Interview with comedian Jason Weems by Suzanne 7/28/20
This interview was done via email. I watched his comedy special. He’s very funny! I hope you can check it out.
1. What age were you when you first started writing jokes or performing?
I was 15 or 16 when I first remember writing jokes, and I got my first taste of being on a stage (with a mic in my hand) in front of a crowd in high school. I hosted a fashion show and remember the feeling of getting big laughs from simply sharing my thoughts. It instantly grabbed me, and I fell deeply in love with comedy. It wasn’t until years later in college that I tried my first official attempt at standup. Up until that point I was the host who was surprisingly funny, but there was no pressure because there was no expectation. It’s a completely new level of pressure & expertise required when you’re announced as a comedian and people who paid money actually EXPECT for you to be funny. Let’s just say the first attempt wasn’t very fruitful, LOL.
2. Which comedians did you watch growing up and that influenced you?
I watched whoever was accessible when I first got into standup. Some of my earliest memories of standup were Comic View on BET and those HBO half-hour specials that used to come on. I was a student to it all though. The Original Kings Of Comedy had a really profound impression on me. I loved everything about that special. The ingenuity, the energy, the creativity, the jewels they dropped, it all was scripture to me. Some of my influences comedically have been Chappelle, Rock, DL Hughley, Jamie Foxx, Robin Harris, Tommy Davidson and I’ve got a ton of peers who I admire and who inspire me.
3. Are other people in your family funny as well?
Absolutely. No one that has made a website like me or anything, LOL, but definitely funny. My Father is probably my earliest comedic influence. He’s a stoic man to the majority of the world that meets him, but to his family & those closest to him, he’s a straight FOOL !!! He introduced me & my brother to an array of horribly funny movies and moments in life. You know those movies that are so terrible that they’re actually good somehow. I can still clearly remember sitting on the couch with him and my older brother when I was little watching the worst movies and just crying laughing. I’m talking straight weeping with laughter. My wife & kids are in a league of their own and ready for their own sitcom. They’re just waiting on the right money deal to come through. They make me run away laughing its so damn funny.
4. Doing standup, do you travel a lot? Is your wife supportive of that?
I did a fair amount of traveling pre-Rona, pre-Dying & pre-Fatherhood, but I try to keep it as close to home as possible nowadays. I’m not a big national name just yet (hopefully my new comedy special Unknown changes that), so I really try to make the gigs I take make sense. My family is priority one always for me, so really being selective with my calendar is important. I take my boys to school and pick them up daily. I do homework with them and never miss a thing, so I select shows that support that. Shows that I can drive to and be back home by the morning to get my boys up. The ones I get on a plane for are either career-advancing opportunities or bank account advancing opportunities. Everything else is a hard pass, LOL. Luckily, my wife who is my biggest fan has always supported me in all things comedy. She is in many ways the catalyst that finally made me take the full leap into it.
5. Have you gotten much feedback from fans or others since you almost died? Obviously there’s been a lot of press…
So much. I’ve had too many meaningful exchanges with folks to remember them all, but there has been a ton of feedback. All positive. Whether its been people commenting on my story who heard Season 3 of First Day Back Podcast where the entire ordeal is masterfully documented by Tally Abecassis, or folks who came to the filming of my latest comedy special Unknown which drops on Amazon August 4th, 2020. A lot of people have reached out sharing their own tales with death & their feelings surrounding it all. I’ve had some really great conversations and connections with folks.
6. Did you go to college, and if so, what did you major in?
Indeed I did. I attended the mighty Morgan State University here in my beautiful hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. I kind of majored in Elementary Education, but they were tripping, so I took the quick exit and graduated with a degree in Family & Consumer Sciences. Which is a fancy way of saying Home Economics aka “I Wasted 40 Grand Mom & Dad”.
7. How many years have you been doing standup?
September 27, 2006 is my standup comedy anniversary. So this fall will mark 14 years for me if the world doesn’t self destruct before then.
8. Who is the most famous comedian that you’ve met while doing comedy and traveling?
I’ve met a lot of famous comics during my years of service, LOL, but hands down it would have to be Dave Chappelle. The funniest thing, it wasn’t even in a comedy environment. It wasn’t at a club, or in Los Angeles or NYC at some late night spot. It was right here in my lovely hometown of Baltimore, Maryland at a fundraiser for his God-brother Ben Jealous who was running as the Democratic nominee for Governor here in Maryland. My wife Dionne Joyner- Weems and one of her closest friends and business partners Shelonda Stokes finagled the opportunity for me to attend and I took full advantage of it. I’m a big fan of still writing by hand, and for buying beautiful blank cards and writing real sentiments to those you love and care for. Dave Chappelle is one of those people for me, so that’s what I did. I found the greatest blank card and spilled all of my thoughts & gratitude for him into it. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna get it in his hands and how it would be received, but I wasn’t leaving that swanky ass garden party without giving one of my greatest inspirations his flowers while he is here. About 30 minutes into the soirée, my wife and I were speaking to the hosts of the event about their lovely home when I saw Chappelle and his publicist Carla Simms walk-in (lovely woman). I gave my wife the “Chappelle and his publicist Carla Simms just walked in eyes” and I broke away from telling the host that his home was lovely, LOL. By the time I made it out to the garden area, Chappelle was already swarmed by everybody and their ancestors. I played it cool, and the universe conspired. A few minutes later, it was as if the comedic forces that govern our world saw fit that we meet. We bumped into each other and got caught into a great quick conversation. We talked about standup briefly, I made him spit laugh, push me and run in the opposite direction which is one of the highest compliments in comedic black culture and I was able to personally hand him my 4 page handwritten card and express to him verbally his impact on my trajectory in life. It was powerful and a moment I’ll always hold close.
9. Did your doctors ever tell you why your nebulizer didn’t work well enough that night that you died?
That sentiment was never relayed to me exactly. They feel like the most likely culprit was a glass of wine I sipped at the venue prior to going on stage that night in Philly (May 3, 2017). My pulmonologist feels that it was the sulfites found in the wine & even possibly the type of barrel that wine was stored in (my pulmonologist is also a part-time detective). And I had unfortunately already collapsed by the time the folks who tried to assist me hooked my nebulizer up (I need a new pit crew, lol).
10. Do you have better control of your asthma now?
I feel like I do, but I did on May 3, 2017, too. I take all of my prescribed meds, exercise, eat right and pray, not much more I can do. It’s a scary reality of mine, but my reality nonetheless.
11. Is performing in clubs and being on the road bad for your asthma (is there a lot of smoking, for instance)?
It can be. Most of the venues I choose to work are pretty good about regulating that type of stuff in the areas the performers are in, but there is of course some of that to a certain degree (even if it’s from peers). The stress of traveling, sleeping in airports, and driving insanely long distances can be detrimental, which is why I avoid it as much as “financially feasible” right now, LOL.
12. What plans or preparations have you made since almost dying? For example, seeing a financial planner, etc.
Life Insurance was ramped up immediately after & my travel schedule shifted (as outlined in question 4) to accommodate my health concerns. Oh, and I stopped drinking wine IMMEDIATELY !!! #DamnThatWine
13. Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?
To not die from asthma. To see every continent. To sell my script & develop my sitcom. To see my kids grow up & their kids grow up. To put out more comedy specials. For this comedy special Jason Weems: Unknown to do something insane that no one ever expected. To secure my kid’s financial futures & their kid’s financial futures from doing what I love. To walk outside without a face mask & damn flame thrower would be nice.
14. Have your kids ever heard or seen daddy perform, or are they too young?
They have actually seen me two times now. My boys are 8 & 6 (twins). The first time they accompanied me to a show I had at The Kennedy Center while my wife was away for a work retreat. They got to see Daddy in another element as they waited with myself and a few other comics in the green room that night. They sat backstage as I closed the show, and I brought them out on stage to uproarious applause at the end of the night. The second time is when we filmed “Jason Weems: Unknown” before a Sold-Out crowd. That night was electric, and folks can get some of that electricity on August 4th when it begins streaming on Amazon.
15. How did you and your wife meet?
We met our first day of college on the steps of Holmes Hall at our beloved Morgan State University here in Baltimore. Our relationship grew into a deep friendship as we served in student government together (I was class king & she was class president), and we began dating officially our Junior year. Although everybody said they knew we were together since that first day of college on the steps of Holmes Hall. And we stillllllll together, LOL.
Jason Weems, proud Baltimore native and renowned comic known for his quick wit and drive for life since he died for 5 minutes in 2017, has a brand new hour of comedy coming out at the top of August 2020, on 800 Pound Gorilla Pictures, available everywhere comedy is sold or streamed in both video and audio album format.
Jason Weems is a comedic genius, actor and writer who has been featured on NBC’S Last Comic Standing, Fox and HBO. In 2014, his online series “The Lunchtime Show” premiered on Marlon Wayans’ comedy platform WhatTheFunny.com.
Weems began performing comedy after getting hit extremely hard in JF football; he slid under the opposing team’s bench and his shoes came off. After he got that laugh, the rest is history. He’s always been able to see the humor in anything around him. It took years before he finally found his way to a mic, but he says his first attempt was even funnier than the shoes coming off.
He is a long-time favorite in the DMV who has headlined at premier comedy clubs and festivals nationally, including the exclusive “invitation-only” Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. Film critics have also recognized Jason’s emotional range in his lead role in the comedic drama, “Wits End”.
Watch the Trailer
Hour Comedy Special Drops August 4, 2020 on 800 Pound Gorilla Pictures
All PR Inquiries to Kathryn Musilek: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Weems, proud Baltimore native and renowned comic known for his quick wit and drive for life since he died for 5 minutes in 2017, has a brand new hour of comedy, Unknown coming out at the top of August 2020, on 800 Pound Gorilla Pictures, available everywhere comedy is sold or streamed in both video and audio album format.
On May 3, 2017, Jason Weems died after a stand-up performance in Philadelphia. No pulse. No heartbeat. 5-minutes. He awoke 16-hours later in the hospital labeled as “Unknown”. This life altering experience re-ignited his comedic drive to never allow his life or his talent to be overlooked again. The Guardian and Washington Post spoke to Weems early last year about the event which largely informs the upcoming hour of new material. The New Yorker covered his 6-part series on the award winning podcast, First Day Back as well, which gives listeners an in-depth description of his near-death experience.
With vast themes including hope, resilience, life & death, Weems finds his way to levity and joy in Unknown.
Jason Weems’ love & spark for comedy goes all the back to his childhood where chronic asthma kept him sidelined from many everyday activities. He spent many days sitting on his apartment steps watching other kids play freely & observing every detail of life. During these times and countless hospitalizations, he discovered his ability to shift the energy in a room with his words and observations. It was a liberating feeling that allowed him to not feel captive to his condition.
As years went on, he discovered that often the funniest things came from moments that started out misfortunately. Like a moment during his very brief JV high school football playing days, where he was hit so hard that he slid under the opposing team’s bench and lost his shoes (both of them). His embarrassing incident ended up being a go to story around friends, and it brought Weems to realize how much he loved finding the humor even in his most unfortunate moments.
Years later, his response to his near-death experience was no different. In fact, before Weems even left the hospital he was writing jokes, asking his wife to note them in his cell phone so he wouldn’t forget.
Jason Weems is a comedic genius, actor and writer who has been featured on NBC’S Last Comic Standing, Fox and HBO. In 2014, his online series The Lunchtime Show premiered on Marlon Wayans’ comedy platform WhatTheFunny.com.
He is a long-time favorite in the DMV who has headlined at premier comedy clubs and festivals nationally, including the exclusive “invitation-only” Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. Film critics have also recognized Jason’s emotional range in his lead role in the comedic drama, Wits End.
Jason Weems Online:
Photos by Ryan Stevenson
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
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