Actor and comedian Jason Stuart is building some momentum around his career, but he’s definitely not an overnight success.
Stuart is celebrating his 10-year anniversary of performing as a stand-up comedian, with his one-hour special – Making it to the Middle – to be broadcast on Here Media.
Stuart describes his comedy special as having been taped in the middle of his career, the middle of the US, and the middle of his life.
Having won the title of Best Comedian at the 2018 Joshua Tree International Comedy Festival, Stuart has also been attracting plaudits for his dramatic roles. He played a racist plantation owner in The Birth of a Nation, a police detective in the action film Abducted, an anti-abortion leader in The Line, and a private investigator in the thriller Immortal. He’s appeared on the Netflix series Love, and on Swedish Dicks opposite Keanu Reeves. Currently he’s on the Direct TV series ATT/Hello, and he’s also the title character in the drama Hank, which won Best LGBTQ Short Film in The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
I caught up with Jason Stuart to talk about his career in comedy.
When did you decide to focus on comedy as your career?
I went into stand-up comedy at first because I couldn’t get a job acting in anything of real substance. It was the 80s, and most folks were totally cool about telling me I was “too light in the loafers” to act in much, and should wait until I’m older. The gay characters that were often neutered in that era were ending – the last of the “Paul Lynne” roles were gone.
Is comedy something that you can learn or study?
I was a naturally funny kid. So, my job was to learn the craft – learning how to set up a joke. So, when it made me laugh in real life, the audience understands what made me laugh originally.
Was the reality of working as a comedian like what you’d expected?
No, I never really thought I would become a headliner. I just wanted someone to see me and let me act on a TV series. Then, after touring for a few years, I fell in love with the idea of becoming a solid headline act. That was when being funny was the first thing you needed to be. It was really nice to make a living working in show-biz.
How did you land your first job as a comedian?
Another comedian hired me to work a one-nighter in a carpeted BBQ bit in a restaurant in Laverne, California – about an hour out of Hollywood. I made 50 bucks, and I was thrilled!
What are some of the skills and attributes that you need in order to be a successful comedian?
You need to have a hard shell and remember that you’re only as good as your last set. That one took me a long time. You have be a joke writer, PR person, booking agent, social media mavin, and have the tenacity to be yourself on stage.
If someone was thinking about becoming a comedian, what advice or guidance would you give them?
I once got a email from a fan who asked if they should be a comedian. I said – if you have to ask, then no. You have to need to be one.