Jessica Kirson and Big Jay Oakerson are part of the Just for Laughs NorthWest comedy festival lineup in Vancouver Feb. 13-25. (photos from JFL NorthWest)
The Just for Laughs NorthWest comedy festival takes place around Metro Vancouver Feb. 13-25. Among the performers are several members of the Jewish community, including Andy Kindler, Jessica Kirson, Big Jay Oakerson and Esther Povitsky. The Jewish Independent recently spoke with Kirson and Oakerson.
Kirson is an award-winning comedian. She has appeared on several talk and TV shows, and has her own podcast, Relatively Sane. She was a consultant, producer, writer and actor in the Robert De Niro film The Comedian and will play herself on the HBO series Crashing with Pete Holmes. As part of JFL NorthWest, she will be at the Biltmore Cabaret on Feb. 17, 9 p.m.
JI: Since the JI spoke with you in 2016 ahead of your Chutzpah! show (jewishindependent.ca/gonna-be-a-fun-night), a lot has happened in your world. Could you share some of your professional highlights over the last few years?
JK: So much has happened. I have done a ton of television and movie appearances. I’m loving traveling all over the world doing stand-up. I am executive producing a movie for FX, a documentary about female comedians; it will première this summer. I had a special come out on Comedy Central called Talking to Myself, in addition to a bunch of other projects.
JI: You’ve been in the podcast world for a long time now. What do you particularly like about the medium?
JK: I started Relatively Sane because I wanted to create a podcast that wasn’t just funny and silly. I wanted it to get real also. I wanted to talk about anxiety, depression, etc. I love it. It’s one of my favorite creative mediums now.
JI: What is the difference, if any, performance or prep-wise between working on a radio show versus a podcast?
JK: It’s very similar. I don’t do a ton of prep work with my guests. I love finding things out while I’m talking to them. It’s more real that way.
JI: Can you tell me a bit about your Comedy Central special, how it came about and what it has meant to you career-wise?
JK: I had felt like I deserved a comedy special years ago. It was the one thing I felt I deserved that I didn’t get. I got a call from Bill Burr. He told me he wanted to produce my special. He shocked me. I feel very grateful to him. When comics do things like that for other performers, it’s amazing. We should all do it for each other.
JI: Similarly, The Comedian and Robert DeNiro. How did that happen?
JK: DeNiro saw me performing at the Comedy Cellar in New York City. He was looking for comics to be in his movie. We met up that week, we connected and I became his right-hand person. I ended up being in the movie and getting a producer credit. The hardest part was showing up every day, giving my opinion and not caring what the producers and director thought. It was very intimidating but I had him by my side so it worked out.
JI: Is getting your own television show still something you’d like to achieve?
JK: Yes, I would love to have a talk show.
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Oakerson has appeared on many television shows. He has recorded two specials, one for Comedy Central in 2016 and one for Netflix in 2018, as well as three albums. He was the host and creator of What’s Your F#$king Deal?! and currently co-hosts the podcasts The Legions of Skanks, The SDR Show and The Bonfire with Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder. For the JFL NorthWest festival, he will perform at the Biltmore Cabaret Feb. 19-20, 9:30 p.m.
JI: When did you first start doing stand-up and what motivated you to do it?
BJO: I started doing comedy in 1999 at the urging of a friend who caught up with me after high school and expressed her disappointment in me never trying it before.
JI: In what ways has your stand-up style changed since you first started?
BJO: First of all, my level of nerves is significantly down. I think I’ve evolved it into a very comfortable style of storytelling and interaction versus joke writing/telling than I started with.
JI: Did you grow up in a household where you were encouraged to form and express your own opinions?
BJO: I don’t recall anyone in my household being highly opinionated about anything.
JI: Were you a witty or mouthy child?
BJO: 30% mouthy, 70% witty.
JI: What role, if any, does being Jewish, Judaism, Jewish culture or community have in your life and/or your career?
BJO: I thought I’d get a bump in this business because I’m Jewish, and nothing. I guess I’m not that kind of Jewish.
JI: What is it about pushing the boundaries that you most enjoy, and to what purpose do you do it?
BJO: “Edgy comedy” was generally the comedy I was drawn to growing up, so it’s just sort of how my humour developed. If I can make you question things or think about a different perspective on something, great, but, ultimately, I’m just trying to make people laugh.
JI: Are there any red lines you won’t cross?
BJO: Not if I think I can make the subject more funny than offensive.
JI: What do you enjoy most about doing podcasts?
Both Oakerson’s and Kirson’s shows are 19+. For tickets and the full JFL NorthWest lineup, visit jflnorthwest.com.
In next week’s JI: an interview with Esther Povitsky.