Last week, comedian Jason “Big Jay” Oakerson appeared on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, “Conan,” on TBS. Instead of doing a quick, five-minute set, he went straight to the couch.
There was a reason for that: Oakerson’s material can get very blue and very offensive.
“The only other time I did a late-night set was on (‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’), and I got in trouble from it afterwards,” remembers Oakerson, 39, calling from Los Angeles.
Apparently, people (including PETA, Oakerson says) didn’t approve of Oakerson’s material about Michael Vick. Vick was then a quarterback for Philly boy Oakerson’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles, and Oakerson said he’d send Vick a basket of puppies if the player got his Eagles to a Super Bowl win. Even though Oakerson says his material was approved by the show, it didn’t stop sensitive types from getting mad.
“It was a pro-Michael Vick joke – a joke nonetheless,” he says.
As a comic who’s been on the scene for nearly two decades – he’ll be at Goodnights this weekend in Raleigh – Oakerson has gotten to the point where offending animal-rights groups hardly makes him go into public-apology mode. This is a man who has done comedy at both black comedy-spots and Korn concerts, and he’s definitely dealt with his fair share of unsatisfied audience members.
“I’ve been in a fistfight onstage,” he says. “I’ve had things thrown at me onstage. I’ve had, you know, the whole crowd turn before. I’ve had so many things happen. And what’s funny is when you have the confidence and you’re like, ‘Well, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen?’ Like, it tends to go well mostly, you know.”
Oakerson has had quite the journey. When he first started out, he and another up-and-coming Philly comic named Kevin Hart ventured out to New York City (where he would eventually reside) and do sets at the notorious Comedy Cellar. Oakerson went on to make appearances on Comedy Central as well as show up on BET’s “Comic View” and HBO’s “P. Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy.”
Recently, Oakerson went the streaming-video route and hosted his own show on the Seeso comedy service, titled “Big Jay Oakerson’s What Your ----ing Deal?” In this stand-up showcase, Oakerson and a bevy of guest comics mainly do crowd work, interacting with the audience and coming up with on-the-fly humor.
“I love being a part of it and kind of, like, being the person who brought it to the forefront,” he says. “But just seeing some of my favorite comics that I’ve booked on the show just working off-the-cuff like that … To get people up there, like Colin Quinn and Gilbert Gottfried and Dave Attell – these comics who don’t normally work the crowd, like, doing that and just seeing that different level, that different gear that they all have, was such a treat.”
Seeso recently announced it is shutting down at the end of the year, and it’s unclear whether “Deal” will pop up anywhere else.
“We’re trying to figure out another home for it now, whether it be Comedy Central or something,” says Oakerson. “It’s all up in the air.”
Don’t cry for Oakerson, though. Not only is he still working the microphone at comedy clubs across the country, he also has radio and podcasting gigs to fall back on. He co-hosts “The Bonfire” on Comedy Central’s Sirius XM station and “The Sex Drugs & Rock N Roll Show” podcasts.
Ultimately, Oakerson wants to be a comic to who appeals to those blue-collar folks who just got off a hard day’s work and are looking for a laugh.
“I want people to think I’m funny and as honest as possible,” he says. “It’s what I’ve always admired about Howard Stern. I put him very much on the pedestal. He is what entertains me every day of the week, in some fashion. … I’m not political. I’m not trying to change anybody’s minds about anything. I’m just doing fun, as much as possible.”
Who: Big Jay Oakerson
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 5; 7:30 and 10 p.m. Oct. 6 and 7
Where: Goodnights Comedy Club, 861 W. Morgan St., Raleigh
Cost: $15 to $28
Details: 919-828-5233; goodnightscomedy.com