14 Questions with Comedian Jay Larson
Debut album Self-Diagnosed in stores now
Growing up outside of Boston, Massachusetts throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, helped Jay Larson cultivate the unique sense of humor that can be found on his debut album, Self-Diagnosed. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a writer and actor, Larson began doing stand-up comedy at a bar called Dublin’s on the Sunset Strip and quickly rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles comedy scene, becoming a regular at both The Hollywood Comedy Store and Improv. Larson has since appeared on Comedy Central, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Last Comic Standing, as well as making hilarious videos for Atom Films and his own YouTube channel.
SanDiego.com had a chance to speak with Larson from his home in Los Angeles, and talked about his album, the Twitter account he controls for FOX NFL's Robot Cleatus and the new pilot he’s shooting with Tom Arnold.
What can you tell me about the pilot you’re shooting?
Jay Larson: It’s a pretty cool cast, there’s some comedians in it. I’m hoping it gets picked up; it’d be great if it did. It’s going to be like a sitcom. Basically it’s a like The Larry Sanders Show but for Tom Arnold, and Tom Arnold’s show is a sports show, and the sports show sucks. It’s basically like a behind the scenes; remember when he was on Best Damn Sports Show?
JL: It’s like a behind the scenes of that, but the sports show sucks and everybody hates Tom.
Did you grow up in Boston?
JL: I grew up in Stoneham, Mass. It’s like 15 minutes north. Basically Stoneham is like this middleclass town, it’s 15 minutes out. The 95 and 93 both intersect there. We used to go in town a lot, like I got my braces done at Tufts University, by like, a grad student. I would leave school in the fifth grade and take the subway in and then go get my teeth done and then come back to school and have to wear headgear the rest of the day.
When was the first time you ever did stand-up?
JL: You’re gonna like this story man. When I was 10 my mother took me, my brother and my two sisters to see Bill Cosby do stand-up. So the first time I saw stand-up was Bill Cosby. Then when I was like 12, I met these kids from San Francisco that had an Eddie Murphy tape; that was my second introduction to stand-up. Then when I was 21, my buddies and I went and saw Chris Rock in Boston; only black comics, I only follow black comedians. Then I moved to L.A. to write and act and then after a year and a half of being here, three people asked me in one week, ‘Do you do stand-up?’ And I was like, ‘No’ and they were like, ‘Oh my God, you’re so funny.’ So I thought maybe I should try this, and my friend new a guy who’s name is Ahmed Ahmed. So I went and met Ahmed, he was running a show in Hollywood with Jay Davis that was off the chain. Vince Vaughn used to show up, Justin Timberlake would show up, it was crazy. So I met him and said, ‘Hey man, my friend Vanessa said I should meet you, I’m looking to do some stand-up.’ And he said, ‘Cool man, you got a tape?’ and I was like, ‘No man, I don’t have a tape.’ And he was like, ‘Well, where else do you perform?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I really don’t perform anywhere else; this would be my first time.’ And he’s like, ‘Aw man, this isn’t the show for you.’ And I was like, ‘Bro, tell me whatever you want me to do from now until next week and I’ll do it if you put me up.’ And he’s like, ‘Go do as many open mics as you can, come back next week you can do five minutes.’
How many open mics did you hit up in that one week?
JL: I went to one open mic and I tanked, I did three minutes. I came to his room, I did five minutes and did really well. They were like; ‘Come back next week,’ then they just gave me a regular spot from that point on. I kind of like, skipped the whole open mic phase after that. Some girl met me that night and was impressed it was my first time. She’d been doing stand-up for 10 years and she started introducing me to people and that was that.
So you never set foot onstage when you lived in Boston?
JL: Never set foot onstage in Boston. People always ask me immediately, ‘Hey, do you know Mike Fitzgerald?’ I’m like, ‘Naw man, I didn’t do stand-up back then.’
How long did it take you to get a solid 20 minutes of material?
JL: Alls I know is, I can’t remember when, I think it was a year and a half to two years in when I did my first half hour on the road. I never had a place, especially in L.A. where you could get 20 minutes, so after a year and a half of doing comedy I started my own room because I needed a place to go up every week, so I guaranteed myself a spot. I was at The Comedy Store one night hanging out and Dave Mashevitz was like, ‘Hey man I got this road gig. It pays $100 a night and you can feature doing a half hour. Do you want to do it? It’s three weeks.’ I was like ‘Fuck yeah!’ You tell me I get to do a half hour every night for three weeks? Little did I know that you were driving nine hours every day to each gig, and they were shitty gigs.