Marc Evan Jackson Brings Improv Back to the Main Stage in Detroit

Jackson is a regular on shows like “The Good Place” today, but first cut his teeth performing improv at the former Second City Detroit.

Photo via Marc Evan Jackson

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation. CultureShift airs weekdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on 101.9 WDETFM Detroit public radio.

On Friday, actor Marc Evan Jackson will bring the improv skills he first honed in Detroit to the Fillmore Detroit for a two-gentlemen improv show with Paul F. Tompkins to benefit the Detroit Creativity Project.

It will mark Jackson’s biggest Detroit show yet.

“I’m so excited to come home,” says Jackson. “I grew up in Buffalo, New York and lived all over Michigan, but that time in Detroit — [it has] such a verve and vibe that it really became home in those years when I was at the Second City.”

Jackson spent four years performing improv at the Second City Detroit in the late-’90s. Just down the street from the Fillmore Detroit, Second City held performances and taught workshops at the City Theatre inside the Hockeytown Cafe.

“I spent decades there in those four years,” says Jackson, who was part of a class of Detroit-based performers who went on to carve out successful careers in Hollywood like homegrown talent Keegan-Michael Key, who founded the Detroit Creativity Project with Jackson.


“I’m so excited to come home and play a big house and be surrounded by familiar faces and friends,” says Jackson.

In addition to offering free tickets to furloughed government workers affected by the partial shutdown, Jackson will direct ticket proceeds from Friday’s performance to the Detroit Creativity Project, which aims to put improv classes and workshops in Detroit-area schools to counteract arts programming and education being slashed from budgets.

“Our flagship program — the Improv Project — offers improv classes often times free-of-charge in Detroit middle schools and high schools,” says Jackson. “Improv is a really good communication pathway because it makes you listen and react; it makes you honor other people’s ideas; and it makes you realize that your voice is important and is in fact is necessary for these scenes to succeed.”

The benefits of putting improv classes into public schools were recently highlighted by a study conducted by the University of Michigan, which recognized its ability to reduce anxiety in teenagers.

“There was a marked reduction in many of our students for social phobia, social anxiety and even depression,” says Jackson.

Tickets for Jackson’s performance on Friday night at the Fillmore Detroit are available here.

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation with CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper and actor Marc Evan Jackson about how improv is improving the life of Detroit teenagers through the arts.


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.