The Sounds of Silence

I recently read a book by Patton Oswalt in which he referenced that an important aspect of comedy is “being comfortable with the silence.”

The idea being that if the crowd is silent, you have to be comfortable enough to continue, and confident enough to push forward in spite of it. It is just part of being a comedian, especially if you are a very good one. Tonight, during Jay Mohr’s show at the Hollywood Improv, there were incredibly long moments of silence. Not because Jay was not funny, but because Jay was comfortable enough to lead the audience to places that most comedians would not think of leading them. A huge part of what makes Jay Mohr such an incredible comic, and an incredible human being, is that you feel connected to him when he talks. You know the feeling you get when you walk into a car dealership and the guy says, “Hello!” and you respond, “Bull shit! That’s bull shit!” The guy has not said anything of substance yet, but you know already. You know that he is full of shit. JJ, which is what all the cool kids are calling him nowadays, does not have an ounce of bull shit in his body. He is impeccable with his word, and the audience feels it. After the show I turned to long time Jay Mohr fan, and noted handsome devil, Brad Hutchings, and said, “You look good in this light.” And then I said, “The beautiful thing about Jay is that even when he is talking about something that is not quote/unquote “funny” you never look at your watch and wait for it to pass. You sit in it with him because for one thing you’re entranced with him and what he has to say, and for another thing you know he’s going to round 3rd any moment and make us all laugh again.” Tonight Jay was vulnerable, and I have seen him be vulnerable at shows….it’s what he does. However, tonight was different, and Jay brought an incredibly personal piece of himself on stage…and it was beautiful.

I know what a lot of you are thinking, you are thinking, “Kev, everyone knows you love Jay Mohr, and everyone knows that you and him play croquet on Sundays at a private country club, so how can you subjectively review his comedy?” Well first of all, we play croquet on Saturdays, and second of all, it’s very easy to review him, because all I have to do to is be honest. I have seen Jay at least a dozen times, and I literally laugh out loud at the stories that he tells at his shows even though I have heard them a dozen times. Believe me, it is not because I am easily amused, but it is because as Jay so often says, he does not “tell jokes.” Jay talks to you, you personally in the audience, every single one of you. And it’s not the old “so I was flying in from Seattle the other day and guess what happened…” Never that. Jay basically tells you about what is going on in his life, or what has happened in the past, and he says it in a very funny way because he is a great comedian. Every once in a while he will throw out something out there that I suppose you can call a bit if you really want to, like Andrew Dice Christ, which is the best thing in the entire world, “Aye! You gonna eat that bread even though it’s my body you f-ing animals! Ohhhhh!!” Even then though, it’s not really a bit because it relates to something happening with his son at the moment, and believe me JJ is not practicing this in the mirror, he is just running with it. I could be completely off base and wrong, and Jay, when you read this please correct me if I am, but I do not think Jay is at all worried if the audience will laugh or not. Jay knows, repeat knows, that they will laugh. And sometimes when the audience has a mild response, he even says, “That joke was way funnier than the reaction it got.” No BS. Jay is not trying to rack up laughs, he is trying to put on a show for you, a show that just happens to be funny as hell. Be honest with the people, just talk to them, the laughs will take care of themselves. Jay has cracked the code on that one.

Let me give you the statistics of the night before I leave you. How many minutes was Jay on? A lot, I do not look at my watch when Jay is on stage because you want to give this man your full attention. How was the crowd? Solid. They loved it. Especially this woman sitting behind Brad that laughed like it would be her last one every time JJ made a funny. I ain’t mad at you sister! What did Jay cover? Big balls (not his of course), his son’s most recent fascination, gynecology, kids, and an incredibly personal thing that I will let JJ himself share with you when and how he wants to. I will say this though, Jay Mohr is a brave man who is not afraid to be human and flawed on stage, and he is beautiful. He is my friend and I love him. See, subjective all the way.

Finally, I want to reiterate that the beauty in Jay’s comedy is that it is not contrived, it is not modified, it is not constructed, it just is. It simply is. Jay’s stories and the things he shares with the audience will stay with them much longer than the next act that walks on stage, whoever the next act happens to be. JJ will outlast them.

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-Kevin Ortiz

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