by Ryan Meehan
Al Jackson is a quickly rising Comedian/Writer/Producer. After years of nonsense from 7th grade students, Al decided to quit his career as a Biology teacher in Miami to pursue his dream of stand-up comedy. In 2009 he appeared at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, Canada, where he was recognized as being one of the best of the festival by The Hollywood Reporter. Since then he has traveled the world as a stand-up Comedian and has made numerous television appearances including a re-occurring role on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”, a few MTV projects & Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham”, “Friday Night Stand-Up”, “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show” & his own “Comedy Central Presents”. His comedy has been described as “edgy, hard-nosed comedy with a laid-back swagger and a giant smile.” Al can be seen headlining worldwide and as host of BBC’s “Officially Amazing”. He is a working producer and featured guest on “Upload with Shaquille O’Neal”, and he’s also our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you were a science instructor, did you ever try to use humor in your lesson plans to try and get the students more interested in the topics you were covering?
AJ: I tried, but it didn’t work. There is nothing “cornier” to a 12-year-old than a 30-year-old trying to be funny, so I just stopped. And if you’re trying to be funny for seventh graders let me save you some time – stop.
RM: Was there a certain moment where you felt like you had to make a career change in order to be happy with what you were doing for a living?
AJ: The summer going into my sixth year teaching I knew was going to be a make or break summer. At that point I was working pretty steadily, almost every weekend at comedy clubs and I was beginning to travel. I could not lie to myself anymore and not say that it wasn’t a job, so it came down to: Do I put all my efforts into one job or half-do two jobs? So I came to the decision to become a professional comedian. Scary decision.
RM: You have a very unconventional way of holding the microphone – almost as if you’re cupping the female end of the XLR cable…Is there a certain reason that you grab it that way; and have any of the club owners or emcees given you grief because of it?
AJ: Interesting, I’ve never been asked that question before. I’ve stopped holding it like that because depending on the club, and depending on the quality the mic sometimes the mic cord will short out, making it impossible for the audience to hear your punchline. I found that in my years of doing stand up, it’s best to let the audience hear the punchline, as they like the jokes much better when they have a beginning and an end.
RM: I saw you on “Upload with Shaquille O’Neal” and thought you were really funny. Shaq seems to have a genuine passion for comedy…What is it about his personality that makes him get along so well with stand-up comedians and comedy writers?
AJ: Working with Shaq was one of the best times in my career. I’m a huge basketball fan but I’m also big fan of Shaq as a person. What you see, is what you get. He loves being Shaquille O’Neill which may seem like it innocuous statement but it’s a big deal. Being with him every day I saw the pressure that it is to be him. Every day that somebody sees him, it’s one of the best days in their life. So he is got to be on 24/seven, but he loves it he loves to talk to people, to pick people up and hug them-he’s like a gigantic manchild. On our first day working together, he pulled me aside and said “No matter how many takes it takes, let’s make sure that we get this right. If something is not funny tell me I will fix it.” That really stuck with me – he’s an awesome guy.
RM: Out of all the topics that comedians have continued to write jokes about, which one has been beaten to death to the point where there’s literally nowhere left to go with it? Do you think comics fall into the trap of writing jokes like that mainly because they want to be able to talk about a subject everybody can relate to, or because they just don’t put the effort into coming up with more inventive subject matter?
AJ: I think that there are a number of jokes and topics that will continue to be rehashed by younger comedians. But as you get older and you get more comfortable on stage and with yourself, you find your material heading in a direction of things that you’re truly passionate about. Whether it’s politics, language, relationships, food, etc. there’ll always be a wealth of material underneath the surface of a topic that you are truly interested in.
RM: What’s the biggest misconception casual comedy fans have about the industry, and why do you think that is the case? AJ: I think the biggest misconception is that comedians are always on. Some are, but I think a lot of comics a really more observers that walk around and taking in things and then talking about them at night. Not necessarily trying to be funny at lunch and dinner and at the gas station. We’re funny, but not stand up comedy funny, does that make sense?
RM: Other than the “more bang for your buck” angle, why do you think that comedy festivals have seen such a sharp increase in popularity over the past ten years?
AJ: I think comedy festivals are one of the best ways to have audience of like-minded people come out and see you live. People that attend vessels are usually great fans to have, because there people that actually come out to live events. There are people that are fans of mine, but would never go to a comedy club. It’s nothing against them, it’s just that’s not how they spend their free time. People that to go to festivals and other live events tend to support live entertainment whether it be music or comedy.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AJ: Things of been going great I just wrapped up 16 episodes on TruTv’s “How to be a Grown-Up.” (10/28/14). I also have several other television shows in the works. The next step for me is continuing to develop my own shows and getting ready for big tour in 2015.
Official Website: http://www.aljacksonlive.com/
Al on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljacksonlive
Al on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aljackson
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