Before he was a thespian, Eric Jensen really wanted to play college ball but says he had the “triple threat.”
“I was slow, couldn’t jump, and I was white—so I didn’t make any college basketball or football teams,” he says. Instead, he nailed an audition for an acting scholarship to Utah State University and soon realized he had a love, and knack, for comedy.
Now, Jensen—who started the now not-for-profit Off Broadway Theatre in 1994 with his wife Sandy— writes, directs and plays the comic relief in many of the theater’s signature spoof plays and leads the theater’s comedy improv team.
Catering to local audiences, Jensen’s plays are rife with jokes about Utah culture—like a group of vampire hunters talking about stakes to kill Dracula and calling it a “stake conference.” The plays are also filled with current pop culture references, but Jensen says he tries to write them to last. “Our Glee parody is written so you can insert different titles and characters in the future,” he says. “It’s really about high school kids with problems, and that theme will be around forever.”
The theater is also home to Utah’s longest-running improv comedy team, Laughing Stock. The troupe has an arsenal of improvisation games to play for audiences and involves the crowd by using people as props and encouraging guests to shout storyline suggestions to the actors.
Jensen lives in Farmington with his wife and 14-year-old son Austinn, who also star in some of his plays. “Austinn’s ability to memorize things is sharper than mine,” Jensen says. When Jensen isn’t working on a production, he teaches drama and plans be become a full-time instructor eventually.
Greece is the Word, Jensen’s parody of Grease set in ancient Greece, runs May 18 to June 16. Laughing Stock is held every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. The theater is located at 272 S. Main St., SLC. For more info visit theobt.org.