by Andrew Wantuck
This week I spoke with a successful comedian that is only 26 years old and made a name for himself by finishing in the final 3 contestants on Last Comic Standing 6. We spoke about being alone on the road, going from an open mic to NBC, and never wanting to be Brad Pitt.
Andrew: What is life like traveling from city to city every week?
Jeff: Over the years, I've made friends in each town, whether it be comedians that live there, or friends that have moved away, or friends that I have made in the city by meeting at a bar or through another mutual friend. I usually have friends in every place that I go to, but it does get pretty lonely never being with the same people, or having real solid friends with me.
Andrew: Tell me about your writing style. Are you most apt to pen-and-paper a joke and then take it on stage and tell it, or are you more writing on the fly, taking a premise up there and working out the punch lines on stage.
Jeff: I never do the second one. I'm all writing. That's my style. I make myself write at least an hour a day. If I can't think of something, because some days I'm off, I'll still make myself go sit down at a coffee shop and write, even if I know it's not going to be good, or if I'm just working on ideas that I've previously thought of, because I can't think of anything that day. But I write everyday for an hour, and then I do it on stage that night that I've thought of that day, or that I haven't tried yet. But I never work it out on stage ever.
Andrew: What called you into comedy? Was there a particular moment in your life when you realized that's what you wanted to do?
Jeff: Yeah, I've always been funny, my outlook on things has always been different than most people's, which seems obvious to me. But then, when they hear it, they laugh about it. To be honest, being funny is the only thing I'm good at! [laughs] I'm not real smart, I always got crappy grades, I was never an athlete, I know nothing about cars, I have a long laundry list of things I'm not good at, but one thing I always have been good at is making people laugh and having a funny outlook on things. I didn't know that could be a career. I wish someone would have told me that when I was in school, that you can make a lot of money just being funny. That's a great thing that they never told me.
Andrew: How many years deep into stand-up are you?
Jeff: I have only been doing it just under 3 years. Like I said, it's something I feel like I'm a natural at. And when I like something, I really love it. So there hasn't been a night that I don't go on stage, even if it's a holiday, even on Christmas, I'll go do a Jewish show. There is always a show that I can sneak on in, if it's an open-mic night, or some crappy bar, sometimes I'll go 4 or 5 shows a night, and by shows, I mean, doing 5 minutes here, 10 minutes over there, where ever I have to go. So, even though it's only 3 years, I've been on stage more than an average comic who has been doing comedy 3 years. I think that is a bad way to measure the art form, in years. The comic that has been doing it for 10 years once a week gets more respect just because he has been doing it for 10 years, when I have been doing it for 3 years every night, writing every day, and really cramping all my energy on comedy, even though it is a short amount of time.
Andrew: What is it about your style that is different, something that people may or may not have seen before?
Jeff: I feel like a great short-cut in this business is to get on stage and be dirty, or joke about sex, or drugs. The easier things that would kill on a junior high bus. I know if I get on stage and just go, "Oh, my balls!", I know that's going to make a lot of people laugh, just because that's a funny word, and something you don't normally hear everyday as an adult. And even though I make fun of comics that are very dirty, it's helped me have an advantage in this business, that makes me unique that I'm actually not talking about those things. I think being clean, but not being the Dave Coulier real-cheesy clean, a way of being actually funny and not being crap.
Andrew: Tell me about your time on NBC's Last Comic Standing, from how you got on so quickly, to your experience with it.
Jeff: I was on the show, and they did a thing where Bill Belamy would go from town to town and try to find comedians, and it was going to be a segment on Last Comic Standing where Bill Belamy scouted comics, and if he scouted you, you leap-frogged the audition process. I didn't even audition for the show, he just came and saw me, and said, "You're going to be on Last Comic Standing".
Andrew: How did you deal with your first taste of fame; getting recognized on the street, going from relatively unknown to prime-time TV on NBC?
Jeff: I loved it. I think everyone would love it. It was amazing. I was humbled. I don't ever want to take that for granted, but it was such a surreal thing to not have to change anything I'm doing as far as my career, I still just go on stage and tell jokes. And to be able to go outside one day and no one knows who I am, and then the next, people would start to recognize me at the airport and say things like, "Oh my gosh! We're rooting for you!" Strangers! It's just a great feeling.
Andrew: Who are some comics that you respect, growing up and currently.
Jeff: I am a huge fan of Daniel Tosh. We're not very similar on stage, but I'm a huge fan of his writing, and the way he looks at things and the way he can make a point, even if I wouldn't necessarily agree with it, it still makes me laugh, he is a regular at the comedy club that I'm a regular at, The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa beach, and I'm way more of a fan than anything else. I'm just a huge, huge fan of everythin that he does. Also Brian Regan, and we are similar in the way that he doesn't try to be, but he just is super clean and he is just a really respectable comedian who you would never be offended at anything he says, whether you're a kid, adult, an old person, a black person, Asian, whatever, you're not going to be offended by him. So Brian Regan, Daniel Tosh, and there's a comedian named Harland Williams who I really like, just because he is crazy. And he is a good blend of Brian Regan and Daniel Tosh, because sometimes he says things that are way out there, and sometimes it will be super clean and just silly, but he is always just like-able. I feel that way about all three, they are very like-able and you see them and think, "Man I'd love to be this guys friend."
Andrew: So what is the next step for Jeff Dye, where are you headed in terms of your career?
Jeff: I'm going to continue doing stand-up continuously like I have been doing, I've been working on a couple acting things for some comedic movies. And that is my ultimate goal. I never want to be Sean Penn, or Brad Pitt, but I would love to be the lead in a Judd Apatow movie, kind of like Will Ferrell, that even though a movie looks kind of silly, people will still go see it because Will Ferrell is in it, and they trust that he will be funny. I'd like to someday have that kind of reputation. I want people to think, "Oh this is going to be good, Jeff's in it!"
Andrew: Can you talk to me a little bit about The Comedy & Magic Club? Is it different, is it similar, what is your experience with it in terms of all of the different clubs that you play?
Jeff: I say this non-biasedly, that The Comedy & Magic Club is easily the best comedy club I have been to, and not because of the comedy or audiences, but they way that they treat the comedians. It's unbelievable the way that they respect comedy, they are always super professional, you'll never see the owner or any of the employees talking trash about a comedian. I'm sure they have their opinions, but they still are really professional. They tape all of your sets and give you a DVD, you get to park on their roof, free food, free alcohol, everyone is really polite. The way that any comic would dream to be treated is how every comic is treated there. It's truly, truly unique that they run it that way, it's really different in comparison to other clubs around the country.