INTERVIEW: Damian Jason White

“I’d say my go-to is that I play women a lot. Sassy women.”

Damian Jason White

Damian is one of the first people I met in the improv community. We met because he worked in the box office on the day I had class and then I ended up working with him. He introduced me to Poor Choices Podcast, GURU, The Upstairs Gallery and dozens of shows that I “needed” to see in Chicago. I owe a lot to Damian, so I was happy to ask him to be my first interviewee.

How and why did you get into comedy?
I’ve always been addicted to making people laugh. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actor both on TV and in movies. When I was living in Georgia, a friend recommended I look into Second City. So I did some research, saw the alumni list and decided to move to Chicago in 2008 to pursue comedy writing. I enrolled in and completed the writing program at Second City. However, I still wanted to be a performer, so I started taking improv classes at Annoyance Theatre in 2011.

Where have you studied and what programs have you gone through?
I started by going through the writing program at Second City. Then I went through the first three levels of Annoyance’s improv program. There are six levels as well as an advanced improv class with Mick Napier that I’d like to finish up someday. While I was taking Level 3 class at Annoyance, I started taking classes at iO. I fell in love with iO and went through the entire 14 month program. I’m just finishing up my 5b showcase this month, which will wrap up 16 months at iO. I’ve just been accepted into the Conservatory program at Second City and will be starting a year long program with them in September.

Which program do you think has been the most valuable and why?
iO. iO taught me how to be myself and love myself. It taught me to listen to other people. I just love the program and philosophy about being honest, playing yourself and group work.

Who have you studied under? What is the greatest lesson you have taken from any or all of them?
Sean Cusick, Derrick Aggius, Lilly Allison, Todd Edwards, Colleen Doyle, Jason Shotts, Paul Grondy, Craig Uhlir, Dina Facklis, Noah Gregoropoulos and Farrell Walsh.

The greatest lesson I’ve taken away from all of them collectively is to play to the height of my intelligence, to play myself and know that myself is good enough.

What is your favorite type or style of comedy? Why?
Parody. I like it when a comedy writer can take something I might watch on TV or read in the paper and can make fun of it in a different light that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of before. It’s like a playful nudge at the audience.

Do you have any tendencies or “go-to’s” that you use in improv? Please explain.
I’d say my go-to is that I play women a lot. Sassy women. As I’ve come through improv, I’ve watched people like Andy St. Clair play women. Playing women is one of his go-to’s, so I adopted it from him and I just feel comfortable doing it. Andy St. Clair one of my favorite players.

Are you ever typecasted or feel stereotyped on stage? If so, do you embrace it or do you try to break free of the stereotypes? How?
Yes. I embrace it. I embrace it mostly because I feel that if I don’t embrace stereotypes on stage then it would make the audience feel uncomfortable. I try to play everything to the height of my intelligence and challenge myself to find a different perspective or play up a different aspect of the character I was stereotyped as. Try and add a twist to it.

What are your favorite improv stages in Chicago?
Cabaret Theatre at iO and Upstairs Gallery. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life have been in the Cabaret Theatre. I just feel connected to it and want to perform on that stage. As for Upstairs Gallery, I like the vibe and the people that run it. It’s a nice up-and-coming theatre and I think they are doing great things.

Who are your greatest comedic influences?
Lucille Ball, Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle.

What teams are you currently performing with?
Chemically Imbalanced Theatre house team called Mad Contender, There Are You Peter and PotterProv, a Harry Potter improv team.

What are your next steps in pursuing your comedic career?
Continue taking classes and starting Second City Conservatory next month. That’s all I have in store for right now.

Where do you hope to see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Working in Chicago as a comedic actor. Hopefully working at Second City in some capacity and performing at iO on a weekly basis.

What is the greatest insight you have discovered about life and comedy?
Just be a good person. Listen to people and be genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.

Any final comments?
It’s a hard road, but if you’re a good person that is willing to work hard you can usually get to where you want to go.


Damain Jason White is currently living and working in Chicago. He jumped around between Georgia and New York before moving to Chicago in 2008. Damian trained at The Annoyance, Second City, and iO and performs regularly with his Chemically Imbalanced house team, Mad Contender. Damian is allergic to cats, but adores his roommate’s cat, Kitty. Keep up with Damian on Facebook.

 Interview conducted on August 8, 2012.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Interviews

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