by Ryan Meehan
Now residing in New York, North Carolina native Jourdain Fisher is a comedian on the rise. With his fun material and open personality, audiences are drawn to his style and sense of humor. Jourdain is consistently pushing himself to create the best comedy experience at any venue in which he plays, and has been doing so as a nationally touring act for the past seven years. He has featured for crowd favorites such as Mike Epps, Tom Segura, D.L. Hughley, and Gary Gulman to name a few. Fisher has been a performer at the 2015 Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival, a showcase finalist in New York for Stand Up NBC, a back-to-back winner of The Ultimate Comic Challenge, and was a 2014 finalist in Carolina’s Funniest Competition at the NC Comedy Arts Festival. For any more personal information you can catch him talking about his life on a stage near you, and you can check him out as our guest in this week’s installment of 10 questions.
RM: What’s the most significant difference between the way that you viewed stand-up comedy when you were first introduced to the art form and the way you look at it today now that you have been on stage for several years?
JF: My dad exposed me to stand-up when I was a kid…I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. The first specials I watched were Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” and Richard Pryor’s “Live in Concert“; two hours that set the bar at its highest level. Back then when I was watching comedy as a kid and on into my teenage years it was just something that I enjoyed. It had it playing in my house constantly, whether it was Comedy Central, HBO, or BET. Those networks showed stand-up very heavily back then. I didn’t view it as anything I planned on doing. I was just a fan of it the same way a kid is a fan of cartoons. I was always impressed by how people could remember their material for an hour’s time. Now today I have a much better understanding of how they do that because I realize they have been practicing the material for years. Also, I feel like the landscape of stand-up has changed heavily. I like comedy with a personal point of view and a message, which doesn’t always come off as being “nice”. But I think that’s what stand-up is for; to laugh at what’s real. I’m not that interested in cat jokes.
RM: When did you do your first open mic? What did that first experience in front of a crowd teach you about further polishing your material?
JF: I did my first open mic at the Comedy Zone in Greensboro, NC when I was 17. I was so scared and I had my mom and some of my friends come out to support. For my first time on stage it went well. The first half of the set was stronger than the second but I marked it as a success. That club also had a great open mic back then. It was a real audience so you got to learn what real people laugh at. When I got to New York, I immediately learned that no one comes to open mics in this city besides the comics. However here I have that advantage of working my material on audiences and getting genuine responses which allow you to learn what everyday people laugh at and how to work them over. I learned how to control a crowd, when to give them energy and pull back, how to play with silence and do crowd work. This wasn’t all learned on my first time out of course, but over the years of working that club I was able to pick up those skills.
RM: Given the logo on your merch and where you grew up, it’s probably a safe assumption that you are a huge fan of Michael Jordan…What was your earliest memory of seeing him on a basketball court; and what kinds of things can you learn about your perfecting your own craft from watching someone who was such a master of his?
JF: You know what’s funny? I don’t own a single pair of Jordans. I’ve never bought myself a pair. My aunt bought me a pair for Christmas one year, and I was afraid to wear them because they cost so much. Being a kid from the 90’s, Space Jam is the first memory that comes to mind for me when I think of MJ. Of course I knew he was the best ball player, but I was five years old when the Bulls were at the height of their success and winning 72 games so that’s not anything I was aware of at the time. 5 year-olds aren’t the best stat keepers. But he is the epitome of possessing excellence at one’s craft. It’s a shame that there will be a generation of kids that only know him for being a shoe maker with an ugly cry. As for the logo, it’s a combination of us sharing a name and a joke I used to do years ago where I took a similar stance as the logo. The combination was too good to pass up.
RM: Recently you put in your two weeks at your former day job in order to pursue comedy as a full time career…What were some of the factors which played into you eventually making that commitment; and what advice did friends of yours who are comics give which aided in leading you to your final decision?
JF: I worked for that company just about as long as I have been doing comedy. They were cool about me performing and giving me time off as I progressed through my career to do road work. With that being said, working for that company is not my dream. It got harder and harder to get up in the morning and go to work for them when I knew I wanted to devote my time to comedy. I was fed up, so I sent my stuff out to a college agency who thankfully took me onboard and got me a few bookings. So I just saved some money from those shows and then I realized I didn’t need this job. It’s really a big relief, and now it’s sink or swim time when it comes to comedy.
RM: You’re headed back to Atlanta to do Laughing Skull yet again this June…What’s the coolest part about getting to do that particular festival; and who are some of the comics you are looking forward to hanging out with during that competition?
JF: I’m excited about that festival. I’ve always heard great things about it so it’s a pleasure to be accepted. I love that city. I’m a Braves fan, and they have a great comedy scene from what I can tell based on the few times I’ve been there. I only know a couple of the comics on the lineup personally. Others I may have seen or heard of, but we’ve never really crossed paths. My friend Chris Cope – who I’ve worked with in Greensboro and now lives in L.A. – is in it, so that will be great to hang with him again.
RM: I was watching your clip from Stand Up NBC at Gotham and probably my favorite bit from that set was the joke about your family running a funeral home in a bad neighborhood…What do you think is the key to being able to make such a dark premise funny without relying on the shock value of the subject matter itself? Do you ever come across ideas that you think might perk a room’s interest, but then decide against trying to work it into a joke because you’re not a comic that is known for being dependent on shock value to begin with?
JF: I think with any dark premise it’s all about how you present it and what you do with it. It’s just the content you fill the joke with. I’ve never been a shock value comic, so with something like owning a funeral home I just try to present it in a way that still seems light-hearted even though when you read it on paper it might seem dark. For most of my ideas, even if I think they may one off as shock value…I will eventually find a way to try it out. You never know what may come of it. It’s good to experiment with these things because sooner or later you may find a way to mold it into the right joke.
RM: You had a great tweet about a month and a half back which read “You ever think you look good and then someone attractive comes around and you’re like ‘Aight, I’m gonna go face fuck a steak knife”?…Would that be something that you might say on stage between bits where you might not need a real solid transition? When you post a funny thought on social networking sites, do you just assume that you won’t really use it live and if so, is that done more so because you are worried another comic might use it or due to the fact that your work isn’t typically full of one-liners and non-sequiturs?
JF: Somebody did their research! (laughs) That’s something I might slide into a larger piece that I’m talking about. Those tweets or Facebook posts are just little nuggets that pop into my head that I’ll post and often they’ll be a jump-off point of an idea I want to expand on. Sometimes I’ll say the thing I posted online in a live setting and just take it from there.
RM: In May you will perform at The Stand NYC eight out of the 31 days in the month…Other than the fact that the relatively small stage area brings the audience closer to the comic, why do you think that has been such a great venue for people in New York to go see a comedy show?
JF: I love that club. It’s the first club in New York that took me in as a regular performer. I think it’s great because it has a very cool vibe about it. The upstairs bar and restaurant is a great hang, and you can tell people are really enjoying themselves. The actual showroom is set up perfectly for comedy and you can see a lot of the young comics and ones that are breaking out as the new generation’s stars. It’s not even five years old yet and its one of the best clubs in the city. The shows are run well and the talent is great.
RM: We’re less than half a year away from the 2016 presidential election, and while plenty of entertainers have clearly chosen sides with regards to how they will vote, there are still a lot of people in this country who feel like they won’t have a legitimate option once November 8th rolls around…Where do you find yourself when it comes to crafting political material for your stand-up; and will you be using your vote with the intention of hoping that individual takes office or doing so as a preventative measure in hopes that the other candidate doesn’t win?
JF: I’m one of those people who constantly tells themselves, “I gotta pay more attention to politics.” Then I never do. Don’t get me wrong, I see what’s happening. I get the overall summary of it. This guy wants a wall, this one has some shitty emails, this one wants free education and probably has a source of plutonium somewhere. I get it. I just kind of joke about what I know when it comes to politics. It can be broad or just basically be picking on the character traits of a politician. Right now I’m not the person who can’t give a definitive message on politics, because I don’t know enough to back it up. It’s something I want to work on because I like learning about it from comics when its presented in a funny and thoughtful way. As far as my vote goes, I wouldn’t vote just in hopes that I can get some material out of the outcome. Making fun of the Hunger Games is cool…until someone actually implements that shit.
RM: How close would you say you are to recording and releasing an album of stand-up? Do you think now that platforms like Netflix and Periscope are providing people with more visual product options eventually the CD format will not be nearly as important to a comic’s success as it was in previous decades, or would you say in some sense that has already begun to take place?
JF: I’ve gone back and forth with the idea of releasing an album. Part of me would like to do it just so I can burn off some material and force myself to start over. I’ve been trying a lot of new stuff since moving to NYC, so it would be cool to just get that other stuff recorded. But you’re right in the sense that CDs aren’t as popular anymore for stand up. I remember Dane Cook’s “Retaliation” being such a huge album, but people don’t really buy records anymore because the visual medium is so prominent. Most people have Netflix now, so they’ll just watch it instead of playing it in the car. And even still, YouTube provides another way for people to just pull up a bit and watch it right there on the spot. When I was younger, I dreamed of having an HBO special. I still think that would be great, but now it seems like going with Netflix is a better business decision. There are a ton of specials coming out all the time now, so I just want to make something that stands out. That takes time and practice, and I don’t want to put something out that’s permanent and have it be just “okay”.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JF: For 2016 I’m just focused on creating as much material as possible. I’d like to force myself to make a new hour by getting on stage as many times as I can. I’m starting to go on auditions for projects, as well as writing ideas for my own. I’m just going to keep working upward…whether that means touring at clubs and colleges or getting my first TV credit. It’s my first year as a full time comedian, so I want to make sure that I push myself into making it a memorable one.
Official Website: http://www.jfishercomedy.com/
Jourdain on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jourdain-Fisher-81151223691
Jourdain on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfishercomedy
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