by Brenda Hillegas & Chris Caronna
Tonight, tomorrow, Saturday AND Sunday, you can catch the City of Brotherly Love’s very own Big Jay Oakerson at Helium (2031 Sansom Street). Big Jay currently co-hosts “The Bonfire” on Sirius XM’s Comedy Central station alongside Dan Soder and has made appearances on some of the best comedy shows and specials on the air today (Premium Blend, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, to name a few). He recently premiered a stand-up special on Comedy Central, and will MC this year’s Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival (coming to Camden on 9/11).
Oakerson is quickly making his way to the top of the comedy pyramid and now is the time to check him out, here in the city that made him. Thanks for the Q&A, Jay! We’ll see you tonight. Tickets are still available to this week’s shows via Helium’s website.
That Mag:What part of Philly did you grow up in, and what did you enjoy doing here as a kid/teenager?
Jay: I grew up in Overbrook Park in West Philadelphia. When I was kid I enjoyed eating cheesesteaks and unsuccessfully trying to get laid. Those two things probably had something to do with each other.
That Mag: Tell me about Skankfest over Father’s Day weekend in NYC! How did that go? What were some of your favorite events of the two-day fest? Will you do it again?
Jay: Skankfest was an amazing success for a first year festival. It was born in the brain of Luis J. Gomez and executed by Christine Evans and Rebecca Trent. People flew in from all over the country to be there. The most memorable event of the festival has to be “The Naked Roast Battle” where six young NYC comics and three veteran judges all performed in the raw. P.S. Ari Shaffir has huge balls and a great dangle. It will 100% happen again.
That Mag: Who would you say is a comedian(s) to look out for that performed at Skankfest?
Jay: Tim Dillon, and of course my brothers Luis J. Gomez and Dave Smith. You should also keep an eye out for these up and comers who performed at Skankfest like Jeffrey Ross, Michael Che, Doug Stanhope, Sal Vulcano and Ron Bennington.
That Mag:You expressed on your podcasts and radio shows that you probably, eventually, want to be like Howard Stern- more of a career in radio than standup. Is that still your goal? If so, how are your standup acts helping to shape that dream?
Jay: Stand-up comedy is first and foremost my career. I just love the medium of radio and I hope to do it for the rest of my life. Stand up and radio feed each other, which is perfect. The more live shows I do, the more people listen to my broadcasts, and the more people that discover my broadcasts the larger the stand up audience becomes.
That Mag:Your brand new special for Comedy Central (Big Jay Oakerson: Live at Webster Hall) was recently released. Why was Webster Hall chosen as the setting?
Jay: We wanted to make it a rock and roll show, and what better venue in New York for an intimate yet powerhouse show than Webster Hall…it’s also six blocks from my house.
That Mag: ‘The Bonfire’ just turned one, and there was a celebratory event on July 19th. How did it go?
Jay: The one year anniversary was beyond expectation. Every seat was filled with real fans who knew the show inside and out. We were able to get an amazing lineup of guests, and of course a public shaving of our producer, Jacob. Let’s just say it was real boner fuel.
That Mag: When did you start focusing more on crowd work rather than writing and retelling the same jokes and stories at each show?
Jay: While I was kinda floating in the New York comedy club fuel, I would notice the waitstaff get disenchanted with comics telling the same joke night after night. I never really enjoyed just monologuing a set anyways, so it was an excuse to just go have fun myself and not to “do the job.”
That Mag:Do you have an openers for your upcoming Helium shows? If so, who?
Jay: There are two local comedians Shawn Murphy and Shane Gillis who are hilarious and I’m looking forward to working with them.
That Mag:You’re doing OddBall Fest again this year (lineup recently announced here). What did you enjoy most about the tour last year?
Jay: Any chance for several comics who come from either coast to get together, it’s like summer camp. Everyone catches up and you get to spend time with people you usually don’t. As the host of the small stage I also get to meet some of the top local comedians in every city.
That Mag:New comedy special, tour, what else is next? What can we look forward to from you this fall and in 2017?
Jay: We’re hoping to get a second season of “What’s Your Fucking Deal?!”, my all crowdwork show on SeeSo. ‘The Bonfire’ will be expanding soon and ‘Legion of Skanks’ will stay consistently kicking you in the dick for years and years to come.