Comedian moves from classroom to stage

Former high school teacher Jay Black has experience in what makes students laugh:

By Abrielle Backhaus

 

Comedian Jay Black said timing presented him with an opportunity to follow his dreams and make a career change.

After seven years of teaching high school, Black left the education field to pursue his passion of stand-up comedy.

“Comedy is something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I was six years old,” Black said. “I very vividly remember sitting in my living room watching Bill Cosby with my father and seeing him laugh really really hard and going, ‘Well I don’t know exactly what this thing is that Bill Cosby is doing, but that’s what I want to do.’”

As a child, Black said most people would remember him being more weird than funny.

Growing up in the 1980s and early ’90s, Black said he would often sit and watch hours of stand-up comedy TV because of the multitude of stand-up shows in that era.

“I just fell in love with it as an art form and just the idea of you being up there with just a microphone and entertaining people,” Black said. “That was equal parts the most alluring and terrifying thing I could think of, so that’s why I think I wanted to do it so bad.”

Black had been teaching for five years and doing stand-up comedy for two when he signed a contract to perform a college tour.

At the same time, he made an appearance on Showtime in which his comedy sketch included bits about sex. A day later, Black said he was shocked when he learned his students had seen the sketch.

At this point, Black said he thought it would be best for everyone if he displaced himself from the high school scene.

Recently named college comedian of the year, Black will be at UW-Whitewater 8 p.m., Dec. 5, in the UC-Down Under.

SEAL intern Dylan Kersten said Black was booked because he is well known throughout the college circuit.

“He’s big on college campuses,” Kersten said. “He’s performed I believe over 400 college campuses.”

Black didn’t disagree, saying he spends most of his time on the road traveling from university to university.

Kersten said he is excited to see the reaction UW-Whitewater students will have toward Black.

“I think it will bring a little bit of relief from all that stress that’s coming about through the upcoming finals week,” Kersten said. “I’m really hoping that people come and that they will just relax and have a few laughs.”

As a high school teacher, Black said he learned a lot about what makes people laugh, especially students, and will do almost anything to get a laugh.

“I will never try to be anything other than what I am, and I try to be very funny,” Black said. “And I think college kids respect on some level authenticity more than talking down to them.”

As part of Black’s goal to be authentic, he said he doesn’t often sit down and write his material; rather he uses real-life instances that are silly and then embellishes them to work into his act.

Black jokingly equated what he does as a comedian to being an addict.

“Nothing, literally nothing, compares to what it’s like when you’re on stage, by yourself, in front of the audience,” Black said, “I’ve never done heroin, but I would imagine the addiction is like what a heroin addict feels, because I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life than that.”

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