shenoah: I'm kind of interested in doing a snake at some point. Snakes smell things with their tongues -- seems like there's mileage there.
Mark: I'm kind of obsessed with horses, so maybe a horse? Again?

The Pajama Men started out in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2000 and since then have delighted International Audiences with their unique style and chemistry. The duo is in New York City this week performing at St. Ann's Warehouse. I spoke to The Pajama Men, otherwise known as Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez, about what inspires their work and what animals they'd most like to be.

 

You guys have performed all over the world and are Fringe Festival favorites. (The duo was nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer Award at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and won the Barry Award at the 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival..amongst many other honors) Do you notice any major differences between what audiences in New York laugh at versus Australia or the UK?

 

Mark & Shenoah: Not really. Sometimes comics make the mistake of thinking they have to make kangaroo jokes if they're in Australia or what have you. At the end of the day we've all got a lot in common. We're all stinky old humans, so there's a lot to relate to in each other even if we're from different countries.

 

Albuquerque, New Mexico isn't usually thought of as a hotbed of American comedy. How do you think being from there has affected your work versus comics who come up through Los Angeles, Chicago or New York?

 

Mark & Shenoah: WHAT? WHAT??!? No, you're right, but being from no-where's-ville really helped us. We didn't have any examples. No Second City, no Groundlings, no UCB, who are all awesome in their own right, but not having anyone setting the standard in our hometown allowed us to create our own style.

 

How would you describe your show to someone who's never seen you before?

 

Mark & Shenoah: Hrm… it's a little tricky, or is it? I guess it's just two guys wearing pajamas, playing lots of different characters and telling jokes that all adds up to a story by the end of an hour. We've always had a little trouble describing ourselves because we don't fit nicely into any genre.

 

You two perform at a lightning fast speed that reminds one more of long-form improv at times than traditional sketch comedy. Can you describe how improv has informed your approach to your work? 

Mark & Shenoah: Our roots are in Long Form and we develop all of our material through improv. And then once the show is up and running we continue to improvise within the structure we've created. So yeah, we'd agree that we are much more like long-form improv than traditional sketch.

 

When you guys started performing together in 2000, you called yourselves "Sabotage". What inspired the evolution into "The Pajama Men"? 

Mark & Shenoah: We were already performing in pajamas back then; people were already calling us the "pajama guys". Then in 2004 Kelly Leonard from Second City became the first person in the industry to take a real chance on us. He brought us out to Chicago and started developing our brand at Second City and ran us at the Steppenwolf theatre. Through that branding process we agreed to change our name to something that fit us better. I mean - we were wearing PJ's it wasn't much of a leap.

 

Are there any particular recurring characters that you guys love doing?

 

Shenoah: There's a ghoulish, idiot vampire I play called Leopold that I really Enjoy. I'm also quite fond of a possessed, but relatively normal and sometimes undead, teenage girl named Jennifer. In many ways because of the relationships that character has to other characters Mark plays.

 

Mark: I'm fond of playing a tiny little creature known only as "Cute Thing", mainly because I think, really, its how my innermost self reacts to the world most of the time. Also, I like a character I play named "Derek" who is a total cheese head. Its nice to embody something that really annoys you. Maybe its therapy?

 

I noticed you incorporate a lot of animals (a chess-playing bat, a smiling horse) into your scenes. Is there an animal you haven't done yet that you'd really like to do?

 

Shenoah: I'm kind of interested in doing a snake at some point. Snakes smell things with their tongues--seams like there's mileage there.

 

Mark: I'm kind of obsessed with horses, so maybe a horse? Again? 

The Pajama Men will be performing at the St. Ann's Warehouse now until Saturday, February 19. For showtimes and ticket info, visit http://stannswarehouse.org/view_page.php?name=Pajama%20Men

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    Lovely Webpage, Stick to the beneficial work. Thanks a lot.
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    INSIDE WITH: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of 'The Pajama Men' - The Apiary - The Apiary - A Comedy Website
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    INSIDE WITH: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of 'The Pajama Men' - The Apiary - The Apiary - A Comedy Website
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    INSIDE WITH: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of 'The Pajama Men' - The Apiary - The Apiary - A Comedy Website
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    INSIDE WITH: Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez of 'The Pajama Men' - The Apiary - The Apiary - A Comedy Website
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