While perhaps most known for his roles in blockbuster films such as Jerry Maguire, Picture Perfect, and Suicide Kings, Jay Mohr is first and foremost a stand-up comedian, a craft he’s been perfecting since he was 16 years old. Recently named one of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time by Comedy Central, Mohr does about 200 comedy shows a year, one of which will take place in Santa Barbara this Friday as part of the LOL Comedy Festival.
I recently chatted with Mohr via phone while he was driving his kid home from preschool. They have a routine: Mohr does his sports talk radio show from 9 a.m. to noon and then picks up his boy and heads home, where the two of them take a nap. During our conversation, his little one occasionally piped in from the backseat, sweetly oblivious that his father was being interviewed. Easy-going and personable, Mohr is an excellent multitasker: He piloted his vehicle, attended to his son, and graciously spoke to me about his comedy routine process, his quick-witted wife (actress Nikki Cox), and how thrilled he is to film his second Showtime special.
I’m so excited that you are coming to Santa Barbara. Me, too. I can’t wait. I get to film another Showtime special. I’m so excited about it … The name of this special is Happy. And a Lot. They do report cards everyday at [my son’s] preschool, so when you pick your kid up they, hand you a little report card. And its got the kid’s name, it shows their activities, and then … [Pause for exchange with his boy: I see it. Look at that school bus, high five. Oh boy.] … on the report card it says “mood,” and the teacher always writes “happy.” And then it says lunch, and they write “a lot.”
Do you use note cards onstage? I have bullet points in my head, I know what I want to talk about. … If I write a new bit, or in my case, my wife writes a new bit, I can’t wait to get onstage and try it. Usually it’s just one word. Like it will be “Dateline”—that’s 15 minutes just from that one word. So I definitely don’t use note cards, but I don’t wing it.
How did you get involved in the S.B. LOL Comedy Festival? I’ve been trying to get a second Showtime stand-up special, and it fell on the same date as the LOL Comedy Festival. I know [festival organizer] Scott [Montoya], but I don’t know if it’s a direct result of that or my manager bothering them for me to be able to film a Showtime special. I want to be like George Carlin and do one every other year.
That sounds ambitious. Well, my wife writes half of my material, so my workload has decreased incredibly over the years as far as stand-up goes, because she is certainly the funny one in the relationship.
Does she really write half of your material or is that a joke? No, she definitely does. She’s an insomniac, and I’ll wake up and have a notebook filled with stuff. She knows how I think, and she’s wickedly smart, so the things that she writes are roads I never would have driven down. … I can’t wait to get up there and do what she wrote because what she thought of was funny and so outside of my wheelhouse of thinking that I can’t wait to go up and show off.
You have done so much more than just stand-up comedy. You are very versatile. It’s weird to speak about your own versatility because you could really start sounding like a creep. My versatility is a direct result of my desire to not leave money on the table. If someone is going to give me money to write a book, I’m going to start typing, and if there’s a chance to audition for a dramatic role, I’m going to do my best to get that role. So the diversity is a direct result of just wanting to outwork everybody.
I hope S.B. LOL becomes an annual event. Anybody who reads this, it’s important … [To his son: Okay, wait one second sweetie.] … that after this comedy festival leaves town … [Just wait one second. Everything is going to be okay. Can you give me one second? Thank you, buddy. Do you have some ba ba left? You are a good boy.] … that even after this comedy festival leaves town, please don’t forget to support live stand-up comedy …. [Kid burp. Nice job, buddy!] It’s the only time you can go into a room and ensure happiness.
I’ll let you get back to your family duties. Thank you. Have a good nap. Happy. And a lot.
Jay Mohr, Friday, September 5, at 8 p.m. Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. $18-$25, or $40 for Gold Circle, which includes a meet and greet. Call the box office at 966-4946 or see lolcomedyfestival.com.