by Ryan Meehan
Jeff Bailey is a stand-up comic from Metamora, IL He’s been working clubs in the Midwest for the past four years and has featured for Ryan Singer, Henry Phillips, and Brett Erickson, as well as hosted a show headlined by the one and only Steve-O. He was the 2013 winner of the 2013 Jukebox Comedy Competition (Steve Martin never won the Jukebox Comedy Competition) under suspicious and controversial circumstances which are still under investigation. Fellow comedians describe his comedy as “The worst thing to happen since the last worst thing to happen to you”, and that’s why I am fucking delighted to have Jeff Bailey as my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: How did you originally get into doing stand-up; and what was the first comedy record you bought or stole?
JB: I actually didn’t know that just anybody could sign up for open mics. I think I figured the people who were on TV doing standup were just good and got on TV. So I really just obsessed about it for a long time, and people told me I should try it but didn’t know it was so easy to get on an open mic. So I got started really meeting Drift Roberts from the Jukebox Comedy Club in Peoria, IL through Facebook. He signed me up for my first open mic, I met some of the best people I’ve ever met and I’m still there every weekend. The first comedy album I owned was the The Jerky Boys record probably in 6th grade. But I would tape stand up specials on VHS then and watch them obsessively, like George Carlin’s “You Are All Diseased” and tons of others. So that was really my introduction to comedy.
RM: What was the first joke you ever told on stage which gave you the reaction that made you want to get up on stage and do it again?
JB: I think the first joke I did on stage was about women needing to build up a tolerance to roofies, because it turns a would be rapist into just a dude who gives you drugs for free. It got laughs, and the rush that goes along with that is unlike anything I know. I knew the first night I did comedy that I was going to get back on stage…I was completely hooked after my first set. And not just because it wasn’t a complete disaster, but because I immediately felt at home and really loved all the comedians, the staff and the club itself.
RM: Since I’m from the Quad Cities, let’s play Kill, Fuck, Marry for a brief second: Kill, Fuck, Marry…James Draper, Dan Bush, and Andrew Cline? Also, if you got to do two of those things to only one of these three…who would it be and what would you do to them?
JB: I’d marry James Draper because I think he’s already married so he’s good at that shit, if he’s not married then he needs to be and I’ll do that. I’d fuck Dan Bush because we both have beards. If I had to fuck a guy, he has to have a beard so we can at least look at each other afterwards and be like “We have beards. That’s at least pretty manly”. I would kill Andrew Cline not because I hate him, but because I think he would have the coolest stuff to say before he dies.
RM: How would you best describe the comedy scene in Central Illinois and the rest of the surrounding Midwest?
JB: The comedy scene here is really strong. Brett Erickson was a huge part of this scene and definitely made us all a lot better at comedy. It’s hard not to get good here because everyone around you is so good. The thing I love the most about this comedy scene is everyone is very supportive of one another…a lot of scenes aren’t like that and don’t feel welcoming at all. Peoria, Quad Cities, Champaign, Bloomington and Mason City all have amazing comedians. The Midwest seems to be a comedy hot spot right now; a lot of the feature and headlining acts we get from Chicago, Indiana et cetera are all super talented guys and well on their way to doing big things in comedy.
RM: Out of every comic you’ve ever had the chance to work with, which one do you feel like you connected with the most and why? Did that particular individual share any advice with you about the business of comedy and how it operates as a whole?
JB: Probably Brett Erickson…he was such a huge part of helping me in comedy. And quickly became my favorite comedian. We just had a very similar taste in comedy, music and movies etc. He was always helpful to everyone and easily approachable so it’s hard not to bond with the guy. But he always had great advice and not just about comedy as whole, which he did, but about small things we were doing on stage that really helped me and others get a lot better. He has toured with Hedberg and Stanhope, so the guy knows what he’s talking about. He also gave us drugs sometimes which is almost better than advice.
RM: Would you consider yourself to be one of those guys who’s “always on” with regards to being funny when you are off stage as well?
JB: No, I feel like I’m probably too quiet off stage. The people I work with probably think if anybody is going to lose their shit and kill everybody, it’s going to be me.
RM: Your Facebook feed is one of the bright spots on what is becoming an incredibly dim website…Do you ever look at social networking like a brainstorming palette for writing new jokes, or is your presence on those sites something that exists completely separate from the material that eventually makes it to the stage?
JB: Tank you! It is a shitty website for the most part. I do like writing new jokes on there that I eventually do on stage. But it’s also become a huge distraction and scrolling billboard of god memes, as well as your weird friend posting shit from the conservative tribune. But also good material comes from i,t because a lot of assholes are on Facebook saying whatever pops into their head. You used to have to work with people to hear the dumb shit they thought, but now they have a phone with Facebook and you can read it all day long.
RM: If you could bring back any deceased comedian, who would it be; and why do you think their brand of humor would be so appreciated by the individuals who encompass the current comedy landscape?
JB: Carlos Mencia? George Carlin…he was my favorite comedian, I never got to see him live and that still bums me out. He was just the perfect blend of smart ass and brilliant. Such a flawlessly great comedian. I feel like no other comedian ever spoke to other comics in the way that George did. Carlin dying left a huge hole in the comedy scene.
RM: What’s the biggest mistake you see younger comics making these days; and how do you recommend those individuals who are just starting out avoid that and other novice-oriented pitfalls?
JB: Talking shit about other comedians, especially about those who’re getting opportunities that they feel like they should be getting. A lot of young comedians feel because they did a couple open mics that they are the new best thing in comedy and know everything there is to know about comedy. It divides comedy scenes and doesn’t promote an environment to be creative. I feel like I still don’t know shit about comedy and I shouldn’t give advice, but if I had some I would just say to keep writing and getting on stage. Just worry about yourself…you’re not there to be a critic of other comedians. If you keep trying to get better and get on stage opportunities will eventually come. I don’t think any comedian has ever gotten an HBO special by bitching about all the HBO specials they don’t get. If you’re a dick, nobody will want to work with you or book you even if you are good. And if you’re a dick, you’d better be saying some brilliant Rodney Dangerfield shit.
RM: Which portion of the joke writing process would you say that you struggle with the most; and which aspect of constructing new bits would you consider to be your specialty? Do you think that there is any possibility ten years from now the answers to those questions will be different?
JB: Writing clean comedy! I feel like I struggle with the whole process. Which is a good thing…you should struggle with it, it isn’t easy and the process should always be changing. I don’t feel like I’m good at any one area, because I’m still learning and I don’t really stick to one style of telling jokes. I just want to be well rounded in the whole process. Hopefully in ten years the answer doesn’t change…I think it’s a good thing to always be learning and trying new things. If you feel like you are too good to learn anymore, you have stopped being creative and just become complacent.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JB: Right now Drift Roberts, Courtney Bennett and myself are doing a comedy tour that will start April 12th with a few stops in Wisconsin, Rock Island, Champaign & Peoria. Drift & I will also be duel featuring for Joe DeRosa this weekend at the Jukebox Comedy Club. We were also in a zombie movie that Kate Lavin & Jeremy Friedrichs made that should be released sometime this spring. Other than that I will be at the Jukebox Comedy Club every weekend. Check out their website they have great acts coming through all the time. Come out and say “hello” or “hey, I read your interview with Ryan Meehan and I hate you”, whatever just come out.
Jeff on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Bailey/561652709
Jeff on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffbailey_
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