Originally from Pittsburgh, Jesse Joyce has been a New York City-based stand-up comic since 2001. He has played all across the country, has performed for the troops overseas, and his writing has been featured on several Comedy Central roasts. Not to mention, he’s released CD’s (Joyce to the World and Pro Joyce) and appeared on several television shows (including Last Comic Standing). We recently had the chance to talk to Jesse about life on the road, how he got started in stand-up and the life advice he took from another comic who just wanted to get laid.
Q: How did you get involved with stand-up?
A: I started doing stand-up at 17, but I’d wanted to do it since I was 12... My uncle Mike Joyce did stand up briefly in the 80’s and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to get paid to make people laugh. I was around 12 years old when he started, and that’s when I decided I was going to devote my life to telling funny stories about my penis to strangers. I took a job as the barback/janitor at the Pittsburgh Funny Bone as soon as I turned 18 just so I could be in that world… I’d pick the brain of all the working comics and do the open mics and eventually became the house m.c. After that I just start touring the country like a carnival gypsy getting up everywhere I could.
Q: You’ve performed your act on stages across the country (and still continue to do so). Where are some of your favorite places to perform?
A: Some of the most gratifying and memorable shows I’ve ever done were on the tour I did in Iraq. We were being blackhawked around the Middle East doing shows at tiny patrol bases that were like The Alamo. We did a show in the hangar bay of an aircraft carrier for 3,000 guys sitting on the wings of F-18 fighter jets. I also did a tour of Asia (NOT for the military… Kim Jong Il can provide his own goddamn entertainment) and we had some amazing shows in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. On this continent though, some of my favorite clubs are The Comedy Cellar and Gotham Comedy Club in NYC, The DC and Tempe Improvs, Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington, KY and I love Absolute Comedy in Ottawa Canada – in fact that’s where I made my new CD that just came out Pro Joyce.
Q: What’s your favorite road story, whether it’s silly, embarrassing or just plain awesome?
A: I once did a show at 3 in the afternoon for a conference of 300 drunk prison guards from the back of a flat bed truck with a megaphone (cause they didn’t have a mic) in Altoona, PA. That was a pretty disastrous one… I also did a show in a fire hall somewhere in West Virginia the day the U.S.S. Cole got bombed in the Persian Gulf a decade or so ago… The show started off with the guy right before bringing me on stage making some reference to “towelheads” and demanding that we all hold hands and say the “Lord’s Prayer” – at the conclusion of which having a moment of silence and then “and now, comedian Jesse Joyce everybody” – the show ended 15 minutes later when the alarm went off and every member of the fire company evacuated the building and went racing away in trucks with sirens wailing, leaving me standing on stage with the bartender and a lot of self-doubt about my chosen vocation.
Q: Who are your favorite comics, and who influences you?
A: I had the rare privilege of touring with the late, great Greg Giraldo for the last 5 years of his life. He was not only a huge influence, but he was like an older brother to me. He had been my favorite comic long before we became friends, so for me it was like getting the chance to play ball with Mickey Mantle every night. He taught me a lot, and really helped my confidence and up my game with my writing as well. Other comics I think that are pretty stellar are Louis CK, Chappelle, Norm MacDonald, and Jon Stewart – those are guys I grew up watching who I always loved.
Q: In addition to stand-up, you’ve also written for several Comedy Central roasts. Who was your favorite person to roast, and why?
A: Oddly, I feel like Larry the Cable Guy was great… I was kind of opposed to it at first – cause it’s a character – It’s why I wrote the line “we’re roasting a fake character… maybe next year we can roast SpongeBob SquarePants” but it turned out to be GREAT. He was a really good sport about it… you could tell he really had a good time with it, which makes the whole thing that much more fun, and redneck jokes are endless hilarity. I also really dug the Hasselhoff one, cause he was a great target and a great sport, plus it was the last one Giraldo and I worked on together so I have fond memories of that.
Q: You’re also a regular guest on RedEye with Greg Gutfield. How is writing for television different than writing for the stage?
A: Well, I guess the biggest difference from a writing perspective are that there are more people who are afraid of getting fired on tv… so a lot of times the lawyers come back to you with notes eviscerating some of your jokes because “we can’t mention date rape” or “we don’t want to offend our transsexual Samoan demographic” – those are two unrelated notes by the way… I don’t think date rape is a huge problem in the Samoan transgender community, but just to be on the safe side we should probably edit this whole question out. It is fun to do though… I have the opportunity to reach a lot more people in order to get them to come out and see me do stand-up – which is a forum where I have total creative control over what I say and do.
Q: What’s the best advice about entertainment you’ve received, and who gave it to you?
A: It’s kind of a funny story I guess… many years ago when I started out, I opened for this guy who’d had a sitcom in the 80’s. He came and performed at my college in Pittsburgh. At the time it was a huge deal for me cause he was the first “famous” guy I’d ever worked with. He was super cool to me and gave me a bunch of advice after the show. I told him I wanted to move to NYC to pursue stand up, and one of the things he told me was to wait until I felt like I was the best comic in Pittsburgh – that way, when I got to NYC I’d already made a lot of my mistakes in a market away from the industry, and when I got there I’d only really be competing against the best new guys from Chicago and Boston and Seattle etc… I thought that made sense so I took that advice and structured my whole young life around it… never really sought second opinions, just decided that’s what I’m going do and I did exactly that. I feel like that advice did well by me for whatever it’s worth because I am now in fact a professional comic, so I always wanted to thank this dude for the early 20’s life plan… I finally ran into him after more than a decade about 2 years ago at The TBS Comedy Festival in Vegas… I went up to him with the whole “I’m sure you’d never remember this, but you gave me some advice when I was just a baby comic that I always wanted to thank you for” thing – to which he responded. “Of course I remember you… Pittsburgh, right?” – I was pretty shocked so he followed it up with “you wanna know WHY I remember you?” – Because that night there was this girl in Pittsburgh I was supposed to bang after the show, and you wouldn’t shut the fuck up asking me comedy questions. I was just telling you whatever came to mind that would get you to stop talking to me so I could meet up with this chick. – We laughed about it as I told him that I’d structured my twenties around this guys golden wisdom which was apparently just cock-block damage control. I guess one man’s life advice is another’s “please stop talking rookie, I’m trying to get laid.”
Q: What’s next for you? What can fans expect from you in the future?
A: Well, if there are any fans in the Balkans, oddly enough I’m doing an upcoming tour of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Serbia… Never been but it should be interesting… I just finished writing for The Roast of Trump also on Comedy Central which is airing a lot these days, my new CD just came out last month Pro Joyce and that’s been doing pretty well. Beyond that, who knows, things come up all the time, in the mean-time, I’ll probably just be touring around the country telling strangers funny stories about my dick.
Kate Brindle is a stand-up comedian from Ann Arbor, MI. For more information and for tour dates, visit her at http://www.katebrindle.com/ Email Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.