Interview: Jason Nash, a Guy with Feelings
Los Angeles is filled with hardworking comedians; they're practically bussed in from Milwaukee or St. Louis or Tampa or wherever funny comes from. For long-time writer/actor/comedian Jason Nash, it took years to discover that maybe the comedy can come from your own basement. With the continued success of his long-running podcast Guys With Feelings, Nash uses his own basement to talk about familial frustrations, life in (and outside of) 'the biz', and any interesting tidbits his hilarious comic friends can think up.
He's also been making headway in the entertainment industry all by himself, with roles on shows like Reno 9/11, Li'l Bush, the Andy Dick Show, and SuperNews. He can often be seen in some capacity at the UCB theatre, and will be performing at The Improv on December 23rd.
Recently, Nash gave LAist a few minutes of his time in order to talk about the viability of comedy on the internet, the people who think that Hollywood only makes shit, and when your bank account decides that you've 'made it'.
LAist: Where are you from, and what made you come to Los Angeles for comedy?
Jason Nash: I'm from Boston, and I went to UMass, and then I moved to New York and I worked at Saturday Night Live for like a year out of college as an assistant to Norm Macdonald and met a lot of people there. From there I got hired at MTV to be a writer. And then from that I moved to LA and I got a couple of shows...I did a series for VH1 that was a sketch show called Random Play.
Just been in LA, selling scripts, writing, doing stand up. The latest thing I'm doing is this show called The Shaman which is for Comedy Central, which is a guy who thinks he's Jim Morrison. We just did 8 webisodes of that. So it's me as this kinda Jim Morrison-type character. This guy's like a real poser, he's from Greenwich, Connecticut and he has a trust fund and he comes to live with this straight-laced guy. So he moves in, and that's played by Matt Price. It's me and him and Nick Kroll is in it, Laura Silverman, and the Sklars... so that's been taking up a lot of time.
It seems like the webisode world is just getting bigger and bigger all the time. Are you thinking that's a good venue for you to start working in, pretty heavily?
Yeah, it's pretty great. Comedy Central gave me the money to go and make something that they weren't willing to make into a TV show right away. And the truth is, they're kinda right, because I don't know if that's going to be a TV show, but after shooting it and editing it, I can honestly say: 'oh yeah, this could definitely be a TV show'. I don't know if they'll ever really make into a TV show, but they might. And it's also a good way for them to make a pilot really cheaply. A normal pilot at Comedy Central... I know someone who did a pilot for Comedy Central last year, cost them a million dollars. This costs them a tenth of that, and they have a show that they tried out.
Is the flip side of that the creative control you get? Are you more open to experiment with the things that you're doing?
Yeah, it's completely open. There's no notes, which is great. That's the thing that drives me crazy, when people are like 'Hollywood makes such crap', and it's like...yeah, they do, but you have to understand, it didn't start that way. At least with the web stuff, there's no notes. They don't care, they don't have time. The guy who bought my show is too busy watching over The Daily Show. He doesn't give a fuck about my shit. He's worried that Jon Stewart is mad at him. He doesn't care about The Shaman.
I also do this podcast called Guys With Feelings. That's kind of hard to keep doing because it doesn't really pay me any money, but I'm trying to get over to Sirius and XM. I called my agent and was like 'what's the deal? Can you get me a meeting'? And he was like, 'I don't know anyone over there'. He's a TV agent, so in his defense, he just doesn't know anyone. But yeah, we have some loyal listeners.
I love Guys With Feelings, I think it's a really great way to introduce other comics who you're not going to hear from, and a lot of people who are off the beaten path. Do you see a future for it, if you could get it over to Sirius / XM?
I would love it. Howard Stern is like my idol. If someone could pay me a small, small wage to do that show every day, that would be great. I would love to do that. But, you know, it's not there yet. I need a bigger name. You look at friends of mine, like Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins, they're just becoming - in the last couple years- big enough names to host a show. Paul got Best Week Ever which I think is amazing, and I'm just not there yet. And so much of it is: 'Well, who the fuck knows who you are'? It's just all about that right timing.
I just work really, really fucking hard. That's one thing I'm bad at, is I don't say no to a lot of things. I'll be working on something for Fox, and someone will call me and say 'Hey, do you want to be in my video today?' And I'll say 'YEAH!', and then I'm on the set of this video, doing something really dumb that no one's going to see, and I'll be like: oh shit, I gotta go back and write that thing.
Do you still think that you're at a level where you have to take as many opportunities as you can?
I do. I feel like I need to have as much exposure as possible. A lot of people have a "less is more" attitude, I don't. I look at my bank account and it's empty, so I need to do something. I enjoy acting a lot, even though I don't always make my money at it. So for me to keep that going, that's my ultimate goal is to be in stuff and write stuff. But I only make my money writing, and the occasional stand up gig.
Once you've gotten into that writing circle, where you've gotten something done at Fox or Comedy Central, is it that much easier to get something somewhere else?
Until you're exposed, until you're a name, it's just as hard. Until you're Joel McHale, or somebody like that, it's really an all-or-nothing kind of business. It's not easy. When Andy Daly told me that he got cast in the Semi-Pro movie, all the meetings came to him before the movie even came out. Suddenly, everyone wants to meet you because you got this great part in this huge comedy (and he was fantastic in that).
You mentioned how hard you think it can be, being a working comedian. At what level will you consider yourself as having 'made it'?
When I can take my wife on a vacation, because then that will really get her off my back. She'll be so thrilled. She walks around the house: 'When are we gonna go to Paris?' I just want to pay my car insurance.
Are there places that you think are really doing it right these days in terms of comedy in Los Angeles?
I think the Westside Eclectic is really great, all the shows I've done have always had a lot of people. It has a New York vibe. UCB is great. There's a great show over at The Improv Lab, which is next to The Improv, called The Walsh Brothers. They just do characters, and they write it every week. It's really fun. I've done that show. Largo is great still. Comedy Death Ray is really amazing. When you think of all those people in one night, and they do that every week. I think a lot of people take it for granted here in LA. I know if I was in Boston and I could go see Sarah Silverman, and Patton and Paul in one night, I would be like: 'oh, my god'. The guys over at Funny Or Die I think are doing amazing stuff. Seth Morris is doing amazing stuff. This group Good Neighbor is doing really great stuff. There's this place called R Bar in Koreatown that has rotating hosts, and it's every Wednesday, and it's fantastic. It's a hipster crowd, so you have to really be on your toes. There's a show called After Birth a M Bar, that's really good, where it's just people bitching about their kids.
Are there any other comedians that you really find yourself laughing a lot at?
My favorite comedians are Mike Showalter, and Zach Galifianakis, and Mike Birbiglia. There's a guy named Ron Babcock, who's really funny. He's just got like a 'guy you'd want to hang out with' kind of vibe on stage. Super funny, just naturally funny. I think Natasha Leggero, Jen Kirkman. You know who I love? Brody Stevens. I think Brody is such a genius, and I feel like he'll break through. I like this girl Ali Waller a lot. Rick Shapiro. Val Myers. And really, of the sketch guys at UCB are really impressive.
Comedian Jason Nash hosts the hilarious podcast Guys With Feelings, available on iTunes. Photo courtesy GWF.