For their two-person, quasi-improv, quasi-sketch comedy show, Frank Caeti and Jen Bills don’t ask for suggestions from the audience, but instead incorporate a theatergoer into each semi-planned scene.

“We know the characters,” Caeti (it’s pronounced kie-etti) says, “and the audience supplies the variables. We just call them by the name that we think their name should be, and they sort of play along. Most of the time it’s great, because everything they say, it’s right, it’s golden.”

Caeti and Bills both started with Chicago’s Second City in 1999, performing in the touring and mainstage troupes of the ‘Yale of improv’ for seven years. Even though their show doesn’t use any standard improv games, they follow a fundamental of the craft: the rule of “Yes and…” That is, always take what someone gives you and roll with it. (An example of what not to do would be Second City alum Steve Carell as district manager Michael Scott on The Office, who insists on shooting everyone in his improv classes.)

“We’re asking the audience to ‘yes and’ us, and in turn we will ‘yes and’ them,” Caeti says. “I guess that sounds a little dirty, doesn’t it?”

In one sketch, Bills and Caeti play two characters going through a breakup and Bills begins talking to a woman in the audience as though she’s a pal and a confidante.

“So that person supplies some of the details of our relationship or whatnot,” Caeti says. “We try to put people in universal situations. Having a woman-to-woman talk about a boyfriend is something that everyone can grab on to.”

Caeti and Bills both performed at Physicians Auditorium with Second City at the 2002 and 2003 Piccolo festivals. In 2005, Caeti left to star on Fox’s MadTV, where he does impersonations of Jimmie Johnson, Zach Braff, and Sly Stallone, as well as his own original characters. Bills left the same year to have a baby with husband Bumper Carroll, also a Second City guy.

“You can put it this way: I left Second City to plop out comedy on the Fox network, she left to go plop out a baby,” Caeti says with a hint of a ‘resigning to the soundbite’ tone in his voice.

Living 2,000 miles apart, the two worked out the details of the show, which also features two stereotypical Chicago cops and an overly-welcoming host couple at an Italian villa, during Caeti’s summer break from MadTV, as well as via phone and e-mail.

With the rise of stars like Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Tina Fey, it seems like television actors are writing more material than television news anchors. Speaking from his home in Southern California, Caeti talked about being a Second City alum in a time when so many writer/actors are flourishing.

“Second City was the most prestigious institution I’ve ever been associated with,” he says. “I’m very thankful for my opportunity there, but at the same time, there’s no guarantees. There are plenty of very talented alums out here looking for jobs.”

Despite going Hollywood (almost, he lives in Silver Lake), Caeti says he still enjoys the direct connection of doing small, simple shows for live audiences, even in, say, a black box of a ballet theatre in a Fringe festival in the South.

“We don’t need much,” he says. “A couple chairs, some lights and some wigs and we’re ready to go.” — Jonathan Sanchez

CAETI AND BILLS • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe • $15 • (1 hour) • May 27 and 31 at 9:30 p.m.; May 28 at 3 p.m.; May 29 at 8 p.m.; May 30 at 8:30 p.m.; June 2 at 10 p.m. • Charleston Ballet Theatre, 477 King St. • 554-6060