'The Good Place' Stars Are Doing A Big Forking Improv Show In DTLA This Weekend

D'Arcy Carden, Kristen Bell, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste from the Good Place, performing together in a charity improv show. (Liezl Estipona, courtesy Marc Evan Jackson)

Part of the premise of the NBC's The Good Place is that humans need to get a certain number of points to get to, well, the Good Place (the comedy's particlar brand of Heaven). Now the show's stars are scoring their own points with a charity improv show in downtown L.A. this weekend, titled appropriately, the Total Forking Shirt Show, which will raise money to help teach improv to young people.

The show is set to feature a forking ton of stars from The Good Place including Kristen Bell, D'Arcy Carden, Marc Evan Jackson, and more, as well as Kristen Bell's husband Dax Shepard.

The event was organized by Jackson, which is ironic considering he plays the immortal being Shawn (a notorious Bad Place dweller) on The Good Place.

He'd asked his castmates last fall to help raise money for the nonprofit he and his wife founded, and got enthusiastic yeses all around. Now the cast is back for round two, doing another show for a good (place) cause.

The money's going to Jackson's Detroit Creativity Project, to help teach improv to young people in Detroit. Why improv? Improv changes lives. At least that's what improvisers like Jackson — and a three-year University of Michigan study — say.

Why Detroit? Jackson lived there until 2001, before he moved to L.A. A lot of his friends who've since made it big in entertainment did too — many of them used to be part of the (now defunct) Second City improv theater.

"Detroit was perpetually at the doorstep of a renaissance," Jackson told LAist. "[We] had a series of dinner parties at our house [in L.A.], and just said, 'What should we be doing to give back to the city of Detroit?'"

Maribeth Monroe, Jason Mantzoukas, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Manny Jacinto, Marc Evan Jackson, Good Place creator Mike Schur, D'Arcy Carden, and Kristen Bell were all part of the first Good Place charity improv show. (Liezl Estipona, courtesy Marc Evan Jackson)

That friend group of Detroit-to-L.A. transplants included talent like Keegan-Michael Key of Key & Peele. They realized there was a common element that helped them find their success — doing improv.

"We happened on it so quickly, it was a no-brainer," Jackson said. "We sort of were ashamed that we hadn't already been doing it."

They connected with their old Detroit improv community and organized the Improv Project (the Detroit Creativity Project's flagship program) to take improv into public schools, teaching kids 8 to 18.

"In addition to being really fun, and playful, it has some really great side effects — like inspiring confidence, and removing fear," Jackson said. "It's an incredible self-esteem builder for things like college interviews, and test taking, and job interviews, and it really just makes you a better communicator — and therefore a more empathetic, more curious, more interested, more interesting person."

A shot from the last Good Place improv show. (Liezl Estipona, courtesy Marc Evan Jackson)

Jackson found his own way into improv while working as a talk show producer at an NPR station in west Michigan (we relate!). He'd studied it locally, but when a Second City touring company came through town, and appeared on Jackson's show, he made his move.

"I said to their producer, at one point, if you ever hold auditions, let me know," Jackson said.

He got the call and ended up using his background in music to become Second City Detroit's touring company musical director, working his way up, before ultimately moving to L.A.

Jackson's excited to continue bringing the "yes, and" philosophy of improv to kids. He said that the way improv makes you work together as a group, saying yes to each other and adding something, helps to erase individual egos.

"You realize you're walking out into a white room with nothing in it, and together you have to paint vivid depictions of battle themes, and love affairs, and the tops of mountains, and the bottom of the ocean," Jackson said. "And in order to do that, all you have is each other."

It also helps teach you to ask questions, Jackson said.

"I think it really does rewire our brains to go, 'Oh wait a second, I don't have to have the answer to everything all the time,'" Jackson said. "And that doesn't make you weak, that doesn't make you stupid — that makes you more powerful."

He advocates for everyone to take improv.

"Everyone in the world should take an improv class, whether you have any hopes of ever being a performer, or a comedian, or anything," Jackson said. "Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or a CEO, or a dentist, or restaurant service worker — it is such a life-improving, friend-making, confidence-building, fear-erasing skill that I can't believe I didn't start doing it until I was 24."

Along with The Good Place (and hosting the Good Place podcast), you can also see Marc Evan Jackson on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Captain Ray Holt's husband, and he provides the voices of the buzzards on the current version of Disney's DuckTales. He's also part of the team that did the long-running live radio theater show the Thrilling Adventure Hour.

The Total Forking Shirt Show is this Sunday night at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel — tickets are available here.