Jay Larson Is Just Being Himself
As a comedian, actor, writer, podcaster, host, husband, and father, Jay Larson is wearing a lot of hats these days. As he explains, “I’m very diversified, which is probably why I’m not more successful, to be honest.” In terms of career diversity, Jay has recently written for the video game NBA2K18, appeared in the new season of Twin Peaks, and as of today, released his first special. Me Being Me, which provides a blunt look at his side of married and family life, with a sprinkling of heartfelt sentimentality to take the edge off. I talked to Jay about making an independent comedy special, the importance of keeping the ones you love close, and his upcoming projects on stage and screen.
Just watched the special. I’m sorry to hear that you married the wrong woman.
Sometimes you get into something and don’t know where it’s going to lead. Next thing you know you’re locked into it. It’s like a pyramid scheme.
And then come the kids.
I know, man. I know. No, I love my wife to death. She’s awesome. I think one of the ways we could better understand why there’s such a high divorce rate is because nobody really talks about the fact that living with someone is kind of unnatural and the person can get very annoying. That’s why you have to understand and learn how to communicate. Like today when I get home from doing this interview and an audition, I’m going to go to my wife and say, “Look, you need to go blow off some steam today because you’re kind of mean to everyone around the house.” And she’ll be like, “Totally. Thanks for noticing.” We have open communication that helps us solve our issues at home.
I imagine standup helps you vent and blow off steam. What is your wife’s outlet?
Well, first of all, I have a therapist. That’s where I get most of my stuff out and where I find most of my material. But she will usually take it out at the gym, which is probably where I should be and then I wouldn’t be a fat mess.
Your last album came out about a year ago. There was a pretty good span between your first and second albums. What was going on in the past year that motivated you to crank out a special?
I think I just started to work a little bit harder because I had kids. I needed to get some stuff going because I want to be able to support my family a little better and be home more. Kids are a great way to motivate you because you see them and you’re like, “How can I spend more time with them?” If you get more money you can work less and spend more time with them. I had the money to produce the special. I just needed the material. I started grinding, working hard, and realizing I had stuff. I just needed to access it, take it out, and do it. What else helped is I perform at the Comedy Store and started getting more spots. The Original Room at the Comedy Store is one of the best rooms in the world. I was there so much that material just kept coming out of me and getting stronger. I was able to work it whereas before I had to be on the road or doing spots all over town. It’s such a cultivating room that material just kept coming out.
This is your first time doing a special, right?
Yes, the first time doing a filmed hour. I feel like so many of my peers were doing specials. I really wanted to put it out visually, because so much of standup is facial expression and body movement. I felt like it was the right time to put it out there, because the opportunity wasn’t there when I did the second album. I felt like I didn’t need to wait for someone to come give me an hour. I could just go do it.
I like your closer. Listening to you talk about your wife and kids in the earlier part of the special, I think some people might feel that, as funny as it is, you’re kind of a dick.
But you tie all of that together with this very sentimental story about your own father and how you view your role as a husband and dad. It ends on such a positive note.
I just thought that in the current climate of what the world is right now, comedy is a place where you can take things that are really painful and find the humor in them. There are other people watching out there who may have experienced pain that is somewhat similar. If you can make it funny for them, it opens up the door for them to feel okay about situations in their lives and opens up the door for other people to be like, “Wow, it’s okay to talk about stuff like this.” When did comedy lose all the heart? I wanted to show people that, with all this stuff I’m saying, I still love this woman, I’m still married to this woman, I love my kids, I’d do everything in the world for my kids, and to prove it to you, at the end I’m going to tell you something so completely personal to me that…let’s be honest, if I had done this special with HBO, Showtime, or Netflix they might have said, “Hey, we want you to pull that last story. We don’t think it fits. It’s too sad. It’s too different.” When you do it yourself you can control what the actual content is, which is really important to me with that story.
That story was 39 years in the making. There was no way I wanted anyone else to own that story but me. The world is so crazy right now. To be able to laugh for 50 minutes and then come to a story that is funny but emotional…I think it’s great when people leave my show and they’re happy and they see the world differently, but it’s just as powerful for me to have them leave the show and feel like, “Man, I want to get home and hug my kids” or “I want to get home and hug my wife” or “I want to call my friend and see them tomorrow.” We’re so disconnected from everybody else and we lose sight of that. We use social media or texting as a way to communicate with people. At the end of the day what’s important is having a close, intimate connection with the people who are important in your life.
It’s crazy to me how much you pop up all over the place. Last week I was watching The Invitation and was like, “Holy shit. I didn’t know Jay was in this.”
It’s so funny because in my life I have a lot of different interests, and then in the entertainment business I have a lot of different interests. I like to act, I like to write, I like standup, I have a podcast. I’m very diversified, which is probably why I’m not more successful, to be honest. I’ve been lucky that the opportunities that have come to me have been things that are interesting and things I like. The Invitation was so well-written that when I got a chance to interview for it I was already 100% on board. I wrote for the video game NBA2K18 this year, which was a super interesting thing to me because I love basketball and my brother had worked on a game for them six years ago. With Twin Peaks it was interesting because it was such a cult piece. The things that I get to do are interesting to me, and it’s cool that a lot of them have cult followings around them.
Do you have anything you’re working on right now that you’re excited about?
I’m always trying to do something. I’m producing this new show that’s kind of like Mystery Science Theater 3000 where I sit down with comics and we watch their very old standup in front of an audience and kind of pick it apart.
That sounds brutal and really fun.
Yeah, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m putting it up as a live show in LA and also pitching it as a TV show with a couple people who are interested right now. I also have a golf show in development with Rory Scovel, who is one of my best friends and one of the funniest guys I know. Once the special is out I’m going to take a month to just take care of myself and spend more time with my kids. That always puts me in a balanced state. Then I’m going to focus on standup, and I hope I’ll be doing a late night set soon with some of the material from the new special.
Photo courtesy of Jay Larson.