Comedian Jay Reid is an up and coming comic force who is emerging as one of the new young comedians on the national stage.
Reid is the opening act for Bill Bellamy on his current “Ladies Night Out” national comedy tour. Along with Bellamy, Reid is scheduled to appear at Tommy T’s Comedy and Dinner Theater this Thursday through Sunday, April 5-8.
Reid, 28, is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. He understood that he had a gift as a youngster before discovering as a young adult that he could channel his love for comedy into a career.
Reid’s career has progressed through small clubs in his hometown of Las Vegas, to local and regional comedy competitions, and on to national exposure. His first big break was when he was chosen to be a contestant on BET’s (Black Entertainment Television Network) comedy competition, "Coming to the Stage."
Reid parlayed the attention into bookings performances at notable comedy clubs such as The Laugh Factory, The Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store.
Reid stayed connected to his hometown by performing at hotels on the Las Vegas strip and hosting his own monthly comedy showcases, the “Grown and Sexy Comedy Show” and "Comedy & Cocktails."
In July 2009 Reid’s newfound popularity resulted in him being chosen to tour Iraq to entertain our U.S Army troops.
Reid was also approached to be a contestant on the stand-up comedy competition, “Who’s Got Jokes?” This one-hour televised program, hosted by Bill Bellamy, aired on cable television network TV One. Reid competed against 24 other comedians from across the country for the title and won the event.
That win led to his TV One comedy special, “L.M.A.O.” He later released two comedy albums, “J. Reid: Comedy Mixtape Volume 1” and “J. Reid: Comedy Mixtape Volume 2.”
Reid’s burgeoning relationship with Bellamy led to his current national comedy tour which is coming to Sacramento this week.
The Sacramento Press caught up with Reid last Wednesday. The wide ranging telephone interview that follows touched on a variety of topics related to the development of his career, and captured the spirit of exuberance he possesses as a rising star in a competitive business.
Sacramento Press: How did you first come to understand that you had the gift to make people laugh?
Jay Reid: I believe that growing up I always had the gift. I used to always imitate family members and Mom always had me in front of them clowning around. When I was in school, I was always the class clown and in the yearbook clowning and things like that. I just didn’t really know until I turned 18 that I really wanted to try stand-up. Once I tried it, I just fell in love with it. I think it’s always been a part of me and I found it early and it has worked out for me.
SP: When did you first come to believe that you could become a professional and make a living doing comedy?
JR: My first time I got $100.00 for performing on a show, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I only did maybe 10 minutes of comedy and they me $100.00. You get paid for doing this? I knew then that I wanted to use comedy to provide a vehicle to have some financial success and to be able to do what I love and get paid for it.
SP: How old were you then?
JR: I was about 21, just barely legal (laughing).
SP: What or who has been your greatest inspiration?
JR: I did this show when after about a year and a half of doing comedy that was on BET and it was called “Coming to the Stage.” It was a comedy competition and J. Anthony Brown was one of the judges. After the show…well I actually got kicked off of the show… but he kinda pulled me to the side. He gave me some of the best advice that I still use to this day in my career: That it’s not about money and how many people know you, but it’s about your love and your passion for the crowd. That if you go in it every single day with love, and just trying to get better at what you do. The money will come, the fame will come, and everything that people get into comedy for will come. You just have to love it yourself and put everything that you have into it. That’s something that I use every day when I wake up, when I get on stage, I try to become the best comedian that I can possibly be.
Also, Bill Bellamy has shown me a lot about the game that I didn’t know. He’s training me how to become a superstar and I owe some of my success to him for taking me out on the road and showing me the ropes. There have been a lot of other people who have been a big inspiration to me in my career, but those are the ones that have really, really been a huge inspiration in my career.
SP: What was your career path before you went into the entertainment business full-time?
JR: Before I was an entertainer, I was in the military. I was in the Army, I tried that out, you know I served my county…
SP: How long were you in the military?
Reid: I was in the military for four years. I did the Army Reserve first. Once I got done with basic training, that’s when I found confidence. I was in the military doing comedy. I did a tour in Germany and while I was there I did some comedy over there. I honed my craft. I’m just happy about the way my career is going.
SP: That leads directly to the next question. It seems like some of the comedy competitions have had a pretty big effect on your career. How many competitions have you entered and won? Can you briefly tell us about that?
JR: Well, yeah, I’ve done lots of competitions. I’ve done some Bay Area competitions. They have a competition every year for black comedians, I’ve done that. They have a couple of comedy events in Las Vegas that I’ve done as far as competitions. I’ve done some TV competitions, and BET’s “Coming to the Stage” as far as competitions.
I actually won Bill Bellamy’s show, “We’ve Got Jokes.” That was a comedy competition. There were 27 other comedians, and I came out the winner on that TV show. That competition is what brought my career up, it helped me to get where I’m at today. “We’ve Got Jokes” was a national TV show. Just to win that opened so many doors for me. It’s great for comedians. It gives you a chance to actually see where you’re at as a comedian and what you need to work on.
I always tell any young comedian who asks me, I tell them that early in their career, it’s best to do them and get that experience under their belt.
SP: What does Jay Reid do different or do better than any other comedian out there?
JR: I don’t know…I don’t consider myself different or better than anyone else. Whatever I see in life on a daily basis just being with my family or being on the road or whatever, and I think it’s funny, I just talk about it. I just get myself all wild and crazy; I am intimate on stage. I just give all my experiences and the material from the way… how I look at from my point of view. I don’t try to be anybody else. I just do me. I do Jay Reid. That’s something that nobody else can do. (laughing).
SP: What do you do to stay current in your craft or what do you do to perfect your craft?
JR: I’m constantly on stage. I try to get on stage at least five to six times a week. You know, sometimes I do two shows a night. I just like to stay on stage. I love what I do. I love the mic in my hand and the audience in front of me. I just talk about what I’m going through that day or my problems. Even when I’m running, I look at things. I ask myself, how did Jay feel about this subject? While I’m relieving stress, I think about how things are going in my life, my relationships. I then just write and try to get better and stay on stage and get better at what I do. I love the craft.
SP: That’s good. I love it. Let me just ask the next question. Do you have training or have you been to drama school? Do you study, or is there anything special that you do?
JR: Yeah. I’m a student of the game. I’ve done acting classes, I’ve read several books on stand-up. I study it. I study comics like Richard Pryor and those who have done it. Everyday I’m always listening to comedy. On my phone I have visual apps that play nothing but comedy. I watch old comedy bits and stuff. Every day, I try to get better, to get better in my craft. You’ve got to love comedy. I love everything about comedy. Making jokes, trying to make a joke better.
SP: As a professional, what do you see as the biggest trends in comedy? That can be either performance-wise or business-wise or both?
JR: The trends that I see right now are videos. Everybody is putting their sketches out on the internet right now. Right now everybody watches YouTube for laughs right now. Not too many people watch a lot of TV. It’s not like how it used to be. Nowadays, people don’t come home and watch a lot of TV. People come home and get on their computers. Now it’s geared more toward videos. People have ipads and smartphones. You can get all of your material out instantly. You put a link out and people can watch all of your videos. That’s where everything is going now. I try to stay with the times and put videos up. I like to people to know where I’m going to be at. That’s what I’ve been doing, putting those videos up and try to stay with the trends.
SP: How does that play into the money piece? How is that from a business perspective for you to generate income by doing that?
JR: There are always ways. You can generate money with ads. I you get so many hits you can generate advertising dollars. The way it is now, you have to figure out different ways of making money. It’s not like how it used to be with everybody just making money off of their DVD’s. It’s not like that anymore. You have to think outside of the box and think unconventionally. You have to get digital downloads. You have to go get advertising dollars. It’s a little different now. You just have to try to stay current and stay ahead of the curve.
SP: Well, that sounds great. Let’s talk a little bit about your current gigs. One thing that caught our attention was a weekly radio show with Lawrence Weekly, the Las Vegas Commissioner. Are you still doing that?
JR: Yeah. Every time I’m in Vegas I try to go to the radio station with the Commissioner.
SP: What is the format of the show and the concept and how did you get started with him?
JR: The show is called “Straight Talk.” I’m one of the featured comedians that has a recurring role. It is a show geared toward uplifting black people and helping the black community to succeed. Whether it is to help get black people’s careers together, to help them buy houses, or just to uplift the community. With the economy being the way that it is, a lot of black people are struggling and can’t get into a home and stuff. It’s geared toward sharing tips to help each other to get up on our feet and do the right thing.
When I’m on the show, I bring a little comedy to it. When I’m in town I’m there and when I’m on the road I call in sometimes and just be me and encourage everybody to listen in.
SP: Jay, what do you have planned for the future? Sitcoms? Acting? Theater? Your bio includes a role in the film “21” with Kevin Spacey.
JR: As for me, the sky’s the limit. I definitely want to do everything that I possibly can. I love the work, I love the whole business. I just love stand-up. I know that I’m going to do stand-up for the rest of my life. I really want to be like George Carlin. He’s really a big icon to me as far as comedy goes. He did stand-up comedy until the day that he passed away.
That’s what I want to do. That how much I love stand-up. It’s always going to be a part of me. That’s my first love. I want to do sitcoms and do more of that. Stand-up is a part of me. I’m always going to do that no matter if I do films or whatever. Whatever God has for me, whatever that is, I’m going to do that. But I still want to do stand-up. It’s a part of my life and a part of my spirit.
SP: Although we aren’t trying to get too serious, I’d like to ask you one sort of serious question. Have you had any experiences with racism or barriers placed in your entertainment career due to your race?
JR: Have there been any barriers….?
SP: Because of the fact that you are a black man in America, I am talking about the race card. Have you experienced any racism in your entertainment career?
JR: I along with everybody else who is out here as a comedian gets to experience having doors being closed in your face. I haven’t really experienced anything racial or anything like that.
You know, everybody has problems in their career, you know, trying to get in, having doors slammed in your face and stuff like that. You just have to keep moving. But as far as anything goes that is racial, I haven’t had anything major or anything like that happen.
SP: How do you deal with hecklers when they are in the crowd?
JR: (Laughing) I love hecklers! I have a microphone. I’ve always got to be on my toes. I like that. I love thinking on my feet. I like working off the top. Anytime somebody shouts something out, I’ll have something for you.
If have to make up something or if I already have a joke or something that will kill that heckler, I’m going to come with something. You’re not gonna win. That’s just how I am. If I’ve got a mic, and you don’t have a mic, you’re not gonna win this.
SP: Here is one last question. Is there anything that you’d like to say to the people of Sacramento?
JR: Yeah. I come to Sacramento a lot. Every time I come there, everybody shows me so much love. They are really supportive of what I’m doing. I just want to say thank you to everybody that’s been supportive. When I come there, we’re going to have a really good time. I’ve got a lot of new material for everybody. A lot of fun stuff. It’s definitely going to be a great show. So anybody who comes out, they’re definitely going to have a great time.
I also want to tell everybody to look out for my Showtime Special coming out for the “Ladies Night Out” tour with Bill Bellamy that’s coming out in the fall.
SP: Okay, Jay, we certainly appreciate your time.
Tickets to this week’s show featuring Jay Reid and Bill Bellamy are available by contacting tommyts.com online.