On the Comedy Diamond, Jay Larson is Hitting for the Cycle

Jay Larson
Photo by Tyler Ross, courtesy of Jay Larson
Jay Larson

Jay Larson has lots to discuss ahead of his show here Saturday night at The Secret Group. He’s saying goodbye to a beloved podcast and hello to a new one. His stand-up special, Me Being Me, is available for purchase on his website. He’s got a role in the recently released, SXSW award-winning John Hyams’ film, All Square.

But, it’s Fall Classic time and the Massachusetts native’s Boston Red Sox are squaring off against his adopted hometown’s Los Angeles Dodgers, so we begin there. Who’s he rooting for?

“When you grow up in Massachusetts you root for everybody from Boston, that’s just the way it goes. When my teams aren’t in it, I have other teams. Like, I love that Houston team. I love it. I love how much young talent there is, I love that pitching staff, I love the moves they’ve made, I love that (Red Sox manager Alex) Cora was their bench coach last year. Of course, when we’re playing Houston I want to whoop their ass because that’s my team,” he admits.

“So now we’re playing the Dodgers and my son, you know, we got him a couple of Dodgers things, so he’s like, ‘We’re rooting for the Dodgers.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa, buddy – let’s slow down. We’re rooting for the Red Sox.’”

We chat a bit more about Boston’s talented lineup (sorry, ‘Stros fans) and it occurs to us Larson is a multi-tool player in comedy, one who’s taking his cuts and, more often than not, getting hits. His podcast, The CrabFeast, co-hosted by Ryan Sickler, is a comedy fan favorite. His stand-up has been featured on Conan, Comedy Central and elsewhere and has been lauded as “perfect comedy” by This American Life’s Ira Glass. His bit, “Wrong Number,” is a prime example of his storytelling style and has millions of YouTube views. He’s also an actor, who’s been in Karyn Kusama’s creepy thriller, The Invitation, and the Twin Peaks series return.

To keep the baseball theme going, Jay Larson is comedy's ultimate utility player and he's hitting for the cycle.

“I moved to Los Angeles initially to be a writer and an actor so those were two things I was always going to do. And then I kind of fell into stand-up,” he said. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve been getting some more acting opportunities because I really enjoy it and writing is tough. You have to be able to be good at something that you’re not doing all the time when you’re doing all of these things.

“Like, I’ve sold a couple of TV shows that I wrote and they didn’t go,” he continued. “I think what would be the ultimate is if you had a show on the air that you’re writing and acting in. Then, you can be writing and acting at the same time.

“So it is tough, I just really like all of them and sometimes I ask the universe, ‘Will you tell me what to do? You know, like get me a job so I don’t have to worry about it?’ But it doesn’t always work that way.”

Larson said if there’s a constant to his work – no matter the project or medium – it’s human connection. That’s the focus of his current tour.

“The whole tour is called 'Mostly Crowd Work,' so I mix stand-up, like jokes, storytelling, with actual crowd work with the audience - talking with them, interacting - and it’s been amazing so far,” he said. “I like it because it makes each show unique, it makes it different and it’s a real chance for people to see comedy happening right in front of them. I think it’s a little different than the normal stand-up.”

“I personally always gravitated towards crowd work because I enjoy people and I like talking to people and I love interacting with people. So, for me, it was important to do that,” he noted. “All my stand-up is grounded in human interaction, me talking to other people. A lot of my jokes and stories come from me interacting with people.”

Larson’s fans might recall that interaction at work on the Esquire TV series Best Bars in America. He and co-host Sean Patton traversed the country chatting with bar patrons in diverse settings. Since 2012, he and Sickler have traded tales with fellow comics on The CrabFeast. Listeners recently learned the show is ending later this year.

“I loved everything about what we did with The CrabFeast. We were able to not only get some great stories of ours out there but bring on comedians and hear some amazing stories. Like, I’ve never laughed more than I would in the hours that we would record with the podcast – and, to get the feedback from the fans across the country, the world really, telling us how much it meant to them and the way that it affected them in a positive way was something that I’ll never be able to replace. I just feel like it was a really unique podcast that affected a lot of people,” he said.

“That being said, I’m a firm believer that sometimes you need to let go of really positive things in your life to take a chance on yourself to try and do something bigger or something more fitting to who you are," he continued. "So, I am launching a new podcast in January which I’m really excited about. I’ve already started recording some new episodes and have some really cool guests lined up.”

The new project will be called "Thru Line." Each episode will feature an item (“like a typewriter or binoculars or upholstery,” Larson said) which is used as a "through line" to prompt the guest interviews.

“I’m really excited about it, it’ll be fun. I mean, it’s completely different than what The CrabFeast is and that’s something I wanted to do, I wanted to be different than what we did over there because that was something special and unique.”

Larson’s acting credentials are growing, too. He’s in the upcoming Netflix comedy Wine Country, produced and directed by Amy Poehler. And he was in the 2017 return of Twin Peaks.

“I had known about Twin Peaks and known about David Lynch, I just wasn’t a giant Lynch fanatic. There are so many people that are huge David Lynch fans and when I got to set to meet him the first day, I got introduced to him and he goes, ‘Oh, how are you Jay?’ and then he immediately gave me direction for every scene that I was going to do – and I was gonna be there like five to seven days over the course of like a month,” Larson recalled.

“He saw me, knew I was (cast as) the limo driver, gave me direction, told me everything that was going on in all these scenes – and these scenes happen in crazy different parts of the show. I literally wanted to be like, ‘Hey man, do you need me to take notes right now? I don’t know what’s going on!’ It was unbelievable, the fact that he was juggling all these different characters and places and locations and he was able to do that right there. It was amazing. Just an amazing guy, great sense of humor, he was super nice.”

Also nice? Houston and Houstonians, according to Larson. He’s been to town before and to The Secret Group and he’s eager to return and literally work the crowd.

“I love it," he said of the city. "I had never been there and we went out there for the Come and Take It Comedy Festival last year and I was so impressed with the comedy scene and the people and just the town in general.” 

One slight problem about his set Saturday night? It’ll be happening during Game 4 of the World Series, possibly the series clincher. We ask if he’s got a prediction for the outcome.

“I would like to see Sox in four just because I feel like we’re definitely gonna take (games) one and two in Boston,” he said (note: he was correct). “I still think it’s gonna be,…I dunno,...maybe Sox in five?”

Jay Larson performs Saturday, October 27 at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. Doors at 7 p.m., $20.