Interview: Funnyman Kay J


K Jay is a singular presence in contemporary comedy. Yours truly had the good fortune to catch the Twin Cities ace this past summer when he headlined Sol Testimony’s Soul Sounds Jam Session, and I nearly fell over. K Jay is a natural-born pro whose inventive material, precise timing, and deadpan delivery lean on the fundamentals of the craft to execute laugh-yourself-sick originality. His deadpan delivery ranks with the best.

See for yourself: He’s a hit on YouTube, doing the wildly successful “Whopper Freakout” with Asa Thibodaux and Kevin Craft as The Rejected Brotherz of Comedy. On February 10, he’s at Willy’s in Coon Rapids.

What made you decide to be funny?
I was doing a show in Phoenix at National Association of Black Jounalists reading a poem of mine, “African Lips,” in a spoken-word contest. Everybody was reading these serious poems about slavery and the black struggle. I had no idea that I was reading the poem so funny that people were literally on the floor laughing. I was just hanging out with my ex-wife—who was so mad at me because I didn’t read it serious, but everybody [loved it].

What gives you your confidence?
First and foremost the Creator. And watching and studying great comics, just paying homage to the art form. You know, they call stand-up comedy the bastard of art forms.

You did your show It’s Hard Being Tall one year at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Just last year, you were at the Fringe doing your new show Late Nite Poet at Patrick’s Cabaret. Got nice noise from the critics. Now, you’re blowing up with “Whopper Freakout.” Ready to rest on your laurels and just coast?
What laurels? The constant damn bill collectors I got to disguise my voice from? I’m as good as my last show. Mom taught me to never feel content in gaining improvement. There is always room for growth.

Any comic can be at his or her best in front of a packed house. About a week ago, it was
a slow night at Pepito’s. What, seven people? Most of them hunched over dinner in conversation. You were your usual self, timing intact, fresh material, the whole nine. How’d you do it?

I do every night like it might be my last show, I can’t take nothing for granted. I want people to enjoy life with me, come along with me, enjoy the ride, buy some drinks, live it up a little bit.

Why you cuss so much in your routines? Can’t you just get up onstage on be correct?
What is correct? We speak a language of mixed culture that’s been claimed by Anglo-Saxons. I grew up around cussin’ and we’re a product of our history, so fuck you, buddy.

Aren’t you scared that if black audiences find out you trained at Brave New World, you’ll be branded a sell-out and have to turn in your secret decoder ring?
Hell, naw. They ain’t went to not one class with me. And when I ain’t funny, they the first ones to criticize me.

You’ve told me you owe a lot of your comic gift to your dad, Stanley Pierce.
My pops, he the man. He’s three times more funnier than I am. Pops is where it all started. He had me fixing his drink when I was young, flipping 33-speed records over, talking about, “Boy go fix me a smiley and put it in the cup and don’t put too much sweet and sour in it.” I did, and I would say, “Here, Pops.” And he would say, “You put too much sweet and sour, Go fix another. You gonna learn how to fix a drink.” So, I would drink it and fix another, because we couldn’t waste in our house. After three or four tries, I came back with the bottle. He said, “Where’s my drink?” I said, “Dad I ain’t gonna lie. I can’t drink no more of this—fix your own damn drink.”

What’s next?
Well, I just got back from Johnny Rogers’s new club in Omaha, Jet’s Sports Bar and Grill. And you know about Goonies. Then, Umma get some rest.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.