| Jackson - Connecticut’s King of Comedy
| Friday, November 09, 2007
Coming up the world of standup comedy can oftentimes be anything but funny. From hecklers to material theft there are a myriad of hurdles a young comic must manage before “making it.” Bridgeport, CT’s Jackson is one of the comics that’s leaping over those hurdles and he’s doing it in a major way. Discovered while doing karaoke standup at the Ramada Inn in Stratford, CT, Jackson landed himself the opening gig for Talent’s It’s Just Comedy shows, which were also going on at the hotel. Four years later he’s appeared on BET’s Coming to the Stage, been seen on Last Comic Standing, attended classes at the prestigious Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, and earlier this fall he performed on an episode of Showtime at the Apollo (his appearance will be rerun Dec. 8th, check your local listings) . In an impressive career move Jackson has gone from being an opener at the Ramada to hosting his own weekly show at Tito’s in Bridgeport. This week I caught up with talented funnyman to discuss the ups and downs of being a stand up comic, the first time he saw another comic doing his material, and balancing comedy with family.
Adam Bernard: Start me off by telling me about your time at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre.
Jackson: I had a scholarship from NBC to attend UCB, which is like an improv writing school. A lot of cats from that school ended up on Saturday Night Live. It’s pretty much one of the top improv schools in the country, I think the one next to that is Second City in Chicago. That was a good look for me. I got exposed to a different side of the game. I did Improv 101, Improv 201, Improv 301 and that’s when they stopped funding my scholarship. I guess they felt like “if he likes it he will continue it himself,” but realistically it was just too expensive so I ended up having to let that go. I have responsibilities, I have three kids and I live in a crazy situation right now. At the time I was living in a house with my baby’s mother so I was helping her with bills and everything.
Adam Bernard: I remember it was just a few years ago I saw you opening for Talent’s It’s Just Comedy shows at the Ramada Inn in Stratford. Now your resume includes Showtime at the Apollo, BET’s Coming to the Stage and small appearance on Last Comic Standing. What do you feel enabled you to rise so quickly?
Jackson: I think early on I knew who I am on stage and that’s a big key to stand up. Once you figure that out I think it’s pretty much easy street from there. Even in life we all try to find out who we are, we’re all growing in life, and there’s always that one point when you say this is how I am and I’m not gonna stand for this, I’m not gonna stand for that, and then you carry that attitude as far as it takes you. I carry that attitude and it’s gotten me this far, so I think that’s a big part of my success, knowing who I am.
Adam Bernard: In comedy one’s night depends almost entirely on their audience. Do you have any good audience / bad audience stories to tell?
Jackson: Yeah. The first couple times you get on stage and you get those couple hecklers, they shape you into who you’re gonna be. You’re either gonna be a comic who doesn’t give a damn and is gonna get up there and just do what you do regardless, or you’re gonna be trying to please everybody. I remember hearing a quote from Bill Cosby where he said he didn’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. Once you get caught up in that it’s downhill. They attack you when they smell the weakness, but once you get past that it shapes you to the point where you can say hey, I’m just gonna be, I’m just gonna have fun and the hell with ya’ll. Ultimately at the end of the day you can handle a heckler but after you finish can you make people laugh? Can we say he had a hard time with a hard time with a heckler, at least he was funny? The other way around doesn’t mean anything.
Adam Bernard: Now you’re hosting your own night at Tito’s in Bridgeport, CT. Talk to me about it. Are you looking to help give other young comedians a hand in the industry?
Jackson: The point of it is to bring comedy to Bridgeport for the people like I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not about making money off of the people because I’m gonna do that later on and it’s gonna be a way bigger payoff than it is now. That’s why I do three dollar Thursdays, because I want to give back to the people. It was the people that got me to do comedy. If it wasn’t for the people letting me realize that I’m funny, that I have a talent, then I probably wouldn’t even being doing stand up, I’d probably working some odd job somewhere and that’s all I would be doing with my life. That opened up a whole new life for me and I want to give back to all the people who believed in me by putting on affordable shows and bring down big time people so they can see and enjoy it for an affordable price.
Adam Bernard: A lot of comedians have had parts of their acts stolen. What are your thoughts on material theft and has it ever happened to you?
Jackson: There’s a lot of thievery going on this game. I, for one, am one of the comics who really work hard to come up with new material. I will bomb horribly with my own material rather than get a standing ovation with somebody else’s, but this is what goes on. The people in this comedy game they don’t care about it, they just say I’m not in competition with this other guy so he can steal my stuff all he wants. That’s cool, but at the same time it’s bullshit because now this guy has a TV show using your material. Look at Carlos Mencia. I heard that George Lopez counted 14 minutes of his material on HBO that Mencia was doing and HBO pulled the hour show off the air. That’s the type of thing that we need because the shit is still happening even at these lower levels where I’m at trying to get on and you got the headliner stealing my material. I’m like dude, I’m just starting out, you’ve been doing this for ten years, why do you need to steal my material? One night at the Ramada I had done a joke that night about how I don’t beat my kids, I just give em a good scare. The act out was “do you want to go to Michael Jackson’s house? Do you want to go to Michael Jackson’s house? Well cut it out.” That was my joke, that was stolen by Mike Yard, who was on the show that night, and he did it at the Improv in New York. I saw it with my own eyes I couldn’t believe it. And I was only doing comedy for maybe eight months at the time.
Adam Bernard: With those kinds of occurrences happening do you have any aspirations to try to make from the leap from stand up to acting?
Jackson: Yeah, that’s another thing, too, I’m a good actor but I’m not keen on how that game works. When I was doing improv at UCB I was like hey man this is cool, I like this. I would love to do it.
Adam Bernard: What’s the perfect role for you?
Jackson: Probably something with drama. I don’t want to do nothing with comedy, I want to do something with drama. I can act really well. When the cocaine kick in, aw man you gotta see me! (laughs) But nah I can really get serious. I practice in the mirror when I do stand up and sometimes I’ll do a Denzel Washington line, so the perfect role would probably be Training Day 2 starring me instead of Denzel Washington.
Adam Bernard: Who will your sidekick be then?
Jackson: Umm, it probably would be you.
Adam Bernard: Fantastic. I’m very Ethan Hawke.
Adam Bernard: Finally, you’re a bit of a family man with two daughters and a son. How is it juggling fatherhood with a career and with another job?
Jackson: Before I took the family man seriously I would have said man, it’s cool, because I wasn’t really doing too much of the family part, financially anyway. I was really mostly trying to make sure I was on stage and making sure I was making my contacts and having the family life secondary. Now I’m getting older, though, and I see that they’re the priority because my family is always going to be there no matter what. Comedy can love you one minute and hate you the next, so with that said I keep family first and make sure they’re straight and then make sure I still get on stage and everything. I just make sure I give equal time to both of the two and make sure I don’t put comedy before my kids. A lot of comics in this game easily do that like you wouldn’t believe. Some of the cats who ain’t see their kids in a while and then they look at me funny because they say “oh Jackson you need to come out here to New York, you don’t know what you’re missing,” and I’m like “dude, well I ain’t got no babysitter.” I’m not gonna leave my kids with anybody just for the sake of getting on stage. That’s another big reason I do comedy locally every week, so I can be around my kids and still get on stage.
YouTube: “Bad Neighborhoods” Joke
YouTube: “Shit” Joke
YouTube: “Pterodactyl” Joke
New Haven Register: It’s Just Comedy (Jan. ’04)
Labels: Entertainment Features
|posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:48 AM