By Ryan Meehan
When you think one of the most prolific character actors, who’s also an outrageous openly gay stand-up comedian, one name comes to mind…. Jason Stuart. Stuart has been making people laugh out loud with “Gay Don Rickles” performances all over the country since coming out in 1993. He has accomplished what few other gay comics have ever achieved: Brutal honesty with humor in a world that’s not always kind. Not only is Stuart an all-out crowd-pleaser, but he transcends the boundaries of race, gender and sexual orientation with his edgy comedic style. Since Stuart makes such a strong connection with his audience, he is in high demand by corporate programs with his lecture, COMING OUT IN HOLLYWOOD, on being openly gay in the workplace. He’s appeared on NIGHT STAND-UP, WISECRACK & CMOCIS UNLEASHED. In addition to his own hour stand up special MAKING IT TO THE MIDDLE and his comedy CD, Gay Comedy Without A Dress. Although his semi-celebrity came via stand-up, Stuart is also well-known for his work as an actor playing gay & straight roles on over forty popular television shows as SLEEPY HOLLOW, ENTOURAGE, THE CLOSER, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, HOUSE, WILL & GRACE, GEORGE LOPEZ, MY WIFE AND KIDS, CHARMED and the LIFETIME’S HOME INVASION. As a character actor, filmmakers say his talent is a cross between the depth of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the comedy timing of the late John Ritter and the quirkiness of Steve Buscemi. He has worked with heavy hitters George Clooney, Faye Dunaway, Angelina Jolie, Damon Wayans, Drew Carey, George Lopez, David Spade and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stuart was featured in the comedy hit A Day Without a Mexican, Puff Puff Pass, and the HBO award winning drama Gia. Among the big studio pictures he appeared in KINDERGARTEN and VEGAS VACATION are favorites among TV fans. Stuart has become a major player in the independent film world after being nominated for a Glitter Award for best supporting actor in COFFEE DATE. He was just seen in the drama LOVE IS STRANGE from Ira Sachs (Keep The the Lights On). He will act with the awarding winning cast, including Marisa Tomei, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina and the Sundance hit Tangerine from Sean Baker & The Dupluss Bros. He will play the man who marries the longtime couple of Lithgow & Molina’s characters. Proving that he is more than just an actor and comedian, Stuart also produced and starred in his own totally improvised independent film 10 Attitudes. This award winning romantic comedy proved to be a huge success both in the U.S. and abroad. He has acted in an array of roles in the last few years. POSEY starring Sally Kirkland & Ray Wise, The cop drama DIRTY as a dive bar manager, The comedy parody HUSH UP SWEET CHARLOTTE starring Varla Jean Merman, Mink Stole & David Millbern, from producer James Franco HOLY LAND, playing a “hoarder”, the romcom BIG GAY LOVE as Drew Droege’s husband, and BABY STEPS as the Jewish doctor! Stuart uses his talents as an openly gay actor and comedian to support the community by performing at countless benefits for issues from AIDS to the homeless. After recognizing the lack of support in Hollywood for his LGBT brothers and sisters, Jason co-founded The SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee. Since 2006, Jason has been its national co-chair. He says, ”When you’re out, it supports all gay actors”. Currently he hosts a chat show on TradioV.com called ABSOLUTELY JASON STUART. His groundbreaking stand-up comedy and his versatility as an actor have made his career an amazing ride, and we are proud to have him as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What was the exact moment you knew that you were destined for a career in show-business? Was there any one performance that you witnessed that instantly caused you to fall in love with the arts?
JS: I thought I would either be a big star or a failure…I did not expect to be in the middle of that. I am very grateful to be able to make a living as an actor and a comedian. My stand up special was called MAKING IT TO THE MIDDLE and I got that on here TV with the support of friends David Millbern & Paul Colichman.
RM: How would you best describe your first five years working in clubs as a stand-up comedian? Were there any points in time where you felt discouraged or disheartened because the life of a traveling comic can be so brutal?
JS: It felt like being in high school and it was a straight boys club. Which I was familiar with! I got flirted with by more men than ever and they were all straight! Well at least I think they were. I was in closet and so young that who knows!
RM: What was the most heartwarming compliment you’ve ever received after a set at a comedy club? Why do you think that particular modicum of praise meant so much to you?
JS: I was headlining at the FUNNY BONE in St. Louis and a woman came over to me and said he son had passed from AIDS a year before. This was the first time she had ventured out and was able to laugh. I just hugged her. That stays with me. It’s in my heart.
RM: You do this web series called “MENTOR” with Alexandria Paul and Paul Elia…What can you tell us about the sequence of events that led to the production of this series; and what else do we need to know about the project and those involved with it?
JS: It’s a 6 episode web series is a heartfelt true-to-life comedy/drama about a middle aged, gay, Jewish man (Me!) and a straight, starry eyed kid who find friendship….without sex. Add a bossy, WASP movie star and my best friend who supports us through the trials and tribulations of making it in the cold hard business of Hollywood, whether we want it or not….Oy, I’m exhausted! Watch it http://www.jasonstuart.com/mentor/
RM: When it comes to acting in a film or on a television show, what are the best and worst aspects of being on those sets? What kinds of things do you do and think about to pass the time when there is a break in the action?
JS: Well most of the time I am working on my part to get it the best I can. When you’re a character actor you don’t always get a large role so you have to be prepared. The best part is getting the job and doing it. It’s like winning the lottery. I feel like that every time. AND hopefully you are involved in the creative process. If you are not it’s not as fun for me as I get older. Also I want the people I work to be nice and talented but sometimes it does not work out so you gotta do your job the best you can and get out.
RM: If you had to give a rough estimate, what percentage of your stand-up act would you say is based off of your sexual orientation? Does that approximation change depending on the venue, region of the country you’re performing in, or the audience in front of you?
JS: I don’t think of it that way. If it’s funny, I talk about it. If the audience laughs I keep it in. If they don’t, I figure out how to set up the joke so they understand where I am coming from. I also gear my show for the audience I am playing to and try to give them a show that is just for them! That’s the fun for me to be in the moment with the audience :). I love that!
RM: If you received an email from an individual who was an entertainer within SAG that was asking for your advice as the co-chairman on circumstances involving whether or not they should come out of the closet, would you advise that entertainer based on your own personal experience with the subject or would the advice be dependent on that individual’s specific situation?
JS: Well for me, being out is the only way to be in life. I would suggest to the person that being true to yourself is more important than being in show business. It’s the persons personal choice. But I rarely get an actor who tells me to not tell anyone they are gay or straight. So I treat all folks equally.
RM: How would you most accurately summarize your writing process when it comes to creating new material? Do you find that you are a better writer when you collect ideas that you may have had on the fly, or more productive when you sit down at a couch, table, or computer with the intention of coming up with new bits?
JS: I write things down on scraps of paper then type up bullet points in bold dark type so I can glance at it on a stool on stage and then add it to the show. I work it out on stage. Comedy is like music for me. I have figured out the arrangement of words.
RM: What is the one task within the entertainment industry that you have not had the chance to complete yet, but would really like to get the opportunity to perform? Do you think that in ten years you’ll be able to say that you’ve done it?
JS: I want to work with some of the great directors of our time Thomas McCarthy, Spike Lee. Lee Daniels, Terrence Malic, Alison Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Richard Linkletter. The Dupluss Brothers, and so many more. I really want to grow and grow as an actor. I want more opportunities…that’s my hope.
RM: Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, which accolade are you most proud of and why? Will that always be number one on your list, or do you plan to eventually accomplish something which will trump that achievement?
JS: Man, I guess for showing up for close to 40 years since I was a baby boy and against all odds I have been able to work in front of the camera as an openly gay man.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JS: I was just at Sundance with Sean Bakers’ TANGERINE, executive produced by Jay & Mark Duplass. Last year I was there with the hit drama LOVE IS STRANGE opposite John Lithgow, Alfred Molina & Marisa Tomei, in theaters now and nominated for 4 Spirit Awards. I just did a guest role on SLEEPY HOLLOW and will soon be seen in REAL ROB, (Schneider’s new show). I have 4 diverse roles coming up films that will released this year, the cop drama DIRTY as “hardass bar”, BABY STEPS as a “Jewish doctor”, James Franco’s HOLY LAND as “hoarder” and a “British journalist” in HUSH UP SWEET CHARLOTTE.
Official Website: http://www.jasonstuart.com/
Jason on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003006515565&ref=tn_tnmn
Jason on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Jason_Stuart
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