Laughing about our lives and loves
I caught up with comedian and actor Jason Stuart, to talk about the challenge of making people laugh.
When did you discover your passion for making people laugh?
When I was a kid, it was a way to get into the room - to find a way to get people to like me. It also it taught me to make the joke about myself first, to learn to laugh at myself.
Was acting something that you were pursuing at the same time that you were honing your comedy skills, or did that come later?
Acting was always first. I wanted to be a serious actor like Richard Thomas - John Boy on The Waltons. But I realised that I was more like John Ritter on Three’s Company.
Comedy roles came first in my career as Dr. Thomas on My Wife & Kids then moved all the way to plantation owner Joseph Randall in The Birth of a Nation. Acting is my first love, and stand-up was like my day job that became a mainstay in my career.
Who are some of your comedy heroes or inspirations?
Lily Tomlin brought it to the highest level of character comedy. Louie Anderson can make you laugh with just a look. Garry Shandling showed me how to perfectly make fun of myself. Sandra Bernhard took comedy to a new level. Don Rickles and Joan Rivers just make me laugh all the time - their timing and commitment were my biggest influences.
Where are you currently drawing inspiration from for your comedy?
Judd Apatow’s film and TV shows really showed me how to mix comedy and drama. Jill Soloway changed the conversation in comedy to bring in Jews and LGBTQ people - that really made me want to jump into the TV and work with her!
If someone was interested in giving stand-up comedy a try, what advice or guidance would you give them?
If you’re a funny person, everything you say is funny. Your job is to set it up so the audience understands what made you laugh. Also, remember to breathe and listen. This is very important. Lastly, you really have to have a need to do this and not just want it. It’s a craft, and requires a lot of travelling all over the the country and just doing it.
What do you hope that audiences feel when they’re watching you perform?
That I’m able to give you a release in your life from the stress of everyday living. Especially in this political climate of hate and lies. Not knowing if your rights will be taken from you is not an easy thing to live with. I hope I can make folks laugh a bit about our lives and loves.