by Ryan Meehan
Jim David has been seen on his special “Comedy Central Presents Jim David,” Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”, ABC’s “The View,” “The Tonight Show” and many other shows. His CDs are “East Here and Get Gas” (2000) “Live from Jimville” (2003) and “Notorious F.A.G.” (2010). His one-man comedy “South Pathetic,” a play about the worst community theater in the South, is presented nationwide. His comic novel, “You’ll Be Swell,” is available on Amazon.com and iTunes. He headlines all over the world, and we are very lucky to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What were some of the topics that you addressed in your act when you were first starting out doing open mics? What was your first time on stage like and what was it about the whole experience that made you want to do it again?
JD: My first stand up attempt at an open mic at Catch A Rising Star in NYC was such an abomination I think it’s mentioned in Leviticus. I thought I was naturally funny and that my charm would carry the day, so I got onstage and did a stupid song about sexually transmitted diseases to the tune of “I Got Rhythm” while tap dancing. The audience reacted like I had defecated on the stage. I exited to no applause and total humiliation. The MC said, “That was Jim David. Remember his name, because you’ll never hear it again.” I didn’t return for 5 years, until after I saw Roseanne’s first stand up spot on “The Tonight Show” in 1986, and she was killing just talking about her family. I realized, aha, I can just be myself, so I wrote jokes about my family and personal stuff. I then went to another open mic and did OK. Then I did it again and killed, so since they were now laughing that was it, and now I’m stuck, and please help me.
RM: Do you find that it’s more difficult to write for your standup act than it is when working on a collaborative project with other writers? What’s the most challenging project that you’ve ever been a part of with regards to just the writing aspect itself?
JD: It’s much easier to write with other people since you can bounce ideas off of them and you’re not stuck in your own private hell. The most challenging was Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” We wrote jokes about the topics being discussed that night, and you might or might not get your joke out, or someone else would do the same joke or interrupt you, and you had to make the joke flow naturally out of the conversation. That show was performing in a snake pit and I’m amazed I got out alive.
RM: When you’re testing out new material, how many chances to you usually give a joke to make its way into your set if you don’t get the response that want the first time you tell it? And how do you go about sequencing the jokes in your act as far as the order in which you perform each bit? Are you big on callbacks?
JD: I can tell the first time I tell it if it has a chance in hell or not. And the rest comes with practice and repetition, or my bullying the audience into submission – “You WILL laugh at this!!!” I should be bigger on callbacks because they’re a time honored cheap way to get a laugh.
RM: In what ways are you a lot like Lucy Dixon, the main character in your 2012 novel “You’ll Be Swell”? What can you tell us about some of the different men that she encounters on her journey, and how do the themes of theater and stage play into the storyline of what’s going on in her personal life?
JD: Lucy is basically me if I was a beautiful, chubby yet very talented woman. I started writing one day, she popped out, and I figured I might as well use my life in telling her story. The men she encounters I made up, one is my Brad Pitt fantasy and the other my grown up Aladdin fantasy. The theater stuff either really happened to me or was what I would like to happen if I had a big theater career, which I always wanted and never got. Waaah.
RM: You have a joke that goes “My brother Frank hates gays. He says, ‘We should take all you gays and stick you on an island’, “I said they have, we call it Manhattan.” The comedian Ant (who is also gay) does a joke that is startlingly similar, and obviously did it after you had originally performed it. In your opinion, did he steal that bit from you? Is plagiarism something that you are particularly concerned about; and how big of a problem is it within the comedy community?
JD: The actual joke is “I was standing in Manhattan and this guy said, ‘They ought to take all these homosexuals and put them on an island.” I said, ‘Merry Christmas, you’re on it.'” I wasn’t aware of other comics doing it, but if they are, they have great taste. I’ve written similar jokes to other comics plenty of times. But there are some comics that are indeed thieves and everyone knows who they are, so Moral: don’t steal a joke because you’ll get caught, and they’ll end up gossiping about you on Sirius XM.
RM: I have this bizarre theory that the gay marriage issue is very similar to cannabis legalization in the sense that in fifty years, we’ll look back on all of this and wonder why we worried about issues like these in the first place. Am I onto something there; or do those two topics have nothing in common with each other aside from being a part of the general libertarian belief system? If you had to put a date on when both of those things will be legal in all 50 states, what type of estimate would you come up with?
JD: Legalizing pot and marriage equality are totally different. One is a substance that can make you lose your memory and wander aimlessly, and the other is pot. By my calculations, these things will be legal in all 50 states when hell freezes over.
RM: In all yours years doing comedy, who has been the most unruly audience member that you’ve ever had to deal with and how did you go about handling it? Do you believe in verbally attacking the heckler with the intent of putting them in their place so they realize it’s time to shut the hell up, or do you have more of a “do not feed the trolls” approach to making sure they don’t disrupt the flow of your set?
JD: Back during the Bush years when I was doing political jokes conservatives would always yell at me, stand and shake their fists, wait for me after the show and threaten to kill me. I dealt with it by calmly stating, “We can play this game if you want, but I do this every night and I have the mic and I’ll win.” Other times I ignored them and moved on. Once I physically hauled a woman out of the Comedy Cellar.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JD: I’m performing all over the place (check the website), doing my one man show “South Pathetic” in March at the South Carolina Rep in Hilton Head. I’m recording a new CD at some point, writing a movie, pushing my novel, writing snarky tweets @comicjimdavid and otherwise wasting the public’s valuable time.
Official Website: http://www.jimdavid.com/
Jim on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ComicJimDavid
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