JewMama is an improv duo comprised of Jeremy Lesifko-Bremer and Michelle Lesifko-Bremer. Based in Gainesvile, Florida, JewMama will be performing in the 7:50 PM show block on Friday night at the 2020 Countdown Improv Festival. In this spotlight interview from 2019, the Lesifko-Bremers discuss the genesis of their format, the pros and cons of improvising with your spouse, and where to get good vegan Polish food in Pittsburgh.
Your format is so fun and kinetic! Can you describe your performance style for those who haven’t yet seen it, and tell us about the genesis of that format and how it has developed?
Starting with a suggestion of a location, we build a world made up of three scenes. Each scene is populated by different characters, and our goal is for each set of characters to have a different, dramatic relationship. By the end of our set, we hope to “collide” the three scenes into a satisfying climax. The inspiration for this format came from our first duo coach, who challenged us to do a two-person Harold (for civilians, that’s an improv form that looks like an improvised play). We had so much fun doing it that we decided to adapt that form for our show. We’ve both acted and directed plays before, so we really like thinking about interesting stage pictures. That’s where the idea of using three different parts of the stage and physicalities to differentiate the scenes came from. Unexpected benefit: this form gives us plenty of opportunities to get physical and mess with each other, which are two of our favorite things to do.
We love a good duo origin story. How did the two of you first start performing together as JewMama?
We’d been taking classes together and performing on another team (shout out to our brothers and sisters in The Deep End!) and were asked to perform as a duo for a Valentines-themed show called CoupleProv at our old home theater, Steel City Improv Theater. We’d always joked that we’d call our duo JewMama, so we called our own bluff and JewMama was born.
You’re married to each other! What are some pros and cons of having your duo partner also be your life partner?
Pros: We know each other’s brains really well, so we have a kind of shorthand that makes it easier to predict where we’ll go once we start improvising. Also, since we promised to stick together til death do us part and all, it’s pretty easy to trust each other on stage. Finally, it’s funny to get super physical with each other and scandalize our audience, especially if we forget to tell them that we’re married. Cons: We know each other’s brains really well, which makes it really easy to mess with each other. Also, we’ve been known to yell at each other in the green room when one of us (ahem…Michelle…) isn’t happy with a choice the other made (…cough cough…Jeremy…).
How do you both like to get ready for a show? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
We have a power mantra that we yell at each other in the green room, which is a ritual that was gifted to us by one of our coaches. We can’t share the mantra, as that would sap its power, but it’s based on our mutual love for the TV show The West Wing. We also do some word association and energy building exercises. We like to get pumped.
What makes small-group improv rewarding to you?
You’re on stage the whole time, so you have to be super present and purposeful. Also, Michelle is bad at remembering stuff, so that adds an extra layer of drama. Sappy alert: We really love doing improv with our best friend.
Finally, the two of you recently relocated to Gainesville from Pittsburgh. It’s our opinion that Pittsburgh is one of the best cities in the country for unique regional cuisine. What are your favorite Pittsburgh foodstuffs, and why are they great?
Believe it or not, there’s a vegan Polish restaurant in Lawrenceville, our old neighborhood, called Apteka that is off. the. chain. Best pierogis in town are made with shredded mushrooms, not cheese or beef. Also: church lady fish fry game is on point. And we’ve been known to eat a pepperoni roll in our car while Christmas shopping. Don’t judge.