Cesar Jaime’s commitment to the iO Chicago is second to none and you can see it in the many hats he wears at the famed Chicago theater. The Chicago improviser/actor has been entertaining crowds for over 15 years on the stage, online, and through the iO Video Network, as well as the shows -Notimanches and Casting Notice. In addition, Cesar has taught classes, conducted business improv workshops, and worked with a host of improv legends, including the iO’s own — Del Close.
I grew up in Chicago. I’m an improviser/actor currently living in Chicago. I was introduced to improvisation by one of the best and sweetest people involved in the art of improvisation, Martin de Maat.
He encouraged me to take classes at The Second City, where after doing so, I was eventually fortunate enough to get the chance work and perform with their Touring Company.
Later, I was encouraged by Kelly Leonard to take classes at the iO Theater, which back then was known as the “ImprovOlympic” theater, and seek to study with the late improvisational guru, Del Close.
I followed his advice and have been heavily involved with the iO Theater ever since.
Current Role at iO Chicago
At iO I’m sort of a jack of all trades.
I perform here 4 times a week, I teach, I help run the Training Center, I run the social media department, assist with marketing, I maintain their website, I help out with artistic decisions, head the online video content department (iO Comedy Network) and up until we moved to our new location, I was also part of the house managing staff.
First Entertainment Job
My first paid job was a horrible, horrible experience. When I first got an agent, I was sent to an audition for a “local” commercial. It wasn’t much of an audition and to be honest I didn’t quite know what I was auditioning for, other than it was a local Chicago store.
As a young actor just getting into the business, I was just excited that I finally had an agent, and that I was now auditioning for a COMMERCIAL.
To add to my excitement, later that week I was told I booked the job. I was given an address that turned out to be a pawn shop. I was buzzed in and there was only one person in the store, behind the counter.
I said I might be in the wrong place because I was supposed to be looking for a film crew or something. The man told me I was in the right place, that the “crew” was almost there, and that I should go in back and put on my “Uncle Sam” costume.
I laughed thinking he was joking, then he walked me to the back, and showed me an Uncle Sam costume.
Turns out this was a low budget commercial shoot for a pawn shop, where me, dressed as Uncle Sam, had to jump around the store like a mad man, in Spanish, shouting about all the cash people could get in return for pawning something.
I was given actual wads of cash to wave around the camera.
Because the pawn shop wouldn’t close for this shoot, we would have to stop every time a customer would come in.
When this would happened, the owner of the pawn shop would come over, take the wads of cash he had given me for the shoot, count it, take care of the customer, then come back and give me cash to try it again.
This happened several times. The only thing that made me feel good about this day was that I was told this was only going to air on Spanish channels on cable tv, and between midnight and 6am for 6 months.
A year and a half later I found out they were airing this thing on regular tv and earlier than midnight.
I had to have a lawyer call them to yank it.
When did you know you wanted to be involved with comedy?
It sort of happened while I was in High School. Mrs Brody, my wonderful drama and English teacher, encouraged me a lot and gave me opportunities to do comedic plays and to write my own stuff for student shows, as long as I behaved when it was time to behave.
I always enjoyed doing that sort of stuff but wasn’t thinking about it as a career.
Especially after I met with a school counselor who told me it would be dumb to choose a career in the theater or entertainment business, and that it would be smarter to concentrate on “real life."
So, I set out to try to be an architect. In preparation for this, I started visiting colleges. At one local college, I was talking to someone in their enrollment department and she was telling me about all the steps and courses I would need to take in order to become an architect.
It seemed like a lot of work, but I figured this is what becoming an adult was about. During our chat she said something to the effect of how important it was to do what makes you happy in life.
As soon as I heard that, I stood up, thanked her for her time, and went directly to Columbia College to enroll as a theater major.
That’s where I eventually met Marty De Maat.
Take us through a typical workday at the iO Chicago.
Lately, because our site is so new, my day revolves mostly around attending to website tasks. Outside of that, a typical day for me once I get in means checking my emails, attend to tasks that come in via email or that I have on my “to do” list, help out with Training Center calls, and get yelled at by Charna occasionally.
The rest of the day is filled with absorbing Pittsburgh sports information because I share an office with iO’s Training Center Director, Rob White, who is from Pittsburgh and listens to their sports talk radio.
“Business Improvisations,” and “Dynamic Management Workshops.”
“Business Improvisations” is a company co-owned by my good friend and fellow iO alum, Bob Kulhan that offers corporate training that help teach leaders to be adaptable, motivational, and inspirational.
I’ve been part of their senior leadership instructor team for a few years and pretty proud of it too. Yes, it’s paid job, but I really get a kick out of watching and listening to people who have no interest in our field (improvisation), find real value in the things that are a huge part of our artistic world.
Bob has worked really hard to grow that business and he has found a great way to apply his insight, knowledge, and love for improvisation, into corporate training that truly makes a difference.
I think the biggest challenge ANY person that gets into the entertainment business is the rejection that comes with it. But once one understands that rejection is part of the business, not getting a role is just another day, rather than a “sign” or judgment on one’s talent.
My first difficult challenge was when I found out I couldn’t continue to perform with the Second City touring company. It was my first and biggest rejection as an actor, so it stung quite a bit.
I eventually overcame that feeling of rejection with the help of iO Del Close.
Second was the loss of Del Close, who unbeknownst to me, was one of my biggest supporters. Shortly before he passed away he had told me some of the things he was trying to do for me, which was a honor and feeling I couldn’t begin to explain.
When he passed away I thought I was done with this field because I thought he was the only one that believed in me.
But then Charna Halpern stepped in became one of my biggest supporters.
Third was moving away to Los Angeles. Although I was very fortunate to be able to get work as an actor while there, I started having a hard time being away from home.
This happens to almost everyone that moves there and I had been warned that I would eventually begin to feel this way, but that I had to be strong, suck it up, and get over that hump.
But being broke, feeling lonely, and not being able to perform as much as I was in Chicago eventually got to me.
It may not have been the best decision, but I overcame that feeling of depression by abruptly moving back to Chicago.
Has the growth of Social Media impacted your career?
I don’t think it has…? I hope that the effort I put into social media for the theater has somehow been a benefit for the people that perform here, but besides making fun video shorts, I can’t say I use social media to my benefit as an artist.
Social media has been of great benefit to a lot of people, I just haven’t’ been able to figure out how to follow their lead.
I just want to entertain people and in some way shape or form be able to make a nice living out of it. In front of the camera, behind it, next to it, … anything. That would be very cool.
You’ve been in Chicago for 15 years — what is it about Chicago that you like & how do you get through the brutal winters?
I’ve been here practically all my life, so I’ve experienced some pretty harsh winters. I get through it by telling myself that it will be over soon and that I’m fortunate to not be homeless.
It’s hard to explain why I think Chicago is great. It just …is.
As any artist, its artistic community is incredibly supportive and there so may places that can help one grow as an artist.
Top 5 Entertainment Moments
Number one has to be being given the opportunity to perform and audition for SNL at the the iO Theater a few times.
Two, would be being able to study with Del Close and Marty DeMaat.
They both changed my life.
Three, would be having the balls to move to Los Angeles in the first place and all the opportunities and experiences I had while there.
Four, would be being tricked into performing standup at LA’s Laugh Factory by one of my best friends, Jeff Pacocha, and having a painful, nerve-wracking, blast. (Won’t every try it again)
And last but not least, five, would be an ongoing one: Being able to perform alongside so many talented people over the years and still being able to do it on a weekly basis now with some very, very, funny and talented people.
You’ve been an Actor, Improviser, & Teacher, in which role do you feel the most comfortable? Why?
Probably teacher because I feel I am better at being able to pass lessons on that I feel are important and vital, than I am at showing them on stage. ☺
According to your website, one of your special skills is soccer, what position do you play and what team do you follow?
I played soccer as a very young teenager when I spent 3 years living in Mexico.
I played goalie and enjoyed that position a lot.
The weird thing is that I hate watching it. The only team I’ve been a fan of was a team in Mexico called the “America Eagles” (Aguilas de America), but I don’t follow them now.
I took some acting and improv classes in my short stint in college, then went through the Second City program, the iO program, I’ve taken classes at the Annoyance, and then small workshops here and there with casting agencies.
Del Close would be number one. But big-time shout-outs would go to Marty De Maat, Jason Chin, Charna Halpern, Steve Krull, and Bob Kulhan.
All those people have mentored me in some way and have given me really good advice.
Besides performing at iO, just a small Spanish language web series “Notimanches” that turned out to be pretty fun and another small series I’m trying to get back into doing called “Casting Notice.”