Interview: Joe Jacobs

Joe Jacobs burst on to the live comedy scene in 2012 and hasn’t stopped enchanting audiences since. A finalist in the Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year, Jewish Comedian Of The Year and Laughing Horse – New Act Of The Year competitions, Broadway Baby described him as “Comedy Gold” but we’d argue that he deserves even more flattering plaudits than that, when we’ve seen him perform he’s never failed to make us laugh incredibly hard and his material is unique and always extremely funny. He’s also a superb rapper with a great selection of songs available on youtube, which have garnered millions of views. Here he talks about his new show, Cracker, the Edinburgh Festival, making a music video about Vanessa Feltz, how audiences react to him discussing anti-semitism, the night he shared a bill with Jerry Sadowitz and much more besides.

Comedy To Watch: What can you tell us about your current show – Cracker – which is part of the Camden Fringe?

Joe: Cracker is the WIP follow up to my last show Ripe. It’s a heady mixture of stand up and rap interludes.

CTW: You decided against doing Edinburgh this year, was there a reason for this? And what do you think of the festival in general?

Joe: It’s a big dent financially. I have no problem spunking money away but to be honest I’m not sure this new hour would be ready. I love the festival. I went before I started doing comedy and it was the most fun I’d ever had. Drunk by 11am, stumbling around watching great stuff and plenty of garbage too. Now as a performer, my opinion has changed. It was definitely the hardest thing I’d ever done. I now feel like Edinburgh Festival is a situation genetically engineered to stress a creative. From the miserable ever changing weather, the oppressive hills and architecture, to the impeccable Scottish hecklers and the fact that every comedian / sociopath has descended on the City and covered it with pictures of themselves. I had a pretty awful 2016 Fringe and an amazing 2017. Hopefully, 2019 will be nice. If you take a show and survive the month, you are a hero in my eyes.

CTW: Can you talk us through the process of creating a full length show?

Joe: A lot of thinking, writing and gigging. I find it useful to have a few spectacularly bad previews. It allows myself to remove about 95% of material that I otherwise thought was serviceable and dig deeper.

CTW: What inspired you to get in to comedy?

Joe: I saw Jack Dee on TV as a kid and didn’t understand how this sad, angry man walked out to a 1,000 audience and was making them laugh by being miserable. About 23 years later I got the courage to try it and it now makes the most sense to me to be on stage.

CTW: And how did your first gig go?

Joe: My first show was at the last ever Lions Den in Kings Cross. So it was packed and I was shit. But Tim Rendle said a few nice words, spurring me to continue to be shit at a few more open mic gigs. Tim gave myself and many others their first shot at stand up comedy, and tragically passed away a few months ago. He was a Top UK Lad and I love him for helping me.

CTW: Your music videos are superb stuff, but how do you choose what you rap about? For instance, where did the idea to create a song about Vanessa Feltz come from?

Joe: Thank you. There’s no formula. I just love songwriting. I enjoy pulling off a ridiculous concept. I’ve got loads of unreleased crap waiting for the right moment to drop. That may be never. The Feltz song came about during a period of clinical depression in which I was inspired by Vanessa’s healthy work ethic and general positive approach to live, in spite of the odds. It didn’t do as well as I would have liked. But as it was released on SBTV, one of the biggest youth broadcasters and was a song about a 90s regional breakfast broadcaster, I only have myself to blame. Eventually, Vanessa heard the track and reached out for an interview which was amazing. She was lovely and expressed interest in hitting the studio to make a follow up. Unfortunately, the appetite from the general public did not facilitate this.

CTW: Is there anything you haven’t done musically that you hope to do in the future?

Joe: I’m working on a new project right now. Plan to make a bunch of short music videos to promote it and my next comedy hour. I want to get around 40 finished songs before I decide on what’s working. Missing Ed Fringe will allow me to get some interesting stuff made hopefully.

CTW: You’ve talked about your Jewish identity in the past, how do you feel being Jewish has shaped you as a comedian?

Joe: I love having Jewish heritage and I never wanted it to be a big part of my act. Society seems to be more into my Judaism than I am at the moment though, so it is a recurring theme. From navigating some of the pokier village halls and comedy clubs of the Country, I have observed that discussing anti-semitism is not palatable to most comedy audiences. Other bigotry such as the BNP, Islamophobia or the classic comic punchline of Nazis seem to get laughs wherever they are discussed. But mentions of Corbyn or the nuances of Reggie Yates’ recent comments, causes audiences to clam up. Back in February, I was called a Yid on stage while joking about having a more Jewish name. I guess something that is viewed as a playful examination of stereotypes in London, is seen more as a Q&A in Northampton. We can make progress with frank discussion and hopefully understanding. If what I do can help that in any way, great.

CTW: What was the best gig you ever did, and why?

Joe: Beating the King Gong at the Comedy Store was a nice moment.

CTW: And what was the worst gig you did, and why?

Joe: These are much more interesting. My favourite death is when I got booked for a function at a Powerleague in Acton. It was a paid headline spot and I was about 3 years a comedian. I arrived to the show as it was nearing the end. The promoter asked me to do 40 minutes. At this time, I had about 4 minutes. The gig wasn’t even a gig. Just 200 very hot people watching a range of rappers, singers and a comedian at the end of the show clearly booked in error. I was introduced and began bombing after a minute. I thought of the money and kept talking through the heckles and tidal waves of apathy. About 8 minutes in, I noticed a man next to me. It was the promoter taking the microphone from me and saying ‘I think you’ve said enough now.’ The audience loudly agreed. I went outside and called my mother.

CTW: You’ve shared bills with Bill Burr and Stewart Lee can you tell us a little about those gigs? And what were those comedians like behind the scenes?

Joe: A couple of great acts with a lot of potential. Ones to watch for sure.

CTW: You also once performed at The Goodfather comedy night when Jerry Sadowitz headlined, where he did material about bringing back slavery and bombed badly. What were your memories of that night? Do you feel the subject matter was poorly handled? And in your opinion is there anything you shouldn’t joke about?

Joe: What a strange night. I loved Jerry since my grandfather gave me a video of him when I was a kid. I wasn’t even booked to perform, was just watching. Tom Ward asked me before the show started if I wanted to open. I had no idea Sadowitz was following. He was supposed to headline. A lot of people were not familiar with his work and so it snowballed in a spectacular fashion. I remember a woman in the front row standing up at one point and screaming to the audience ‘Why won’t anyone do something?!’ Thanyia Moore went over to calm her down. Later that night, someone said to me outside that if Sadowitz has upset or offended you, he’s done his job. Fair point. Years later he would attempt to attack me in another venue over a misunderstanding. Never meet your heroes.

CTW: Along those lines, has there ever been anything you’ve regretted doing?

Joe: Plenty. I’m usually good at detecting them, but now and again I find myself accepting a gig that will definitely be a disaster.

CTW: What’s your opinion of hecklers, and how do you choose to deal with them?

Joe: Bad cunts. I deal with them as quickly and effectively as possible, with mixed results. I’m grimly fascinated by the thought process of these people. I was at a show and told a woman politely and with humour to stop texting about 3 times. She stormed over to me after the gig screaming that I need to go home, look in the mirror and be ashamed of my actions. I enjoy the people that completely ruin a set and then come over to you after, saying they were happy to help. And meaning it.

CTW: Apart from stand up and music is there anything else you’d like to do in the comedy world?

Joe: Gig with Jack Dee. Collaborate with more people. Get better. Crack America.

CTW: This site is all about celebrating the best comedy around – So what other comics would you recommend?

Joe: At the moment I like Heidi Regan, Lucy Pearman, Phil Ellis, Red Richardson, Jayde Adams and Russell Hicks. Many, many more. Seek them out and support them.

CTW: And what tv or film comedy are you passionate about?

Joe: Eastbound and Down, Tim and Eric, Alan Partridge and anything featuring Norm Macdonald.

CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?

Joe: A beautiful house in the countryside where I cannot be bothered.

CTW: If you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

Joe: Too meta, sorry mate.

You can catch Joe at the Camden Fringe this month, whilst forthcoming dates can be found on his website. You’d be crazy not to do so, and indeed if you don’t we’ll never talk to you again.

Related Links:
Joe’s Official Site
Comedy Story Appearance on Youtube

Alex Finch.

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