Imagine this: you’re a Vancouver comic—and dang! You’re pretty good. In fact, you were recently a Yuk Yuks fast tracker (a program where Vancouver’s finest up and comers are hand-picked to work consistent nights, among other perks). Night after night you’re getting out around town and killing it.
The catch? You also get up in the morning and go to your nine to five job. What I’m saying is, in this particular scenario, you may be funny but you put your pants on one leg at time like anyone else and you know it. In real life, this mix of talent and humility combines to make one Stuart Jones.
This month I got to chat with Stuart, a real life nice guy (please refer to his joke about why this may mean you’re not sleeping with him) who loves food but sensibly draws the line at dog. That part actually didn’t make the interview cut, but trust me, it’s true.
Stuart Jones: I’m just gonna’ grab a coffee.
Kristine Sostar McLellan: You drink coffee this late?
SJ: Well, not regularly. [Dramatic pause] But on a Friday?
KSM: Cut loose!
SJ: I’ve been pretty wiped. Waking up early and then being on shows at night.
KSM: How often a week do you go up?
SJ: Two or three times a week. On a regular week. On a good week, four or five.
KSM: And you’ve been doing this with a full time job for how long?
SJ: Almost a year.
KSM: Do you remember your first set?
SJ: I was talked into it by some people at work. This was in Kelowna and a colleague was going to try. I thought, I’ll give it a shot. I had a few topics written down, but some people are just natural performers.
KSM: Are you?
SJ: Half and half. I think of all these people who are way more charismatic on stage.
KSM: Your material is probably funnier the way you deliver it.
SJ: There’s a way to perform it… But I’ve also found that it seems like a cheap trick if you put too much energy into it. Because a lot of the time it seems funnier if someone is screaming.
KSM: Totally. Okay, back to the beginning. Was this something you thought about before?
SJ: Sort of. I had a few premises, but it was pretty nerve-wracking the first time. I had six or seven people there for support, and the other comics were supportive.
KSM: I think that comics are generally supportive to first timers here in Vancouver, too.
SJ: Depends on your material.
SJ: Well, there’s quite a few newbies and all their jokes are just shock. It’s like, this is what you find funny? Can’t you find humour in something else? If someone’s like that, or extremely arrogant, they aren’t going to get much support.
KSM: How soon did you do it again?
SJ: The week after. It was a cool show hosted and run by Tim Nutt who’s an awesome comedian in Kelowna. I remember watching him on the Comedy Network in middle school, so it was really cool that he was there. And he’s got a great laugh. If you can make him laugh, it’s awesome.
KSM: Who are your other favourites?
SJ: I like Doug Stanhope. Bill Burr. I like Brian Regan. He’s like as far as you get here, and Stanhope’s way over there [motions a spectrum]. Regan is totally squeaky clean. That’s his great appeal.
KSM: What do you think you are?
SJ: I never found dirty stuff to be too funny.
KSM: Do you ever enjoy that kind of comedy?
SJ: It has to be clever. A lot of comics have great admiration for someone who can be so funny, and be completely clean.
KSM: There’s an interesting fixation on that. Like how Jerry Seinfeld feels he’s let himself down if he swears because there was another, better solution. But sometimes it just feels good, and it’s funny, and whatever! [Laughs] So what if audiences laugh when you yell or swear? What’s so wrong with that?
SJ: Well that’s the argument. Your goal is to make people laugh.
KSM: I think that anything, if it’s funny, is kind of worth it.
SJ: My friend Amy has this great bit. Both of her parents are clowns, so she’s got this bit about the first time her parents had a safe sex talk to her. It ends with her pulling out a balloon animal balloon and going, ‘so they gave me one of these and said to be safe. I had some fucked up expectations.’ She thought it was kind of cheap to use a prop, but I think it was necessary for the joke. It’s not cheap.
KSM: It’s funny because you’re supposed to be fearless and able to tackle anything. Then there are these weird, arbitrary lines about what is and isn’t okay. Is it more about worrying what other comics think?
SJ: I don’t know. You don’t want to deface the profession of comedian.
SJ: If you’ve been on stage ten times and you’re doing just this horrible stuff. [mocking voice] Oh freedom of speech! Don’t call yourself a comedian. It’s the same reason I can’t go to a music open mic, strum a guitar not knowing what I’m playing, then smash it on the stage after and be like, I’m basically The Who.
KSM: Tell me about your worst show.
SJ: Hmmm. I have a temper.
KSM: Do you? I didn’t know that!
SJ: I’ve gotten very angry on stage before.
KSM: Tell me about that reaction.
SJ: I can tell you what my worst heckle was. It wasn’t even like a true heckle.
KSM: But it rattled you.
SJ: It was a fundraiser in Kelowna. I was doing a joke and a woman in the front row turns to her friend and goes, so am I driving you home? Like, they’re already planning how they can get out of there. It was, ohhhhh, awful.
KSM: I was about to say I love that… [Laughs] But I’m sorry that happened.
SJ: No, it’s funny in retrospect.
KSM: It’s funny because it’s totally different things than people expect that leave you feel feeling gutted.
SJ: Other heckles, like, you suck! They’re like, whatever. Or, you’re not funny! It’s like, well, some people think I am. So there.
KSM: What’s the best way that you’ve dealt with it?
SJ: One time I asked this person who making a lot of noise if they were a smoker and they said yes. So I went, well, why don’t you go for a smoke?
KSM: That’s good! Most people don’t realize that heckling isn’t usually insults. It’s mostly people trying to be helpful. Like, I love that too! And you’re like, shhhhhh, you ruined my punchline.
SJ: And sometimes there are jokes where the entire premise, entire bits, can be thwarted by a quick, simple fact. The whole premise of the joke is wrong to begin with. And then I can’t enjoy the rest of the joke because it’s based on this false premise.
KSM: So you overthink things.
SJ: I find continuity errors.
KSM: But when it’s going fast, the audience doesn’t care. People seem to have an inherent interest in comedy. Actually, the question that I get asked most often is why I do it. What do you say to that?
SJ: I say it’s fun. It’s awesome. It’s a good creative outlet. You have to be creative somehow.
KSM: So what’s your end game?
SJ: I mean, I’m kind of a realistic person.
KSM: I can believe that…
SJ: Yeah. [Laughs] I don’t expect myself to get super famous. That’d be great, but, at this point I would just I would like to be able to live comfortably in Vancouver.
KSM: Off comedy?
SJ: I mean, if I could, and not be broke all the time. I just started a TFSA. [Laughs] I’m trying to play it smart. As a realistic goal, I would like to be able to keep my job and just do shows around BC. Get to Just For Laughs. That would be great.
KSM: I think that’s more than realistic. You will do that. So what, if anything, is off limits in comedy for you?
SJ: I don’t think anything is off limits. But I do think there has to be a joke, or something clever, or a point about it. It just has to be clever. Cause, if you’re doing something that is very edgy or controversial and you’re not making a good point, then you just look dumb.
KSM: I hear two things. It has to be funny and it has to make a good point.
SJ: Ideally. But that’s just my sense of humour. That’s just what I find funny. Some sort of opinion.
KSM: And continuity.
KSM: Okay, what’s one thing that you think people don’t know about standup.
SJ: I don’t want to say that it’s more rehearsed than people think, but to some people it looks like they’re making it up on the spot.
KSM: If you’re good, yeah, it looks like that. And what’s one thing that people don’t know about you.
SJ: I’m not a very interesting person. Hmmm, let’s see. I could list off a bunch of things. I’ve got really bad eyesight. I could burn things with my glasses. They’re like magnifying glasses. I’m a nerd, most people know that…
KSM: Something we don’t know, please.
SJ: I play magic cards. And I love pizza. Well, everyone knows that.
If you liked Stuart Jones as much as he loves pizza, you can catch him at Yuk Yuks where he will be advancing to the second round of the Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Competition in August.