When you think about the UK comedy scene what is the first thing that comes to mind?… Well some of us may not know that the UK offers a hub for comedy and even the urban comedy genre. On July 16th (Sunday) comedian Travis Jay is about to further step into the forefront with newest indie-special, Travis Jay: Seriously Joking. Before the upcoming specials release on ‘Jump Off TV’; Travis spoke with us hear at Comedy Hype about the special, why he’s going indie, and the difference of UK Comedy Vs. American Comedy.
UPDATE: WATCH THE SPECIAL BELOW
CH: At one point it was widely known for artists to travel to America as a way to further their careers. But with the internet it seems that you no longer have to travel far in order to touch a bigger audience. Is that still the case?
TJ: In the UK we grew up watching you guys. A lot of our black references from growing up is like Kings Of Comedy, or Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. So all of our black references are American. But the last few years there has been a shift that we’re not looking to America for approval anymore. There isn’t a strength or desire to go to America for validation. We looked up to our cousins in the states but now we’re starting to feel ourselves. It has touched on music as well. That’s why Grime rap is so popular over here… As the comedians we’re kind of following suit. If you came to the UK six years ago everyone sounded like a Def Jam comedian. [Laughs] These guys were taking straight Def Jam material now we’re finding our voice.
CH: In our research we’ve noticed glimpses of boxing references; where does this connection to boxing come from?
TJ: Yeah I boxed for like 5 years…it’s random how I got into boxing. I was two years into stand-up, just had my little girl and that was like the hardest time in life. I was broke. I was working all the time and wasn’t making enough money. As a stand-up I took like 6 months off. The logic behind getting into boxing was if I can do something like this and pull it off then there must be something special about me. That was a challenge to pick myself. Every once in a while usually a big project will follow.
CH: Speaking of boxing, Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy are two big boxing fans. For conversation, if you had to put those to head to head in the comedy ring who would come out on top?
TJ: I’m going to Dave Chappelle. Dave Chappelle is my era. I feel like I kind of missed Eddie Murphy. When I watch Eddie I don’t connect with him as much as I do with Dave. It’s hard for me to separate these two… this is like Ali and Tyson. The way Dave engages and he’s so on the money with political references … he can do political in front of anybody. What people know and love and Eddie for is not on that same wave. I think of Coming To America.
CH: Are there any tools from boxing that you use for stand-up?
TJ: I think it’s the mindset that I use from boxing… It’s just literally “you’re not taking this from me”…I’m just confident by default. I’m a real story-teller.
CH: Is there a big difference in humor with UK Comedy Vs. American Comedy?
TJ: I feel like American humor is designed to be a lot more slicker. It’s very much about rhythm. They look cool all the time. The UK beat is more harsh and can be right at you to the point it’s a bit unconformable… Just recently I was in the Dominican Republic and they had a Wild N’ Out theme show. DC Young Fly, Karlous Miller, and Rip Michaels were there. I was just there on holiday but I decided to ask for 5 minutes. The promoter was kind of panicking because Chico Bean couldn’t make it, and they thought Karlous wasn’t going to make it too. The promoter ends up asking if I can be able to host. So I go up there to see if I can make black americans laughs and they loved it man.
CH: One of the biggest stars that has come from the UK to the states is actor Idris Elba, if Idris was to get into comedy with a film, what comedy do you think he could pull off?
TJ: I would like to see him do like a Coming To America because he has an African influence. He does have a sense of humor but he has that African influence for real. He would take it to another level I think. I think he could do it.
CH: You have a bit in your newest special Seriously Joking about The Black Lives Matter march, so how are race relations in the UK?
TJ: Yeah I actually went to the Black Lives Matter March when it went international. That was something crazy. I actually felt that the black communities that we had kind of synced up. I think it was Philando Castile’s shooting that was the call for around the world.
CH: What made you go with an independent comedy special this time around?
TJ: We filmed this at the YouTube Space in London. We had a nice studio audience in there. It was a real intimate crowd, and it was exactly how I wanted it. I wanted it to have the naked type of comedian feel, no special effects, just me working. That’s where my strength is. In the UK black comedy is marginalized, you would think we don’t exist. You get a few comedians who are connected but it’s not reflective of the black comedy circuit. I’m following the musician rules. So with this I’m thinking about let me go to the audience. My mother is a comedian, her production company is called Straight To Audience. Cut out the middle man. If you are just somewhere because an agent put you in a good place, the moment they drop you, you’re done.
CH: Why did decide to call your new project ‘Seriously Joking’?
TJ: The special is called Travis Jay: Seriously Joking and as a man., I’m quiet a serious person. You wouldn’t meet me and figure out I’m a comedian in one conversation. You got some people who are just on 24/7. When you see me on stage is when I come alive. Seriously joking is kind of my style.
CH: As you mentioned your mother (Angie Le Mar) is a comedian, at what point did you realize she was a comedian?
TJ: Growing up my mum was just funny to me. I just knew that when she said she was going to work; it was only in the evening. She was always busy. She directs as well as her stand-up. I’ll never forget one day, I was reading The Voice newspaper. I was skipping to the back to see the latest on one of my favorite football players and then I saw her double page spread talking about her new show coming out. That’s when it hit me and started to pay attention. But when I became a comedian is when I really learned about her career.
CH: Is there something form your mother’s career that you apply to yours?
TJ: Her fearlessness. I’ve always been the one to be daring and when I look at her career she was daring. Even this special Seriously Joking is daring, I’m doing this special to put online. A lot of comedians are afraid to put their stuff online because they might lose the material. I think it’s going to be a game changer and I’m hoping it inspires enough people to do something similar.
Travis Jay: Seriously Joking is set to be online with Jump Off TV this Sunday.