Interview by John Wisniewski
JW: When did you begin in stand up, Jay and how?
JL: I moved to Los Angeles to write and act and fell into stand up in 2001. I was waiting tables and people always thought I was really funny and asked if I was a stand up comedian. One day a friend overheard a couple asking me that and later approached me saying she had a friend who ran a show and he would let me perform. I wrote 5 minutes of material and the guy put me up. Usually you start with open mic but that first show was in front of 150 people with all veteran comedians including Dane Cook who was just starting to explode. It was pretty surreal.
JW: When do you feel inspired to write material?
JL: I love people, and I love observing and interacting with people. I kind of use them as pawns in my game of comedy. So I use real life interactions to write my comedy.
JW: Who are some comedians and satirists that you like?
JL: I really love Bill Burr, Sebastian Maniscalco and Chris Rock.
JW: How does the audience respond to your material?
JL: Who knows? I rely on other people to tell me that. I only have one voice, I can’t change my brain or what I talk about. I usually like to build some trust with them, get them to like me and then you can take them on a journey with you. But if I can get them to laugh at an idea, story or thought that they personally would never have then I feel like I am succeeding.
JW: what are you doing when not performing?
JL: Well, I consider myself a dad first and a comedian second. So I love being with my family, building things in the wood shop, going on adventures and teaching. I love introducing my kids to new things. And when I’m really lucky I like to golf, that’s where I shut everything off.
JW: Do you write screenplays or film treatments?
JL: I’ve sold a couple of TV scripts that I’ve written. I’ve also written a couple of screenplays but they’re pretty bad.
JW: Does performing for a television audience make you nervous?
JL: It used to. I still get a touch nervous because there’s no going back and there’s usually a script, at least a group of material that has legally be agreed upon that you will perform. The beauty of stand up is the spontaneity, being in the moment of the comedy. TV sometimes takes that away.
JW: Any interesting stories about your early days in small clubs?
JL: When I was 2 months in I went back to Massachusetts and was lucky enough to get a 5 minute guest set on a show, tons of people came to see me and I did a good job. 8 months later I was going home again and called the same booker and asked him for a 20 minute guest spot, which he angrily refused, “I don’t even know you” he said. I stood my ground and argued with him and he hung up on me. The next day he called me back and agreed to give me 20 minutes. The show sold out with 85+ people coming to see me. I got on stage to a gigantic roar and proceeded to tank for 20 minutes straight. Hands down the worst show I have ever had.
JW: How do you deal with hecklers?
JL: I love them. There aren’t any real hecklers any more, just people talking or saying something for attention. Which is fine because usually you can make quick work of them, shut them down, make people laugh and keep the audience engaged all at the same time, and that’s the beauty of the live stand up show.