Interview with Jay Mohr
We get to chat with a magnitude of musicians here at Independent Philly but it’s always a blast to change it up and speak with an actor or comedian. In this case, we got to speak to a man who is an accomplished stand-up comedian, actor (both TV and movies), writer, radio host, and all around great guy. He also happens to currently be nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Comedy Album’. With so many notches on his belt of professional achievements, it was a real honor to spend some time gabbing with Jay Mohr. Whether you know him from his time on Saturday Night Live, his roles in great films like ‘Jerry Maguire’, his countless TV parts, or his wildly successful sports radio shows and podcasts, you won’t want to miss this off-the-wall interview that incorporates topics ranging from his Grammy nomination, to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, to his rendition of a quintessential Christmas song, sung as some of his classic impersonations.
Independent Philly: What was it about comedy that first attracted you to it?
Jay Mohr: I’ve never been asked that before. It’s amazing that you just asked me that because that never happens. I don’t know. I guess it was just the fact that there was joy. But, the joy could have come at such an expense if it didn’t work. There was drama, like sports, boxing, car racing, but also joy, laughter; it’s a weird job. It’s the only job where people go to a room, and wait for you to come out to give them an emotion. It’s very strange, but hey, I’m not knocking it… 29 years. I’ve never been asked that before.
Independent Philly: Your wife, Nikki Cox, did the writing for your latest comedy album, ‘Happy. And A Lot.’, what was it like working hand-in-hand with her to create that?
Jay Mohr: It wasn’t hand-in-hand, it was her handing me a notebook of material, already written and ready to go. My wife’s biggest fear is being Shelby Chong, like just kind of follow a headliner around and face show business. I try to express to her “You owned the four houses by the time you were 20″. People know her as an actress from show business. What people don’t know is that she’s brilliant. As a writer she’s [George] Carlin-esque in the way that she phrases, puts words together. It wasn’t a collaboration at all. It’s really three bits, the whole album. It’s ‘similar hates’, ‘murder’, and ‘irony’, and just goes on like that. There are so many call-backs that I had to memorize it like a [David] Mamet play, because if I miss a sentence, I lose eight minutes on the back end of the joke with the pay-off of the call-back. I would never say “How ’bout this?” because what she wrote was so funny, and so unique: three topics that have not been spoken about at all, but still it’s right down the middle, it’s relationship stuff. If a couple is going to stay together they not only need to have similar interests, they need to have similar hates. The crowd starts laughing and then you dive in for 20 minutes. She was just very specific that the words must go in a very definite order. If I got one moved over here, she’d say, “No, no, no, it has to go like this”. That’s where the Carlin-esque O.C.D. stuff comes in, but she’s right. If you watch the special on Showtime or you listen to the album, there are certain run-on sentences where you go, “Yes!”, it’s like a John Bonham drum solo.
Independent Philly: The writing was so good, and your performance of it was so special that you’ve now been nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Comedy Album’. What would it mean to you to beat out the other talented nominees to take home the gold?
Jay Mohr: It would mean a lot, I’m not going to lie. It IS an honor just to be nominated. However, the moment you get that information, and realize that there is a one-in-five chance that you’re actually going to go home with a Grammy, oh no, give it up for me. But, Lisa Lampanelli, Louis C.K., Wyatt Cenac, and Craig Ferguson, I’m very happy that it’s a group of blue-collar, hard working, “How far do I have to drive? what time do I have to get up? I don’t care, I want to get to the microphone”. There’s no alternative, ‘too cool for the room’ guys or gals, so everybody’s worthy. But what would it mean to me? I’d kick my son out of his bed and let it [the Grammy] sleep there, maybe put my son on a shelf some place.
Independent Philly: As long as it’s a nice shelf that seems reasonable.
Jay Mohr: Yeah, it’s my Grammy, let it have the top bunk, bottom bunk is for daddy, you go downstairs in the library on a shelf next to the Presidential biographies.
Independent Philly: You’ve appeared in so many movies and TV shows that I’ve almost lost count on them. If you had to reprise one of your past roles for a lengthy stint, which one would it be and why?
Jay Mohr: ‘Action’ is tough to beat man. The writing was so great and it got cancelled after one season so you only got a couple of glimpses that Peter Dragon actually had a heart. You could have had a whole season where something terrible happened to him and you saw that he had a real heart. I would think Peter Dragon from Action, however, the work I’m most proud of, people have probably seen the least, and that is the movie ‘Seeing Other People’. That was so well written that, when I went home and I would argue with my girlfriend, I didn’t know if I was arguing or acting like I was arguing.
Independent Philly: You’re also a big sports guy, you’ve had your own sports show on TV, radio shows, and podcasts…
Jay Mohr: Let me tell you something, you’re out of Philly, if I’m Chip Kelly, I cannot get to the nearest [Chevy Camaro] IROC fast enough, and do a doughnut in front of the Liberty Bell, with a cheesesteak, flipping the bird. Everyone thinks he’s a racist because he cut three guys? The three guys Chip Kelly got rid of, how are they doing? Not so good. He didn’t let Megatron go; this guy didn’t release Troy Aikman in his prime. DeSean Jackson on Monday Night Football, took a punt and ran backwards towards his own end-zone. That’s the guy who’s not around, that’s okay. If I’m Chip Kelly, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. He just slammed the guy from the Philadelphia Inquirer. There was a report about something and he [Chip Kelly] goes “That’s not true, you lied, that’s not true”. Wow, they’re getting to him man. Philly media, New York media, Chip Kelly came from Oregon, Miller. Oregon media is three guys in Birkenstocks, sharing a joint, being like, “Hey, how many touchdowns did you guys have?”
Independent Philly: Who do you have in the Super Bowl this year?
Jay Mohr: Bro, I’ve never been more off. First of all, I had the Mets and the Blue Jays in my World Series, and that was in Spring Training that I made that call, so I got one of those right. I’m usually pretty good at this. This year however, I had the Cowboys and the Chargers. Oh my moly, that is a bathtub filled with vomit.
Independent Philly: Yeah, that’s looking pretty bad at this point.
Jay Mohr: You know the Cowboys last year: best offensive line in football, healthy [Tony] Romo, they bring in crazy people to play defense. Chargers are just bad news. Look, it’s a Patriot’s world. Until Tom Brady decides, “You know what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life? I’m gonna produce electronica music. I want to join Deadmau5.” Until he makes that decision, we’re all just sitting around, looking up.
Independent Philly: I’ve seen you do some great impersonations of other celebrities. Who does the best Jay Mohr impersonation that you’ve seen?
Jay Mohr: I’ve only heard one. It was Nick Swardson on my Podcast and he made me sound like the biggest a-hole that ever lived. He told this long story about when he first moved here from Minnesota, I had Laker’s season tickets, they’re playing the Timberwolves, he’s from Minnesota, so I invite my friend. He calls me, the game’s at 7:30PM and he calls at 7PM and says, “I’m at least an hour away from your house”. It was going to take us an hour to get to The Forum back in the day, so I start yelling at him, and he’s doing the impression of me, on my Podcast, airing him out. It wasn’t until his second appearance on the Podcast where he retold the story, that I said, “At what part in the story do you go ‘Hey sorry I didn’t leave enough time for us to go to the Lakers game together’?”. His impression of me was just “uhhhhhhh yeah, uhhhhhhh yeah”, there’s a lot of yelling I think when people do impressions of me, but I’m working on it, I’m trying to get more quiet, and speak less. The problem is, if you’ve been an alpha-male, talking your entire life, and you speak less, everybody assumes that you’re steaming angry at everybody since you’re not talking. I was always the ‘uncomfortable with the quiet’ guy, so I filled in every damn pause. Now I just kinda sit and hang out, and I watch, and the next day everyone’s like, “Hey were you okay at Christmas? That was really uncomfortable”, and I’m like, “Yeah, I was fine, I was watching people play Volleyball on the beach”.
Independent Philly: Would you be willing to do an impression for us? We were thinking Christopher Walken singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’.
**You can play the audio clip below to hear this exclusive recording**
Independent Philly: Thanks, that was awesome. If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your career and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Jay Mohr: I think it’s weird, over the past 18 years I always seem to be riding three separate horses in the same race: stand-up, acting, Podcast, book, novel, memoir, and radio show. If it was for all of those, I would tell myself, “There is always more time, and there is always more money. Slow down. It’s all happening. The universe is unfolding as it should”. I’m a wrestler so I have to tell myself, “God help you if anybody outworks you”. If there’s an audition for a movie and they say, “How’s Tuesday at 3 o’clock?” and I say, “Well I have this parent/teacher conference thing” and they say, “Well that’s the only day the director is in town”, you go, in Los Angeles? What he’s got to leave to go to the movie hub of Tuscaloosa, Alabama? We’re in Hollywood, where’s he going? I’m in L.A. but the director’s only here one day? You’re lying. There’s always more time. There’s always more money. Slow it down. Don’t get outworked. There are people who are gonna sing better than you, write better than you, there are people who are going to be funnier than you, what can you control, Miller? Work. Where’s your ethic? Are you going to drive to Buffalo [New York] for $50 when you’re 17 years old? I did. I wanted it. I still want it. I’m 40 years old, I’m playing a casino on Saturday. I can’t wait, I love my job! It’s crazy, how much fun, show business is. Any actor, comic, singer, that complains, you know that person is not well. If you act in a movie, the first thing they say is, “Can we get you some breakfast?”, you say, “Sure”, they feed you, and then you go into a big, giant RV camper, and they say, “We won’t get to you for a few hours, you wanna lay down?”. What other job, besides prostitute, do you get to lay down?
Independent Philly: I could definitely handle some more laying down on the job.
Jay Mohr: I laid down when I got my prostate checked, but that was like one second. For me personally, a nice Jersey boy, that’s not long enough. If you’re gonna check my prostate, have a little fun.
Independent Philly: At least buy you dinner first.
Jay Mohr: Here’s the thing with the prostate check, it’s 95% ‘ick’, but, 5% ‘ooooh’. I wanted to go back the next day because I think I can get that to 70/30.
Independent Philly: Finally, please tell me something about yourself that would surprise or even shock our readers…
Jay Mohr: I already spilled the wrestling thing, two time champion wrestler…I can speak French, fluently. Pourquoi? Pourquoi? Tu connais…je parle français avec ma sœur…ma sœur a marié un homme qui habit à Lyon …. Et j’ai étudié mes lettres à saison…et ma sœur a marié un homme qui habit à Lyon et je parle français avec ma sœur. D’accord? D’accord? [Translation: “Why? Why? You know…I speak French with my sister…my sister married a man who lives in Lyon…and I studied it myself…and my sister married a man who lives in Lyon and I speak French with my sister. Ok? Ok?].
I had a blast speaking with Jay and if any of our readers are Grammy voters, just go ahead and give a little love (and your vote) to Jay Mohr. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we can lure him back to Philly to perform at Helium (where I have also had the pleasure of performing stand-up on numerous occasions) which he called a “really great room”.