Pop Goes The News – Big Jay Oakerson returns to Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival this month to host The Nasty Show and the OffJFL show The Worst as well as to do a set at the Marc Maron Gala.
The 44-year-old describes The Worst as “a storytelling show” in which his fellow comedians share stories about their worst experiences. “It can be anything from the worst sandwich they ever had to their worst death in the family,” he explained. “It’s a very fun show.”
Oakerson’s first JFL appearance, at the New Faces showcase more than 15 years ago, wasn’t quite the worst – but it came close.
“I was so nervous. I did okay on stage, made no splash,” he told Pop Goes The News. “The stakes felt so high for me. I was having such a bad time at the shows because I was just not doing well.”
Part of the problem was he listened to his then-manager’s “terrible” advice to focus on jokes about his family – in hopes he’d land a sitcom deal. “But, I don’t do a lot of family comedy,” he noted.
He also agreed to go on stage in a short-sleeve buttoned shirt, straight-leg jeans and slip-on dress shoes. “It was the complete antithesis of how I would ever dress on stage.”
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Oakerson still made an impression and eventually earned a spot in The Nasty Show line-up at JFL. This year marks the first time he’s hosting. “I can’t believe they offered it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
As its name makes clear, the show – featuring Josh Adam Meyers, Liza Treyger, Robert Kelly, Sophie Buddle and Yamaneika Saunders – is not for snowflakes.
“It’s called The Nasty Show. If you don’t like this kind of thing, avoid it,” said Oakerson. And yet, “people still come and they’re like, ‘They can’t say that!’”
Wait, people get offended at a show that’s transparently and unabashedly nasty?
“It’s pretty crazy that you can make a joke on stage at a comedy club and there’s people laughing at it and someone else goes, ‘You’re a Nazi!’ The argument will always be, ‘Look at all the crazy shit you just said.’
“I’m doing stories. I’m trying to entertain people. You’re just pointing a finger and calling me a Nazi. It’s a pretty wild accusation.”
Not surprisingly, “none of them want to have a conversation about it. I’ve asked many times,” said Oakerson. “Why don’t we talk and you’ll see how ridiculous these claims are? They always say no.”
Oakerson said his teenaged daughter Izabella, who has been mentioned in his act in some cringe-worthy ways, is not offended “at all” by what he says on stage.
“She’s almost puzzled why people are so upset,” he said. “She gets that I’m making jokes and then she sees an article where someone’s calling her dad a Nazi or a racist.
“It a pretty harsh thing to call someone in an article and then walk away from.”
Big Jay Oakerson hosts The Nasty Show from July 20-24 and 26-28 at MTelus and The Worst on July 27, 28 and 30 at Café Cléopatra. He also appears in The Marc Maron Gala on July 30 at Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts. Click here for tickets. Just For Laughs runs July 13-31.