For most would-be comics, mastering the art of stand -up takes years of hard work.
22-year-old Jordan Pease isn’t afraid of the hard work – but he’s also clearly not afraid of early success. In the time that most young comedians are still struggling to find their own unique identity, Pease has already crafted a career as a stand-up, comic writer, columnist and personality that might be the envy of someone twice his age. The secret to his early success? Live your life, watch it closely, and make it a joy to share with your audience.
“Comedy is my cure-all,” says Pease, an Italian-American who grew up in New Jersey. Having confronted an early lifetime of pain and disappointment – his father died of substance abuse when Jordan was a teenager, one of many family tragedies – Pease learned early on how to use his comedic instincts to cope with everything. “I was never the person to cry for weeks,” he says. “I’d turn it into a joke and laugh about it, have my family laugh about it.”
Drawing on his own family life growing up as well as his experiences as a carefree, gay traveler and observer of life, Pease realized early on as a performer that the key to winning an audience over was having a likeable personality and responding to each audience member. “My big secret is that I picture everyone in the audience as my friends,” he says. “Before the show, after the show, I treat them like my friends. … I make eye contact, and I figure, my friends are going to laugh at the same things I do,” admitting that one of his trademarks is something many comics consider a no-no – laughing at his own jokes on stage.
“I can’t help it,” he confesses. “I crack myself up.” So far, audiences have responded with enthusiasm – and in a way that makes Pease one of the more unique and unusual stand-ups working today. He won the Punchline Bay Area Comics competition and the Funniest New Comic in LA competition in 2012, and frequently performs in top venues like the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory. Although he frequently discusses his gay identity and experiences, both Pease and his audiences don’t immediately categorize him as a “gay comic.”
“There are a lot of great gay comedians in LA and New York,” Pease says, “but many of them focus on doing allgay shows – you know, one straight host, five gay guys and a lesbian. I don’t mind doing those when I’m asked, but I know that to get where I want to get, I need to learn how to make everyone laugh. Comedy is color blind, and if you can make anyone laugh, you’re going to get more work.” As a result, Pease has embraced performing in comedy venues in more conservative areas and to audiences who might not be immediately accepting of his identity. “I love that challenge,” he says. “If you put me in a retirement home, I can make them laugh!” His dedication to his craft and his open-natured, conversational and outrageous style have endeared him to veteran comics like Sara Silverman and Steve Trevino (“Steve introduced me to the Latino comic world, and Latino audiences are the best – they love me, they laugh at anything!”). Growing up, Pease’s influences were equally eclectic – from the Yiddishinfluenced delivery of Jackie Mason to Chilean American impressionist Pablo Francisco to writer and talk-show maven Chelsea Handler.
It was Handler, who helped establish herself by publishing comedic books about her own life, that inspired Pease to write a memoir of his experience living in Verona, Italy. “Accidentally Okay,” published by Laredo Publishing, offers a more reflective side of Pease that might surprise and delight his stand-up fans in unexpected ways, recalling experiences that are both outrageously hilarious (taking magic mushrooms provided to him by a strange vendor at an open air market) and startlingly poignant (reading a letter to Juliet by a young gay man). In addition to the memoir, Pease has also written columns for The Huffington Post and sees his writing as complementing his performance career, in the vein of another one of his heroes, David Sedaris. “He’s my biggest inspiration for writing,” Pease enthuses, confessing that one of his wishes is to make the New York Times bestseller list. “I want to do the things he’s doing.”