Jason Stuart has been a groundbreaking gay actor and comedian for 25 years. He was one of the first gay actors to be out from the very start of his career.
His length of television and film credits is extensive and include Will & Grace, Ping Pong Playa, House, George Lopez, Charmed, Kindergarten Cop, Vegas Vacation, The Drew Carey Show and Gia, with Angelina Jolie. However, Stuart's greatest success has probably come with his stand-up comedy. Recently, he decided to produce and star in the here TV! special Making It to the Middle, chronicling his experience as a gay stand-up comic. The DVD of the special has just been released from Ariztical Entertainment. Recently, Stuart took a few moments to talk about Making it in the Middle.
Owen Keehnen: So, Jason, would you start by explaining the title of your new self-produced comedy DVD Making it to the Middle?
Jason Stuart: Well, I wanted to show what it was like to be in the middle of my life, in the middle of the country [ and ] in the middle of my career. I wanted to do a documentary about the reality of being a comic who's not totally famous and yet not a complete loser.
OK: So is the middle comfortable?
JS: It would be more comfortable if Scorsese was calling me for his next movie. I think I would like to get out of the middle and more towards the top.
OK: Well, the frame of the DVD is about your arriving in Columbus Ohio and preparing for a comedy show that night at a club. It is interspersed with you talking, preparing for the show and the show itself. What did you want to show with it all?
JS: That it's not all glamorous. The shows are great and the people are great, but it's a lot of hard work. That nightclub world can be brutal. I also wanted to create a record of what I have been doing for the past 20-25 years.
OK: What's the toughest part of it for you?
JS: The traveling, being in the middle of nowhere without my friends, the endless airports—and the angry flight attendants!
OK: So in that 20-25 years you must have witnessed a lot of changes.
JS: Yeah, part of what I wanted to do, too, was to have a chronicle of this. The comedy clubs have gotten more generic, so now I tend to play more colleges and gay events. I am closing the comedy-clubs chapter on my life for the most part. It isn't what it used to be. It's probably a 75-to-25 spread with straight to gay. Gay men are busy looking for sex ( I know I'm one of them ) or going to see my comedy pals Kathy Griffin or Margaret Cho.
OK: Why do you think that is?
JS: Gay men are not at the point where they are able to support themselves, but we're close! Gay men need to realize that we can be as funny as a straight or bisexual woman. I think it is coming ... but they need a little nudge or a naked body, and I have one if they want it!
OK: Going along with that, this is a pretty mid-America audience as well and yet you flirt with the guys, dish [ about ] your Jewish family, make fun of Bush, push for gay marriage and make anti-military cracks. Do you ever curtail your material based on the crowd?
JS: I try to set up the jokes so each audience understands where I am coming from. I can't help it if someone is offended. Joan Rivers said if you don't offend some people in your audience you've lost your edge.
OK: So you don't temper the material?
JS: No. Recently I was in San Antonio, Texas, hosting the HRC Dinner they warned me not to joke about The Alamo! So you never know what is going to offend someone. I just try to be funny.
OK: Well, even though this is middle America I was kind of amazed at how insane it was—you kiss that straight hunk, Buck, from the audience; that a straight man in the audience wants you do give a lap dance to a new bride...
JS: Yeah, it can be crazy sometimes. The most extreme things sometimes come up. I think folks just want to have fun, so I give it them ... the best way I can.
OK: Going along with that, I thought it interesting that during your question-and-answer part of the show, a woman asks if you're a transsexual and then starts talking about her brother being a cross-dresser. I was wondering if you consider, on some level, that your shows are educational.
JS: Oh, sure. I think the fact that different subjects come up is great. The more people are exposed and educated about things the less threatening they become. And if we can laugh at ourselves, wow! I feel like I have made my point.
OK: On the DVD you mention that you approach stand-up as an actor. Could you elaborate on that?
JS: Simply that I didn't study stand-up anywhere. See, acting is just my roots. I tend to partner with the audience the way an actor on stage would with another actor.
OK: So then how much of your act is scripted and how much is improv or playing off the crowd?
JS: Much is very scripted. It's a matter of making it seem otherwise and then including a lot of playing and joking with the audience. I have a little computer in my head that sorts out the material, hopefully at the right moment.
OK: I recently saw you were on [ the TV show ] Everybody Hates Chris and see that you have quite a few new film and TV projects in the works. Any that you are particularly excited about?
JS: I am playing a doctor in [ the film ] Ping Pong Playa, which is out now. I'm excited about that. I am also filming a role in David DeCoteau's upcoming horror remake of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum as this creepy dad who does experiments on these hot twentysomethings. [ And ] I played a nurse in a drama Family of Four, with my best friend, Alexandra Paul. I'm also starring in and producing a drama called Twisted Faith about a gay priest counseling a young woman ( Elaine Hendrix ) about her nightmares; [ it's ] coming to here! TV next year. There's are also a lot more projects but you never know where they are all gonna end up!
OK: Those and a number of other film projects are bound to keep you busy now that you'll be spending less time in the comedy clubs. So what do you want people to come away from Jason Stuart: Making it to the Middle feeling?
JS: I want people to enjoy it and see a what it's like to be a comedian on the road. I want them to see the process of where the material comes from. I also want people to laugh their heads off and pee in their pants. I'm just a simple guy with a simple dream.
OK: And where is can people pick up their copy?
JS: I'd love it if people checked out my Web site, www.JasonStuart.com, and picked up a copy while they were there.
OK: Thanks, Jason.
JS: Thank you, I so apprecicate all you press folks being so supportive of me.