By Ryan Meehan
Jamie Lissow’s first experience doing stand-up comedy was when he placed 5th in a comedy contest in Toronto, Canada. There were only 3 contestants, but he was hooked. He began turning heads right away when he would yell very loudly in crowded places. Jamie was then invited to do the Montreal Comedy Festival, in the sought after New Faces Category. At the time his face was only 25 years old so it was a perfect match. The set went well, and he has since been on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show, NBC’s Late Friday, Last Comic Standing, Star Search and in his own 1/2 hour special on Comedy Central. He has performed at hundreds of colleges and been nominated for Campus Performer of the Year by Campus Activities Magazine. Since then Jamie has been performing for sitting room only crowds all across the country. Jamie has been heard on XM/Sirius Radio, Pandora, Opie and Anthony, The Bob and Tom Show and has appeared on Fox News Redeye over 50 times while still managing to have no political opinions. He recently finished writing and will be starring in a television show with SNL alum Rob Schneider, and is living in Austin, TX with his wife and two beautiful children (unfortunately he has 3 children.) We are pleased to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: It’s been almost five years since your disc “Twelve Drink Minimum” has been released…How have you changed as a comic in the half-decade since then?
JL: I still do the same material but I weigh less and wear different shirts. I find myself having to travel further and further to find people that haven’t heard my jokes yet. That’s why I was in Alaska last month. I’m hoping we master commercial space travel soon. In all seriousness I am slowly changing. My act is becoming more honest and real. it takes a while so I still mix in some of the older stuff so that the audience leaves happy- but soon I’ll have my new hour.
RM: You’re sober now and have been for over a year, and I read your story in this article http://narrative.ly/so-funny-it-hurts/have-you-heard-one-about-sober-stand-up/. You actually lost a pretty big television gig (Punk’d) because you came in hungover the next day and didn’t exactly nail the second interview…It would have been very easy to start drinking again at that point, but you have been able to still be on television and create comedy drawn from the “pink cloud” that ex-addicts and alcoholics are familiar with but the rest of the public may not be…What does the “pink cloud” mean to you and how have you been able to use that energy to identify with other comics who have stopped drinking such as Jesse Joyce and Jim Norton?
JL: Yeah. To be fair, even if I had been well rested, sharp and alert I still may have lost that gig. I remember saying a lot of the wrong things. I remember Ashton or his manager asking me if I ever played the clubs in LA (I was living in NYC at the time and they had flown me out to LA for the meeting). I barely did…. but I was trying to play it up so I said, “Sure I’ve worked all the clubs” (which I had, but I wasn’t there regularly.) I remember they didn’t look happy with my answer and said something about how if I was recognized while trying to punk someone it would ruin the whole bit and cost a lot of money. I remember saying “If I was so famous people recognized me, I wouldn’t be in here auditioning for this show.” Ya know what… I may have just thought that. (that’s an example of this new found honestly I’m dabbling in.) They were actually super cool guys and I’m glad it’s part of my life story, no matter how it turned out. …And I actually did drink that night (that meeting was a while ago) I’ve only been sober a little over a year. …. It’s funny but I had never heard the term pink cloud until I read the article on that narrative website. Since then I’ve researched it a little. I will simply say this. Addicts are very, very lucky in one respect compared to someone who is not an addict and has never been one…. It’s like this: I can tell you a way to save money, make your sex life better, improve your energy and your relationships, help you lose weight and also improve your memory…. Oh, but first you have to already be drinking a bottle of whiskey a day. Stop drinking the whiskey….We have something we can give up and make everything better. It’s kind of awesome. It’s like someone saying, I can make your headache go away. And they stop hitting you in the head. This answer is too long winded and I’m sorry. Even I almost started checking Facebook instead of finishing this. I’m sorry about that, I get passionate about this and tend to type too much. Okay one last thing. The pink cloud is like… you’ve been swinging a baseball bat and someone comes up and removes a couple of weights from it. You swing again and think, holy shit this seems almost too easy. If you’re thinking hey that’s one too many analogies, I would have a hard time arguing with you.
RM: I’ve interviewed a bunch of comics who’ve been on the show, so I have to ask: Why does “Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld” work so well? Is that a pretty laid back environment compared to what one might expect from a show on Fox News?
JL: Yes, Greg is a genius and he makes you feel comfortable. It’s not like doing TV, it’s like hanging out at Greg’s house, except with a bunch of people holding cameras and watching. Although I did hear he might be into that type of thing. He’s also a master of comedy and timing. He leaves spaces for the punch lines. Also, I think it’s a good show because it’s not 100% politics, there are other weird or funny topics being discussed on there. All in the same show. You might be asked: “What do you think of Obama-care? And also should women be able to sell ad space on their asses?” When I was moving out of NYC I knew the thing I would miss most was being on Redeye every week. By the way, I’m not political at all. I lean neither left nor right… unless someone is shooting at me. Then I am pro-gun control. Last week someone asked me who I was voting for and I said, “Definitely not the ventriloquist, and most likely the guy who taught that dog to walk the tight rope.” I think we were talking about two different things.
RM: How is working with Rob Schneider (ex-SNL) when it comes to the writing process itself? When you are working with him is it very easy to tell that a lot of his background is in sketch comedy? And can you tell us a little bit about the show?
JL: Working with Rob is amazing. I look up to him and he was a comedic hero of mine when I was coming up. To be working with him is surreal. Rob is a master of sketch but also is a great dramatic actor as well as a great acting coach. I’ve learned more in one month rehearsing with Rob then I have in years of acting class in LA. Just the other day I was using a recent acting technique I learned when my neighbor was talking me about his children and he really believed that I gave a shit what he was saying. The new show is basically about what it’s like living the life of Rob Schneider. It’s an incredibly unique life that I think people will be interested in knowing more about. And it’s hilarious. And real and honest. Much edgier then the “fake” Rob show that was on CBS.
RM: What was the whole experience of doing “The Tonight Show” like? What was going through your head right before you came out onto the stage?
JL: I hate to use the word “surreal” twice in one interview, so I won’t. I’ll use it three times, it was surreal. I remember thinking “Don’t fuck this up!” I knew the set so well I knew there wasn’t much of a chance of this but you still get nervous. Jay Leno was so cool. Came into the green room before I went on and said some things that really calmed me down. You know what I just thought of? After my set we had a bunch of pictures taken, me and Jay by someone that worked there and they were going to send them to me. I never got them and that sucks. Maybe the camera was empty and he just wanted us to hold each other but either way I wish I had those, especially with him going off the air now.
RM: In your opinion, what is considered to be “proper behavior” at a comedy club? Why is it that you think people feel the need to interrupt performances? Is it more than just the immediate need for attention? Do you think those people have serious psychological issues that they need to deal with?
JL: I don’t know, man. I look at this a little differently than some guys. I love when everything is perfect. Sound, lights, my hair, no hecklers… performing in a theater. Every joke hits… but sometimes and by sometimes I mean all the time if you are me… you are in a comedy club dealing with distractions. Maybe a drunk guy or a loud waitress or a shitty sound system. On the topic of people interrupting while I find it extremely annoying, I also sort of empathize. I was in Evansville Indiana once and a guy was drunkenly yelling at me and I remember being annoyed, then thinking for a second that I too might be angry and yelling if I lived in Evansville Indiana and this was the best entertainment they had available. He’s also probably mad thinking I get to leave when I’m done with my week. I don’t hate anybody anymore, and I don’t let things annoy me too much. I understand some of these drunken idiots paid a babysitter and it’s their one night out a year. I don’t know why I’m making excuses for them but I have a lot more patience then I used to. Drunken women yelling are less annoying then men because at least you get to sleep with them after the show. Oh, and I do think a lot of people have psychological issues that go undetected but sometimes i think I might too. I was driving yesterday a few hours to a gig and when I left my house I was drinking a cup of coffee and was feeling like a huge success, the luckiest guy, not a care in the world and everything was very close to perfect. Then two hours later everything seemed terrible, I was depressed and everything seemed to be falling apart. I passed a shoe store and considered pulling over and applying for a job. Nothing had changed, I was just still driving, and I felt like a totally different guy.
RM: What’s the one thing that never ceases to amaze you about comedy? Do you think that had a lot to do with what drew you to the art form to begin with?
JL: I am amazed at how much the industry changes each year. In every industry there are people that are positive and people that are negative. Some folks will tell you comedy is terrible right now and actors are taking our (no-name comedians like myself) headlining spots at comedy clubs and clubs don’t pay what they used to. Now that’s true. But we can also sell our albums via iTune downloads, have a TV show on Netflix, do a podcast.. also when someone walks in and you are watching porn you can just minimize a window instead of leaping for an eject button and having to swallow a VCR tape. I’m just saying there’s a lot more to do on the road then there used to be…. In every time there are opportunites that dry up and others that appear. Our job is to look for the new opportunities. You have to adapt. It took me a while to figure this out but I’m starting to get it.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JL: We start shooting Rob Schneider’s TV show Real Rob March 3rd! I play Rob’s idiot assistant that he can’t fire because they are friends in all 8 episodes. We are also writing a movie together that is going to be a killer. I also have a small voice role in a gigantic kids animated movie coming out in January of 2015, a movie that I helped punch up jokes on also. Also this is the year I finally buy a minivan. A lot of guys say you can’t get pussy driving a minivan but that’s simply depends on how bad your wife wants one.
Official Website: http://jamielissow.com/
Jamie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamie.lissow?fref=ts
Jamie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamieLissow
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