If there’s a fast track to comedy success, Jeff Dye has found it. While still living in Seattle, Jeff earned an opportunity that allowed him to bypass the first audition round of season six of Last Comic Standing— a competition he would ultimately take third place in. And now, with his Comedy Central Presents special premiering May 7, and his very own show Numbnuts, produced by Ashton Kutcher, debuting thus summer on MTV, it would seem Jeff will soon be a name known in most homes across the nation.
I chatted with Jeff by phone recently to meteoric rise up the ranks of the national comedy scene, what network television exposure means to him and much more.
So how are you?
I’m good. I just woke up, that’s how lazy my life’s been today.
You’ve been busy enough, I guess you can sleep in. Are you home or are you on the road?
I’m in Los Angeles right now and I fly to Philadelphia tomorrow.
So, technically, you need the extra sleep.
The calm before the storm.
You’re actually from my home state. I’m in Olympia, WA and you’re originally from the Seattle area, right?
Yeah, I was raised in Kent, WA. Then I was in Seattle for the last 10 years of my life. Around the Queen Anne area.
You’re album Welcome to My Brian and I loved it.
Thank you, I might be dropping a new one soon actually.
How long in between the last one and now did you have to work on new material?
Once the last album came out, I just started writing all new stuff. I write pretty quick, but I’m also really picky about my material so I scrap a lot of stuff. You know like, ‘Ahh, I’m not going to keep that.’ So it did take a while. When I wrote that stuff, I was already working on new stuff, if that makes any sense. So by the time that album came out, I was already working on the new hour.
At that point do you completely stop using the material you put on the album when your on stage?
I try to but I don’t. I’ll over-lap sometimes. As far as ablums go – let’s say with Welcome to My Brain – if I’m at a comedy club, you’re going to hear some of those jokes for sure. But if I’m doing a whole other album, then I’m going to make sure it is top to bottom new.
When you do a live show, do you plan out your set—or just go to the well while you’re out there?
I kind of feel it out. I don’t necessarily do my jokes in the same order ever either so it depends on how I’m feeling, what the crowd feels like when I get out there— you know if they seem a little old I”m not going to start with something that’s real political or something. I just feel out the crowd age-wise and demographic-wise or city-wise or whatever.
|Jeff Dye – Knee Pads and Short Shorts|
You taped the Welcome to My Brain album in Utah.
Yeah, wierd choice.
Yeah, why Utah?
I’m kind of a cleaner act and going to Utah, I thought they might want it super queeky clean. After the first show there I decided that I want to record my album in Utah. The crowds were hot, I was selling out all my shows that weekend. It was unexpected to find that in Utah for sure. Who knew?
Why do you find yourself performing clean?
I’m just the same guy on stage that I am when I’m off stage and I don’t really say that kind of stuff in my regular life. So it sounds really unnatural and forced when I try to use it on stage. If you knew me, it just wouldn’t seem right. Nobody buys it coming from me. I totally appreciate the comics that can do it and get away with it. I just could never do it.
Last Comic Standing is finally coming back again. I don’t know if I should say ‘finally’ or just ‘again.’ You finished third on season six but you’ve got an album out, you’re working on a new one already, and your Comedy Central Presents is airing just weeks after Iliza Schlesinger’s, who finished first that season. Do you really feel like you lost?
Not at all and that’s another thing. I think once you make it to a certain point, like top five or whatever, it doesn’t really feel like there’s a big difference. Especially as far as pressure goes. You know if I go and do something people will say ‘Oh I like that guy. He should’ve won.’ But it’s really trendy to be like ‘That person shouldn’t have won or ‘first place is always the worst.’
Our business is very cut throat that way. I was in just as many episodes as her. It’s not like LCS aired more episodes about her or anything. She does get those bragging rights though.
Does it always seems to come down to that– constantly trying to get yourself more legitimacy so that you can tell the club owners ‘Look, I did this?’
Sure, yeah. You know, we also both got holding deals after that.
How does the holding deal work?
A holding deal is where the network thinks that you are talented enough that they can make a show around you but they don’t know what the show would be yet and they don’t have the idea, but they want to make sure that another network doesn’t give you a show.
I was the first person in LCS history to have a holding deal but not finish first. I was really flattered by it, but nothing ever came of it. We didn’t go in and talk or anything. It was just kind of like I wasn’t allowed to talk to any other networks, and they paid me not to.
Were you still in Seattle when you tried out for LCS?
I had not made the move to LA. I was touring but I was still living in Seattle. I was always under the impression that with comedy you don’t really need to move to LA. So I was always just in Seattle doing my thing.
Here’s another interesting thing. I didn’t audition for LCS. They were doing a thing that they ended up scratching when it went to television. Bill Bellamy, who hosted, would go to these cities, and just drop into comedy clubs and watch the comics and at the end he would pick his favorite comics to just leapfrog the entire audition process.
I was the guy he saw in Seattle. They taped all these peoples’ sets, came up on stage afterward to tell everyone they just made it past the first round of LCS and everything. After that, none of the people that Bellamy picked advanced to the next round so they scrapped that whole format and I was only one who made it through.
After that whole process, and the holding, that’s when you decided you should be LA?
Yeah, I figured it seemed like a good time.
I’ve talked to local comics who have kind of risen to the top in their respective towns and decide to move to LA ready to kick some ass, but find themselves stuck in line waiting to sign up for an open mic at The Comedy Store.
Yeah, it’s like starting all over again which is annoying. I kind of feel like I cheated. Things were already happening and I had a little bit of heat. This business is definitely not for the weak ego. You’ve got to be willing to deal with a lot of rejection.
So tell me about the Comedy Central Presents special.
When I first wanted to do comedy, the Comedy Central Presents was like the highest a comic could be in our eyes. That was the ultimate goal. Me and my comedy friends would sit around and think maybe some day we could get our own Comedy Central Presents.
How do you feel it went? I mean, the nation will soon see May 7 but what are your overall feelings about it?
Honestly, it was a total blur for me. I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever been nervous going on stage doing stand-up. It’s what I do, I love it, and I feel like I’m good at it. But for the Comedy Central Presents, I was nervous. I know it well and I’m excited to see it as well. I haven’t even seen the cut yet.
So what’s next?
I have my own show coming out on MTV called Numbnuts. Ashton Kutcher made the show.
The title makes me think of Jackass.
Right. It’s Jackass meets Fear Factor. That’s basically what it is. We take people and make them compete in stunts. Contestents compete against our own team of numbnuts. And the contestants are YouYube phenomenons– kids that got famous from doing things on YouTube. So the stunt will be based on whatever it was they did on their YouTube video.
You can watch Comedy Central Presents: Jeff Dye this Friday at 11:30 pm EST on Comedy Central. And to download his new album Welcome to My Brain, just click the image below.