Former high school English teacher and current comedian Jay Black performed in the Strafford Room of the Memorial Union Building (MUB) on Monday, Jan. 23 as the opening night comedian for the spring semester. Though Black was the main entertainment of the night, fellow New Jersey comedian Troy Moore, along with UNH’s own Improv Anonymous opened the show.
“We do improv shows every Thursday night at 9 p.m. in the MUB Entertainment Center,” producer of Improv Anonymous Rebecca Bishop said. “We’ll be doing second semester auditions in a couple of weeks, and ads will be going up around campus, so keep your eyes peeled.”
According to Memorial Student Union Activities Assistant Director Dave Zamansky, it has become routine for a comedian to come the night before classes start each semester.
“Jay Black came probably about four or five years ago, and he’s really huge on the college circuit,” Zamansky said. “And a lot of his routine really centers on how he was a high school English teacher 10 years ago, and then he quit to be in comedy and he hasn’t stopped since.”
Black initially got into comedy to impress the woman whom he ended up marrying, but he didn’t start performing stand-up comedy full time until 2007.
“I was a high school teacher, so I was just [going to] do [comedy] like building birdhouses on the side, it was just [going to] be a hobby,” Black said. “But I started getting good at it, and I started making more money doing stand-up than teaching.”
Personal inadequacy and self-depreciation were reoccurring themes throughout Black’s set, and he illustrated the notion that laughter is the best medicine to overcome hardships and personal issues.
“We all have adaptive processes to get us through life. Some people can process pain by thinking about the other person, having empathy and then letting go, and others make a joke out of it,” Black said. “And especially at a college, where you’re still sort of figuring it all out and a lot of you are dealing with depression and angst, to have somebody maybe go through the same things and come out the other side and be able to go ‘Well, it still hurts, but its also funny,’ that’s helpful.”
According to Black, being an outsider and thinking differently are essential to the work of any artist.
“You can’t be an artist if you’re also engaged in the moment,” Black said. “Part of being an artist in any medium is to be an observer. You’re on the outskirts looking at how people interact with each other, and what are you trying to do? You’re trying to figure it out, because you can’t do that.”
Those interested in Black’s work can learn more at http://www.jayblack.tv, and can also watch him in the film “Meet My Valentine,” available on Netflix. As for those aspiring to become comedians themselves, Black has two pieces of advice.
“One line of advice: don’t get into comedy,” he said. “Second line of advice: talk when you’re on stage like you’re the person on the Titanic that knows where the life raft is. Whatever you say in public should be infused with that same level of enthusiasm that what you’re saying is important.”