Jason Harvey | Buzz Blog

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jason Harvey

Posted By on April 13, 2012, 9:00 AM

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Being a stand-up comedian in Utah is no easy gig, and most of the time forces you to head outside of your comfort zone by playing rooms and venues you'd normally never see. --- While that can be a daunting challenge to most comedians, it's the kind of environment in which Jason Harvey thrives. His comedic stylings have been seen around the Wasatch Front, from the most well-known stand-up venues to the deepest of the dive bars, and he's always looking to entertain the audience no matter what the showcase. Today, we chat with Harvey about his career and thoughts on local stand-up.

Jason Harvey

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Jason Harvey on Facebook

Gavin: Hey, Jason. First thing, tell us a bit about yourself.

Jason: Well, my parents went through with the pregnancy and in 1981, I was born in Ogden. My family is from Morgan, that's where I grew up and went to school. After high school, I moved around a bit, but ended back here in Utah. I have a 5-year-old son and perform stand up comedy here locally.

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Gavin: What first got you interested in stand-up comedy, and who were some of your favorite comedians growing up?

Jason: When I was 16, I saw Bill Burr -- at that time he was going by Billy Burr -- at a Utah High School Leadership retreat. He had to work a completely clean set because his audience was 14-18-year-old student-government kids. He was great. That was the first time I remember enjoying stand-up comedy. After that, I started to watch more and more of it on Comedy Central. I would watch a lot of the Comedy Central Presents, Premium Blend and Pulp Comic. After watching a bit of comedy, my favorites were Bill Burr, Mitch Hedberg, Bill Hicks, Greg Giraldo and anyone associated with Mr. Show.

Gavin: What officially brought on the decision for you to attempt it as a career?

Jason: I had wanted to give it a shot since seeing Bill Burr when I was in high school, but I didn't actually get up to do it until I was 27. I really just got tired of saying that eventually I will do it. So, I came home from work one Wednesday and told my roommate that we were going to watch open mic at the Trolley Square Wiseguys, even if I had to pay for him to get in. We went and watched, and had a great time. I went home and wrote a few jokes and went back the next week, and have been performing since.

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Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local lineups and getting gigs?

Jason: It was tough, but it should be. The first couple of months, my writing and stage presence needed a lot of work, and it still does. I just kept writing and trying different things, and after about six months of performing every week at open mic, I started to get asked to be part of shows.

Gavin: When you first started out, what were some of the lessons you learned about performing?

Jason: There will always be another show. If it didn't go well, learn from it and make the next one better. The show not only needs to be fun for the audience, but fun for the me. Be prepared -- always have a backup plan. If a joke or bit isn't going well, have something else ready.

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Gavin: What's it like for you personally coming up with material and deciding what works and what doesn't?

Jason: I go through huge spells where I get a lot of new ideas for premises, so I write down all of the premise ideas and then just riff on them for a while. Some things come a lot quicker and more naturally than other bits. I usually work on the premises that don't come as natural, When I'm struggling to come up with new premises, those bits I try and write out a few different ways. Sometimes, something comes of it, a lot of the time it just gets banked. I always test things on friends and then at open mic to see if the joke will work, and I will usually try it a few times before tossing it.

Gavin: How is it for you interacting with other local comedians, both as friends and competitors?

Jason: I admire and respect a lot of the local comics. I don't really think about competing against them. I am very motivated by them. When someone writes a great new joke and it is a great premise or they just have a set that killed, it just motivates me to keep writing, or to go and have a great set. I love going to open mic and being able to talk and joke around with the comics. We are competitive and give each other shit, but we also help each other out a lot. Also, I've helped people with some of their jokes just as they have helped me. There are just a lot of great people in the comedy scene.

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Gavin: You perform at a lot of non-traditional comedy venues around the state. How is it for you branching out into areas where people aren't expecting that show, and how do they react?

Jason: Anytime you just drop a comedy show out of the sky on some poor bar patrons, it is never going to go well. They showed up to the bar that night with the intentions of getting drunk and forgetting about the 10-hour shift they just put in, and now some guy is on stage talking about his dick and comparing it to Voltron, somehow. They usually just ignore the show, and keep talking to their friends anyway, but every once in a while you get the guy who wants to heckle and be belligerent. Those shows I just do to get the extra stage time and odd experience of another shitty show.

Gavin: Are there any plans down the road for you to tour, or are you sticking to home for now?

Jason: I would like to tour, but that is a little further down the road for me. For right now, I'm just sticking to shows around here.

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Gavin: Going local for a bit, what's your take on the stand-up scene, both good and bad?

Jason: Like I said earlier, I really love the comedy scene. I frequent the Comedy Roadkill Showcase and open mic that happens every Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Complex. I really like the people who come out there. I think we have a very strong stand-up comedy scene in Utah. The only bad thing about the scene here is the lack of places to get good stage time in front of decent-size audiences consistently.

Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it more prominent?

Jason: I think that all comes back to the comedians performing the shows and those promoting the shows. We just have to keep telling people about the shows and letting them know that when they don't come, they really missed out on a great show.

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Gavin: Aside from yourself, who are some of your favorite comedians you like to check out around town?

Jason: Man, there are a lot. Cody Eden, Levi Rounds, Greg Orme, Christian Pieper, Jonny Brandin, Colleen Waters; I just barely saw Jay Whittaker. There are a lot of great comics. Just come out to some shows.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on the clubs that provide comedians a forum to perform and the work they do to help bring in audiences?

Jason: I can't thank them enough. They are making it possible for me to get up and say my dumb thoughts in front of a crowd. I'm so thankful.

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Gavin: What's your opinion of national stand-up comedians coming through town and what that does for the local scene?

Jason: That's a great thing. It gives local comedians more time with a crowd that is geared up to laugh. They get to perform in front of a good audience, and it helps them build a local following. Plus, some of the touring comics can hand out advice and really help with our careers, even if it's just, "Try this with that joke" or "Hey, that was a good set." But I think above all, if you get to perform on that show, you can really expand your following locally.

Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?

Jason: I will be starting a sketch group soon with my friends Christian Pieper and Greg Orme. We will be posting those on YouTube and, hopefully, at shows. And then I will just continue to write and perform.

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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Jason: Please follow me on Twitter, check out my stand up clips on YouTube and keep posted on upcoming shows on Facebook. Thanks!

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