3.31.2013

At the Bar with Brian Jian

After being introduced to this character on the Narrative, I restrained myself and encouraged other Narrators to interview him.  When weeks turned to months, I said, "Hell, no" and went for him.  It was an immense pleasure to complete this interview with the hilarious Brian Jian.

Brian…main man…welcome to the Bar. What’s your drink of choice?

Coffee. I can't survive without it, not after 3 years of grad school and 4 undergrad (and keeping the hours of a vampire like I do). Otherwise, I like a good vodka club soda or a big fat Guiness.

My kind of dude!!! Now, for those who are not familiar with your work, tell us a few things about you and what you do.

I live and work a day job at an office in Manhattan, New York City. Then I moonlight as an aspiring stand up comedian, grinding it out every night (or as much as inhumanly possible).



Why comedy? What drew you to that specific art form?

I was always a fan of stand up comedy, even more so than movies, sketch shows or sitcoms. Even as a kid. At 12 years old, I would secretly listen to and memorized Eddie Murphy's "Delirious" album verbatim to the point I wore out the cassette tape. I knew where all the punchlines were, the pauses, the beats, the breaths, even the specific laughs coming from the audience. But I never thought I could actually DO it, for a living. It was never presented as an option to me. Then the older I got, the more "wrong" every other profession felt, so I decided to give it a try.

How would you characterize your style of comedy? Which topics would you say you like to explore the most?

Agh, I dunno. That's hard for me to say. I just try to be honest and talk about whatever is the truth to me. What would I talk about in an elevator (besides the weather)? What would I talk about over dinner with friends? My life, experiences, relationships, race, politics? Just one rule: you gotta be funny.


Any idols in the industry? Who would say influences you most?

Of course. Too many to count! George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Nick Dipaolo, Jim Norton, Greg Giraldo (RIP), Patrice O'Neal (RIP). The list goes on... Are there idiots? Sure. But I wouldn't say its any more or less than any other industry. You have a few genuine people and a slew of real assholes. Just steer clear of them and keep truckin' along.

How often do you get to perform?

That really depends on what my day job allows.

Oh...*sighs & shakes head* The damn day job.

If the office needs us to work overtime, then I don't get to perform as much as I want. Ideally (and typically), I would perform every night. In stand comedy, especially when you're starting out, it's something you have to do. Get up (on stage). "Get up, get up, get up!" as the saying goes. Those jokes don't write themselves, you know what I mean??

You know, comedy strikes me as a being a very difficult business to break into. What difficulties have you faced?

The biggest difficulty I'd say was realizing it IS a "business." And there are politics involved. Of all the forms of entertainment, its closer to a meritocracy than most but definitely not based totally on merit. There are more occurrences of nepotism, favoritism, sexism, image consciousness and "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" than not. I always thought "Funny trumped all", and it does, to an extent. But there are SHOCKING and glaringly examples of when lesser talented and experienced people get ahead of others more deserving. You have to really have a steel resolve in the business and remember why you got into stand up comedy in the first place: severe mommy issues.

Mommy iss...*blinks*  Brian, which would you say was your favorite performance?

This one time I told the PERFECT joke in front of a crowd of 500 people, three people in the front row spit out their drinks. One person sitting in the balcony, fell over and landed on his head. But he was laughing so hard, he got up and kept laughing hysterically. A woman booed and heckled me, so I retorted, "Hey! Why don't you go jump in a lake??" The crowd erupted with applause at her receiving her come uppance. I finished the joke with a carthwheel, bank flip into a hand stand (something I've never done before on stage!) After I exited, the crowd wouldn't stop cheering. The stage manager pleaded, "You gotta get back out there! They're gonna riot if you don't encore!!" So sheepishly walk back out on stage, embarrassed at my own success and talent. The crowd thundered approval and wouldn't even let me start talking. They just carried me out on their shoulders and we walked out into the street, in the middle of Manhattan, cops were high-fiving me, women fainted as we marched past, and we all got ice cream.

Or this other time, I was at an open mic in front of 4 other drunk, stupid comedians, who were barely listening to me anyway. I told a joke that bombed and one of them yelled out, "Don't quit your day job."

One of those stories is truer than the other.

Mm-hm. *gives a look* Are you currently working on anything we should look out for?

I'm always working and writing random crap. Every now and then I put up a video on YouTube. That'd be a good place to start.


Mm-hm.  Y'all know he loves that dog.
What’s in store for the hilarious Brian Jian?

Oh, I don't know. I'm clawing, fighting, biting and scratching my way to the middle. I'll go from there...

Screw the middle! I hope you make it all the way to the top!

Thanks so much again for doing this, Brian. I look forward to seeing more of your work.


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