Back in March 2009, a young, up-and-coming comedian by the name of Jay Dee appeared on the cover of Urban Tulsa Weekly. Based on his growing buzz and reputation, a "go get 'em" attitude and an unrelenting work ethic, we had a strong hunch that he'd be one of the talents to break out of Tulsa and start making headway on a national level.
Three years later, he may not have his own special on Comedy Central yet, but he's made amazing progress and could be well on his way. Locally, he has won ABoT awards for Best Comedian and Best Individual Stage Performer in 2010 and followed up with a 2011 Tulsey Award in the entertainment category. Although his local appearances are far less frequent than they used to be, he's also taken part in the Rock the Hunger and Admiral Twin benefit concerts as well as making semi-annual appearances at his old haunting grounds, The Looney Bin in South Tulsa.
Almost two years ago exactly, in May 2010, Jay Dee recorded his first comedy CD during his show at The Looney Bin (coincidentally, the first comedy CD to be recorded in Tulsa). Although the disc has more than paid for itself and continues to get airplay on Sirius/XM radio and Pandora, he cringes slightly when he hears it in rotation.
"When I recorded that disc, I really thought I was ready to do a comedy album," he told me recently, "and I was proud of it for about ... oh, two weeks. Looking back, I see how immature and unseasoned I was, but I guess it was good to get it done and have something out there."
"It's been both good and bad in that it's gotten a lot of airplay on satellite radio, sold pretty well and helped me continue to tour and get more shows, but at the same time, that's the impression people have of me and I've learned so much and gotten better since then."
Part of that growth process has been a heavy touring schedule that has seen Jay Dee play in 40 states to date. Once he started touring nearly two years ago and realized he had played in 10 states in just a few months, Jay Dee set a goal of playing all 50 states, which is just within reach. With a schedule that currently has him booked into the late fall, he will have played in 45 states by the end of the year and he figures he will be able to accomplish his goal by mid 2013.
When asked why he set such a lofty goal, he explained that "It's really just to be able to reach as many people across all 50 states as possible." He also shared that "Ideally, I figure once I've played all 50 states, I'll know where my stronger markets are and I can start picking where I want to play. I've done well in places like Denver, New York, Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach, but you've got to pay your dues and play the shitty gigs to get the good ones."
For Jay Dee, it's all about paying your dues, refining your craft and getting better at what you do. Although his touring has been paying for itself and he's at a point where he could probably turn to comedy as his full-time job, he continues to hold a steady job in Tulsa, while touring on weekends and on his vacation time. He still doesn't have a business manager, mostly because "I don't really think I'm on that level yet, and also because I've always tried to make things happen on my own," he shared. "So far, I've been able to handle things myself -- and there's really not anyone else I trust to handle my career at this point."
Don't think that the hard work hasn't started to pay off, however. I've kept up with Jay Dee over the past couple of years, getting together for an update and a few laughs over a beer on a semi-regular occasion and his career really is building and beginning to take off. Besides performing across the country (Don't worry, not all of them are nightmare gigs), Jay Dee has made headway with successful shows in New York City and even performed for our troops in the US military.
He'll also be appearing on the big screen this summer with a cameo appearance in the Chris Kattan film "Just Crazy Enough." Although it initially started out as just an appearance as an extra, Jay Dee's screen time expanded as shooting went on; and although he doesn't have any official lines, it proved to be a great working and networking experience for him, which could open more doors in the future.
With all of the hard work he's put in, Jay Dee is performing this weekend at the Looney Bin (6808 S Memorial) as the featured comedian supporting headliner Caroline Picard during a four night stand that runs from Wednesday, May 23 through Saturday, May 26. He'll wrap up the week by recording the Saturday night performances for his next comedy CD.
Although he considered recording somewhere else, he ultimately decided it was best to record again in Tulsa, in front of a hometown audience. "When I hear stuff off the last album, I cringe when I hear it," he said recently, "and I was going to record again last year, but didn't feel like I was quite ready yet. Now, I've had two years to sharpen up. It's more about putting out something of better quality than just getting something out there."
When looking at comedy albums, however, you have to remember that each disc is a snapshot in time. With that in mind, Jay Dee will probably be shaking his head at his latest performances too within a couple months' time, but that's part of the reason he continues to improve -- he's not arrogant and never satisfied with where he's at.
When discussing the success that he's seen so far and his goals for the future, Jay Dee shared that "Honestly, I never feel like I'm there yet. When I first started, I thought 'If I just get to the point where I'm emceeing, I've made it.' Then it was when I'm touring nationally and when I'm getting airplay. I've realized I'll probably never feel like I've 'made it' because I'm constantly moving the bar. With every goal I reach, I set a new one."
As for now, Jay Dee continues to work the road and pay his dues while working toward his goal of playing all 50 states. He admits that he's saving Hawaii for last as a personal reward and celebration. He also admits that "Having gone out on the road, I've lost some of my relevance here and I'm not as connected as I'd like to be. Once I finish the 50 states, I'm going to concentrate on Tulsa more, as well as a few other markets that I've done well in."
This weekend, however, Jay Dee will be in town and you'll not only have a chance to see one of Tulsa's hardest working comedians, but also be a part of his latest comedy album. He'll be recording both the 8pm and 10:30pm shows on Saturday, May 26 and cover is $10. You can make reservations by calling The Looney Bin at 918.392.5653 or purchase tickets online at looneybincomedy.com.
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