Interview: Jake Jabbour and Josh Simpson

Jake Jabbour and Josh Simpson are the men behind the highly praised and extremely popular The Meat Improv Podcast, which has run for over 125 episodes now and each week sees them talk to a fantastic selection of comedians. They also both regularly perform at the world famous Upright Citizens Brigade, and also teach improv as well. Here they talk about their forthcoming podcast recording in London, how Trump has effected their comedy, and what it’s like to be involved with the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Comedy To Watch: What can you tell us about The Meat Improv podcast, and what can we expect to witness at the recording in London this weekend?

Jake: The Meat Improv Podcast is a storytelling and improv comedy podcast, where we get comedians to tell us personal “meaty” stories from their lives and then we do long form improv inspired by the stories. It’s a way for Josh and I to get to make each other laugh every week and meet and play with exciting and talented comedians. Definitely expect some silliness. Expect a lot of laughs and some wild and weird stories, not just from our guests, but from our adventure on the road together.

CTW: Why did you decide to come over to the UK and Europe? And do you think it will it vary in any way compared to when it’s performed in the US?

Josh: The simple answer for me is that i like to travel! I’ve had the privilege of teaching and coaching students who came to LA and NYC to take classes from places like Iceland, Berlin, London and Glasgow. I’ve been teaching and performing for over 10 years, and one of the things I like most about teaching improv (besides the barely liveable wage) is that I get to work directly with creative people from all over the world. A lot of these people mentioned that they could help us do shows and workshops if we were to visit, I followed up with them and they came through! But yeah, the simple answer is, I LOVE to travel, see new places and meet new people.

Jake: Josh probably has a better answer for this. For me, the Meat has always allowed me to learn and grow, not just as an improviser, but as a person. Listening to people’s stories helps give me perspective, and playing with them helps me refine my comedic voice. Coming to the UK and Europe seemed like an excellent way to step even further outside my little bubble and learn and grow even more.

You’ve so far released an impressive 125 podcasts, what are your favourite moments out of all of them?

Jake: It’s not a very fun answer to say they all are my favourite moments, so I’ll hold myself to a more specific answer. We did an episode recently with Ryan Rosenberg and Dan Lippert where I actually did a spit-take. There’s also an episode with Mary Anthony and Oscar Montoya where we did a scene about relationship pranks that really killed me. And Mary Holland told a personal story that I think about all the time. Sitting across from people I admire and getting to hear their stories is the best. Next to that, it’s building very silly worlds and playing in them.

Josh: I’ll add to this that Jake didn’t just do a spit-take, he did a spit-take IN MY FACE. He full on spit water in my face in the middle of a scene. I like when guests share something that I didn’t know about them. I have a ton of friends in the improv community in Los Angeles, but most of the time we don’t see each other outside of a party or a bar after a show. When guests come on and share something personal, that’s my favourite thing. Mary Holland told great stories both time she was on. Brennan Lee Mulligan told an absolutely unbelievable story about spirituality. My good friend Joe Hartzler told a story about reuniting with a friend he thought he’d lost in a car accident. I think the show works best when the guests are truly being vulnerable in the storytelling, and then we sort of relieve all of that tension by being really silly with the improv.

CTW: The last two years have been a turbulent time for US politics, do you think it’s had an effect on the comedy you produce?

Jake: Definitely. We had an episode scheduled to record and then the election happened, and instead of having our guests tell meaty stories, we all just sat around and decompressed and talked about how we were feeling. I don’t think we aim to deliberately adjust or do our comedy differently, but it’s always there, just under the surface.

Josh: Yeah, Trump is an ever-present fart in the room. It’s hard to ignore it. You can maybe try to go about your business even though it smells like a fart everywhere, but it’s annoying and it will affect your work and also real people are being choked out by that fart. Farts.

CTW: What can you tell us about your time at UCB, and what have been the highlights?

Jake: UCB has been a great and challenging experience. The stuff I’m most proud of as a comedian has come from my time at UCB. Often through my stumbles or failings. I learned so much about how to create accessible and alternative comedy and I also learned how to work hard for the stuff I wanted.

Josh: I’ve been there for awhile. I’ve made most of my best friends through UCB (Jake included) and I’ve been given opportunities to perform and and take chances that I don’t think I would have been given as a young comedian at other theatres. My highlights have been being on Harold night for 6 years and playing with my friends to sold out crowds every week, performing as Kitty Katt Williams in the UCB Show and watching Brett Gelman’s show 1,000 Cats and realizing I could do whatever the hell I wanted on that stage.

CTW: Josh you worked with Conan O’Brien, can you tell us more about that, and what the highlights were?

Josh: Conan was great. Watching him in rehearsal every day was absolutely the best part of the show. He was the opposite of a task master. No one was really afraid of Conan because he was always looking for the fun in every single bit the writers brought to him. He would often change bits completely in the moment. Before I worked for the actual show, I would do bits from time to time on the Tonight Show. One of the bits I was a Harry Potter nerd on the Kiss Cam making out with no one. When we rehearsed the bit, Conan improvised a thing where he kept coming back to me making out with no one, so I went along with it and made it hotter and heavier. He liked it, he kept it and we did it on the show. I was so thrilled about that. That is Conan in a nutshell. Find the fun and do more of it.

CTW: Jake, you co-created We’re Gross with Gilli Nissim, what can you tell us about the podcast, and is there any chance it might one day return?

Jake: We’re Gross is a live talk show that we’re thinking of how to put in podcast form. The basic premise is we tried to take the traditional late-night format and dirty it up a bit. Our aim is to celebrate all our weirdness and flaws and insecurities. Instead of celebrating celebrity, we celebrate all the stuff we’re ashamed of.

CTW: This site is all about celebrating the best comedy around, so who are your favourite UK comedians right now? And who are your favourite US comics?

Jake: Can I say John Oliver for both? Right now, he is consistently making me laugh more than any other comedian. I also think the tv series Episodes, which I believe is a UK/US co-production is great. The season one finale destroys me.

Josh: I’ve watched Fleabag by Phoebe Waller Bridge 3 times. I was blown away by that show. I’ve still got a soft spot for Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The UK Office is my favourite series of all time. I’m drawn to comedic actors and weirdos more than stand ups, so I think Broad City, The Detroiters and this maniac Connor O’Malley from Late Night with Seth Meyers and YouTube are my favourites out there right now.

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

Jake: What’s something a little silly that you hope is true? My answer: That Bad Boys III will get made.

Josh: How many hours of sleep have you gotten on this tour? Jake has slept approx. 200 hours. Josh – 2 and a half

CTW: And finally, can you tell us what your plans are for the future?

Jake: I recently finished a book about our train tour last year, and my plan is to release that soon, and to continue to work and play in the comedy community.

Josh: I’m almost done writing a movie that will probably never get made, and I’m also turning my garage into a recording studio so I can make podcasts and music on my own. Also, I’m gonna get my hands on Jake’s book and make sure he doesn’t slander my good name in there.

Related Links:
The Meat Improv Podcast
Sunday’s Recording Info
Upright Citizens Brigade

Alex Finch

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