The Transparent Comedy of Sam Jay

What happens to an illegally parked frog? It gets toad away. HaHaHa! Yes, that may have been corny, but if you want actual comedy then we welcome you to read about Sam Jay below. She sits down with EBONY to talk about her new stand-up, Salute Me or Shoot Me. She also discusses her mental health, her views on comedy, and her past.

EBONY: How did you mentally prepare for this performance?

Sam Jay: A lot of touring, you know, just a lot of doing stand-up. I probably toured for about a year and a half or so. Doing shows, getting the set under my feet, you know, and just building the confidence in it by doing it a bunch of times.

What is the funniest joke in this performance?

I don’t know. There are so many fun ones to me that make me chuckle. I don’t know what I like the funniest. I really like white people enslaved to the beat. I like that one a lot. That one’s fun.

What made you choose empathy as a theme for this stand-up?

The theme kind of chose itself, you know, the more I was doing the set and, you know, adding jokes and writing new jokes, the more it just seemed like that was underlying the conversation that was being had. So it kind of presented itself to be honest.

Can you describe what life, for you, was like 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, I think about my mental state more than I think about anything else. Ten years ago, I was way, way less confident. Because I feel like I’ve been doing comedy for about 10 years, maybe going on 11 years. I started in like 2013. So, man, I was just so driven, but also so fucking scared. I’m just doing open mics. And I have like, this idea of what I want out of comedy, but it’s very small stuff. At that point. I’m like, “Man, I just want to do four mics a week in the city.” And then it’s like, “oh, I just want to get booked on this show,” and it kind of just builds from there. And then you’re like, “oh, I want to do a late-night set, you know?” So 10 years ago, I was just trying to get up as much as I could. I was still working at a John Hancock and insurance rooms I was doing that in the day and doing comedy at night. I was just really excited, but really scared because I finally found something I really wanted.

"Comedian Sam Jay speaks onstage"
Comedian Sam Jay speaks onstage in New York City. Image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

How do you deal with the anxiety?

You just learn how to live with it. It’s like you just understand that it’s a part of it. The nerves is a part of it so you learn to walk with it and not allow it to lead. But you’re always gonna kind of be right here. And that’s okay. Because that means I’m present. And I’m dialed in, and I care about this. And I want it and that’s okay. And then you just realize it’s a natural part of it, and don’t fight it. But also you don’t feed it. 

Is there anything off-limits that you don’t joke about?

No, I just, I just try not to joke about things that I don’t have jokes about. I’m not one of those type of comedians, where I’m like, “I need to find a joke about Joe Biden.” If I don’t have anything to say about that, and I don’t have a thought about that, then I don’t joke about it. I don’t try to just make it forced just because it’s the topic of the day or whatever. And also, sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m adding anything to that conversation. If it’s like, “oh, well, we’ve heard that take a million times.” And that’s really the only take I got, then I leave it alone, typically. 

Are there any accolades that you desire?

I just want to keep getting better at it. I think every award season you have this “Oh, I want an Emmy” or “I want to be nominated for this or that.” I think that is like directly, at least for me, it’s directly connected to how hard I worked at something, and just wanting like that work to be acknowledged in some way. But when I really get out of my little running everybody’s race and you know, kind of watching what everybody else is doing mode and I’m just like, chilling with myself. I’m like, “if you’ve never gotten an Emmy would you feel like your career wasn’t shit?” and no, I wouldn’t, you know, absolutely wouldn’t. I just want to keep growing and keep getting better and expanding my ability to create things wherever that goes.

Who are the next stand-up comedians we should be paying attention to?

Kevin Iso, Reggie Conquest. Ryan Donahue. Paris Sashay

Who is the Queen of Comedy?

It’s all like I feel like everybody’s got like their queen in their circle of things. You know? I mean, there’s so many little like pockets, you know?  There are some people that say Sommore you know what I mean? But then there’s some people who might feel like it’s like a Michelle Wolf or Beth Stelling if you’re like, on that side of it.

What about the King?

Dave Chappelle. I will say he’s doing the most touring. He’s doing all specials like him like successfully putting out specials that are really great. Back to back to back. I have to say Dave right now.

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Updated: October 19, 2023 — 9:02 am