Jason Downs Interview
If you looked closely, you saw Jason Downs while you were watching the Seattle Seahawks manhandle the Denver Broncos.
No, he wasn’t on the field, Jason was starring in one of the coveted Super Bowl commercials.
A comedian by trade, Jason is dipping his toes into the acting world in Los Angeles. But that doesn’t mean he’s straying away from comedy; no, that’s Jason’s first love.
Rooftop had Nathan Timmel chat Jason up regarding his new CD, Excessive Talking.
NT: Let’s start awkwardly: when I listened to your disc, I popped it in without reviewing any of the promo material. When you started speaking, I created a picture in my head of what you might look like, and given your lovely almost-baritone, my immediate thought was “African-American.” Then I looked you up, and… nope! Watching your YouTube videos, I began to question why I ever thought it in the first place. You make reference to your weight on the new disc; do you believe weight gain and the addition of a beard has changed the tenor of your voice?
JD: Yeah, I’ve heard I kinda sound black, which is why when I apply for college scholarships I do so over the phone. But seriously, I guess I’m just a product of where I was raised. My schools we’re mostly black and Hispanic with some white sprinkled in there too.
NT: You have quite a bit of hilarious, self-depreciating jokes. Is that something done consciously, or do you write a joke, then look back and say, “Well, kinda busted on myself there…”
JD: I don’t go out of the way intentionally to be self-depreciating. Things just kind of happen to me and I report back. When I first started stand up I would rant about bigger social issues. Then one day I posted a super intimate blog post about my inner most thoughts and fears. W. Kamau Bell was like, “that’s what you need to talk about on stage.” So I did and things just started to click. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just kind of what happened.
NT: Did you have a specific emotional arc you wanted the disc to take when you were lining up the bits, or did you free form it? Basically, describe the artistic process involved in creating a set for a CD recording.
JD: Well, I’ve been on the road for a few years now featuring for Michael McDonald from MadTV and the Heat. I’ve been able to develop my act opening for him. He gives me complete freedom and he aways pushes me to try new stuff. I don’t have to get off at a set time. I can end on different bits. I can rearrange my act. I could bomb and then get the crowd back; total freedom. So he gave me complete freedom and this is the act that I developed while on the road featuring for McDonald; along with performing in San Francisco which is where I started.
NT: How much of your material is invented, and how much is real-life experience? Meaning: did you spend time testing racist Google auto-fills, and/or visit a marijuana expo?
JD: All of it is absolutely true. I’m sure I’ve exaggerated something in there for comedic effect, but not much, if anything. Yep, that Google auto fill bit is legit. I really went to a bong trade show in Vegas. I really saw a pilot lie about turbulence to get everybody to sit down on a plane. I really saw a woman with no hands drop a coke. At times I’ve tried to make things up, but the audience can smell it and it just doesn’t work. After a show an audience member might come up and talk to me about a joke and I’ll be like,”That really happened”. They will be like,”Yeah, I know. You can tell it’s true.” I’m glad my material rings true.
NT: You mention a two-night stand at the comedy club, Wed/Thursday. Was the CD recorded over those two nights, or is it more a one-and-done disc?
JD: Yeah it was done over two nights. The actual recording is almost exclusively from the Wednesday night show. It went pretty much perfectly. There were a couple of jokes I forgot to do, so we just slide those in from the Thursday night show.
NT: Did you move to LA to pursue comedy, acting, or both? Are you leaning toward preferring one over the other, now that you’ve got some national acting spots on your résumé?
JD: I moved to LA for comedy. But you can’t get any stage time in LA unless you’re on TV. So I started taking some acting classes, I’ve landed a couple of things, and apparently I have this big white guy look that is pretty rare in LA. It’s like me, Seth Rogan and Kathy Bates.
NT: I am neither smart nor Christian, but isn’t St. Peter the gatekeeper to heaven, not Michael the Archangel?
NT: Were you at all tempted to name the CD “Monkey Pussy?” (which readers will understand when they hear the disc)
JD: I wanted to name this album so many different things. Monkey Pussy was up there, so was Food Boner, and Allergic to Pussy. I really like the way Food Boner sounds. I went with Excessive Talking, because when I was a kid I was a horrible student, just goofing off too much. Every report card I came home with had the term “excessive talking” written in the teachers notes section. I just love the way those two words sound together; Excessive Talking. As soon as I started comedy, I always knew that if I had a chance to get an album out, Excessive Talking would be the name.
NT: With bitcoins all the rage, have you considered trying to implement your taco-economy idea to the world? They’re tangible, which has to make them more valuable right off the bat.
JD: Bitcoins! I keep hearing about these things. I don’t even know what they are. They sound like the name of the coins you get in Super Mario Brothers when you jump and hit your head on the bricks with the question marks.
I guess bitcoins is some type of digital currency. Which I always thought Internet porn was digital currency, but now that Internet porn is basically free they had to come up with bitcoins.
You can purchase Excessive Talking…