Fresh off his participation in the Seattle International Comedy Competition, Jackson Banks is amped up and ready to talk to It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City. Jackson is a hot name in local Utah comedy right now and there are reasons why.
- He is completely unique and you will lose your virginity to his jokes.
- He makes you feel awkward but lose control of your bodily functions in laughter simultaneously.
We talk about his experiences at the Seattle International Comedy Festival, murdering a Beatle and name dropping every comic within a 35 mile range. You will enjoy what he has to say, although you will acquire Thalassophobia. Something Jackson has taught us about oh so many times.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Handsome on the inside, terrified of my own strength.
If you could fight a member of the Beatles to the death, what would be your weapon of choice? Why? Takeout move?
Ringo is the weakest. I’d test my strength there. I’d curl up in a lil’ ball small enough to fit into a dietary supplement. He has grown so very old and I know he takes them. Then, once swallowed, when the time is right, I burst forth from his carcass like that Monroe floozy bursting from a cake. I don’t know if she ever did that, but by God ,you know if she didn’t she wanted to. But I got to her first. Just like I took care of Louis Armstrong, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and six seperate manifestations of Bob Dylan. George and John have been dealt with. The celebrity hunt concludes in McCartney’s ivory tower. For I am Jacky B, Beatle Slayer. The harvest is nearly completed. Their energies will flow through me. I am Sgt. Pepper. I am Rocky Raccoon. I am the Fool on the Hill, overseeing all.
It’s tough to decide what to wear, that’s where all my anxiety and nerves manifest themselves. I’d want a jacket that changed color to express mood and appease the crowd. If they want a suit, it will give the illusion of a suit. The jacket would tap into the audiences deepest desires and manifest them in plain sight. Yes, you can have one.
You have 2 last names as your name… if you could change your name to 2 other last names, what would you change it to?
Douglas Johnson. Good strong name. Or Zed Omega. Haven’t decided yet.
That’s a tough question. There are a lot of them. My biggest inspirations are actually animated sitcoms like the Simpsons and King of the Hill. So I guess if you dig deeper into that, the characters played by Phil Hartman are a huge influence on me. Been of huge fan of Conan and Norm McDonald as well. I had the pleasure of seeing Norm McDonald live and after the show I told him “you’ve been an inspiration my whole life” to which he replied “your whole life….goddamn” I guess I made him feel old. Will Ferrell was also a very early influence that stuck with me. If you watch my movie Cheddar Cats its pretty much Will Ferrell in a cat suit. As far as stand up goes (I know this is a common answer) I really like watching Louis C.K. work. He is great as a comedian who actually talks to crowds. He is able to be foul and at the same time stay optimistic about people enough to generate a very warm and conversational persona. He strikes me as a really nice, down to earth guy. That’s his appeal. I’ve never met the man. I also love Hedberg and Stanhope for opposite reasons. Hedberg’s comedy is really light and surreal, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the kind of comedy that makes you happy to be alive. Stanhope packs a visceral punch that is absolutely vulgar. He always makes you sit through the most awful and disgusting narratives (albeit hilarious ones), but he rewards you at the end with a very strong point he is making. As far as style I kind of relate to Stanhope the most. Mostly in the sense that his jokes are very elaborate and absurd narratives. I’m not as foul as him and I don’t have as much to say as he does. But who knows where the future will take me. I’m also inspired by some locals, but I’ll get to that.
How long have you been doing comedy?
That’s another tricky question. I’ve been doing stand up itself for a little under two years. I’ve been doing comedy on film and other mediums for about 8 years. I think it would be a shame to leave behind all my film stuff for stand up, so I’m working on striking a healthy balance between the two. I think they can inform each other if I let them.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
The biggest help is having friends and family that are into your stuff. My brother is very supportive of my work and I think the biggest help when times are tough is other comics being enthusiastic. That can be good padding when stuff doesn’t go so hot.
You just finished doing the Seattle International Comedy Competition. What was the process like to apply and get accepted?
The process was very simple. You just apply for free, send your info and a video. Then you wait a few months. I honestly was not expecting to get in, and thought it would be absurd to try to do the competition while school was in session. But by golly I did! My professors know their place.
What was your experience there? Your sets? Other comics? Venues? Etc.?
Ego Death. You’re out there with people who are all better than you and they’ve seen it all before. Many of the venues were older people who just weren’t into me, even if I did my broadest material. There’s a definite feeling of powerlessness there, especially when comics your age are appealing to these people just fine. So there’s this choice you have to make, where you’re like “Do I broaden my appeal or do I give up on these people and go crazy?”. I definitely did a little of both. When you’re out there getting your ass kicked you have to ask yourself if you’re doing it for you or for the glory. It forced me to step back and commit to experimenting and doing jokes that I like. I already do that, but I had to pair it with the realization that not everyone will like that and that’s okay. So there’s a line you ride. How much do I please myself and how much do I please the crowd? A great joke can do both. But please yourself first and see if you’re lucky enough to get a crowd on board with you. That’s when things get straight up magical, yo.
How did you do competitively?
Competitively it was super rough and polarizing. I was either in the bottom five or top five. Sometimes the crowds were just not on board and there was nothing I could do about it. I literally said “fuck it” to one of the crowds. It’s a common thing in competitions called a “snap set”, but it wasn’t extreme. When I crushed it I crushed it and got into the top 5. One of those nights the judges were from CBS and Comedy Central so that was cool. I did the best in the inner city and the rural areas Inner city people and rednecks are my people. City people because I think they like surreal nerdy aspects, and with rednecks its inexplicable. I grew up in a redneck town so I guess there’s a connection there. Granted these are Seattle suburb rednecks, but I’ve also been able to do well in Montana. Trashy crowds are more open minded when it comes to comedy than uptight, pc crowds sometimes. But it definitely swings both ways.
What did think about the Seattle comedy scene? What can Utah’s learn from them?
There is A LOT going on the Seattle comedy scene. You are able to go up 3 or 4 times a night. Before I got home I wrote a new 3 or 4 minute set and just ground it out for two nights, so I was very prepared when I tried it at home. You can go up once or twice a week here if you’re lucky. That is considered “taking time off” up there. The scene here just doesn’t work for grinding stuff out and working on it. There isn’t enough opportunity here.
If you were to go again, what would you change/do better?
You kind of learn as you go. I’m not sure what I would do differently. I already kind of had a plan to do broader stuff for more blue collar/older crowds. However, it did take me till about halfway through to broaden it a bit. I guess I would just have a better awareness of what to expect from the crowds. There was only one really alt crowd I performed for at the Comedy Underground in Seattle which is a shame. But that’s the nature of the beast.
Who are some of the standouts that you got to meet there that people should check out?
The roster of comedians in that competition was great. I particularly enjoyed Curtis Cook, Scoot Herring, Steve Hofstetter, Zoltan Kaszas, Parker Postyeni Mo Alexander and Jake Head to name a few. Look up the roster and study to name a few. Go on the competition website and study the roster. It’s very impressive!
Besides the Seattle Comedy Festival, what other festivals/competitions are you planning on doing coming up next year?
Regrettably I was broke when everyone was applying for the Idaho Laugh Fest or whatever it’s called. THAT’S MY HOME STATE. I should be there but I’m a coward. Keeping my fingers crossed to get into Bridgetown, a festival in Portland in April. It’s a festival so I don’t have to worry about scores and rankings and I can just do my set and enjoy myself. And the scene is alt as hell. I’ll feel safe there and the walls around my ego can remain strong. I’ve also applied for Laughing Skull in Atlanta, Devil Cup, and Laughing Devil. The latter two are in New York and they all demand a fresh set for every round of competition. The idea of that is terrifying and liberating. No more “A game” primping. You just have to be a good comic and put your writing to the test. If I could afford to do those I’d love to.
What are your comedy goals for 2014?
When I was in Seattle I got so burnt out on my regular material. I just wanted to let go and experiment and write some new stuff. I’ve always wanted to write new stuff as fast as possible, but there was no way to do the “new hour a year” thing because I don’t have many opportunities to do an hour or even a half hour. But I realized that I can set the reasonable goal of a new ten minute set ever month or two. It seems much more doable and would even amount to nearly an hour a year. That could get really hard, so I’m happy with just 3 solid new minutes a month. So basically my goal is to just throw out my old material (at least for the time being) so I’m forced to crank out new stuff at a faster rate.
What was one joke that you have told that has stood out the most?
There are a lot of people who know me for my Jurassic Park rape joke, and it definitely defines my style in a lot of ways, but the one that really stands out for me is the Utopian Ass one, mainly because its weird and you never know its working until that final punch line comes through, but it always seems to deliver. It gives me hope that the average person might be able to get on board with the weird stuff I like to talk about. It works with a broad range of crowds. It brings people together in a time where unity is sadly needed.
For how small it is, we have a great scene here. There are a lot of very talented comics here. The Jewish people are known for their comedy, and a slang for Utah Mormons is “Rocky Mountain Jews”. This is fitting as I think that Mormon comics tend to be really funny, good writers. Christian Pieper, Abi Harrison, Steve Soulberg, Aaron Woodall and Travis Tate are all great. You can’t hide your Mormon on stage, Mazziotti. I know what cougars you’re really talking about. LONG LIVE THE UNIVERSITY WHERE I WAS CONCEIVED. GO BYU. I was raised Mormon and hopefully my life of sin doesn’t erode that Mormon charm out of my joke writing. I also love wiseguys as a club. It made me the man I am today.
What would make it better?
On the negative side, Wiseguys is the ONLY club in town. And with everyone clamoring to the same man for stage time, it’s tough to get up often enough to feel satisfied. Wiseguys is also a very traditional type of club. I’d like to see more alt rooms emerge in Salt Lake in the future. There’s some of that emerging with the Complex which is good. That’s not to say that I encourage a division between what appears to be two seperate “scenes” in Salt Lake comedy. There shouldn’t be any divide between the two. It should be seen as a positive that we as comics can experience more traditional rooms and more alt rooms. It shouldn’t be an “us or them” scenario. Both aspects are important to comedy. Fellow comics, if we do not unite, we will perish. Also, Spence Roeper is starting an alt room in Logan at Death Ray comics. I look forward to seeing where that goes.
What is one cool thing that is happening in the Utah Comedy scene that you are excited about?
Very excited about the Rooftop thing. That means I can obtain a set without having to lug a camera around. Girls are always about to pounce my bones and then they see the camera and they’re like “no way, dude. You’re trying too hard. Poetry must flow through a man as easily as his seed. Back to nature with you, my boy” Rooftop also put some of my clips on their site which excites me very deeply. It is older stuff however, so they can go fuck themselves for feeding my insecurities. See end of this blog entry to see Jackson’s Rooftop videos!
Who are some of the difference makers in the comedy scene? Why?
Everyone is a winner and a difference maker! Hmmmm. That’s a good question. You my friend have made a difference for inviting me to do this interview. Were it not for that, the thoughts would rattle about in my skull like a .22 caliber shell and drive me mad. Christian Pieper is a difference maker. I respect his writing and I love to sit and his knee and listen to his advice as he bounces me up and down. Abi Harrison is a difference maker. Her writing makes me envious and I’m always blown away when I see her perform and get that fine old “I wish I had written that” feeling. I can really relate to her sense of humor. I’m really glad to know great female comics in SLC like Abi and Natasha Mower. Seeing them here on the ground floor writing great stuff and killing it has helped to permanently diffuse all that “are women funny as men?” bullshit in my mind. The answer is yes, yes, OH YES. Marty Archibald will soon make a difference with his Car Tour, which I am enthusiastic about taking part in. Also Jay Whittaker and Marcus. They are enthusiastic about young talent and have presented me with a lot of opportunities. Haven’t seen Marcus in a while. Where has he gone?! And Wallace Fetzer. For he is my friend, and I wasn’t sure about continuing Stand Up until I met him and Connor James. I clicked with them and crawled out of a writing rut. Then us Three Muskateers blazed off into the sunset never to be heard from again. Connor’s a brain with a mic and Wallace has an irresistible stage presence. You can’t not like him. YOU CAN’T AND YOU WON’T. David Pate once helped me write a joke about jazzy scat sex. Jacob Leigh and Christian have also been difference makers by opening the door to me having local comics guest star as my parents. So far the results have been great. Jacob Leigh’s style is great. It’s smart but it still has this visceral, juvenile gut punch. Same goes for that twisted O’Neil bastard. Patrick Ramirez is always bustin’ his balls and writing a lot. Guy Seidel makes a difference by destroying hecklers and being worth a fuck. Seth Tippets makes a difference because he is my new business partner in the exciting world of advertising. Spencer King makes a difference by spreading his seed and his jokes throughout the land and Paul Sheffield makes a difference by making snide jabs that force me to exclaim his name! SHEFFIELD!
What shows do you have coming up?
Tyrell Forrester is putting on a show on December 12th that I plan to be a part of. And on the 5th I’m hoping to be able to skip class and perform in the “not your baby” show at the complex. Totally improvised stand up. It will make you the master of your domain.
How can people connect with you?