Jake Flores [Interview]

Photo by Trevor Graham Rathbone

Hello Folks! And a happy Friday to you all. As regular readers may have noticed, we have been fortunate as of late to have some absolutely hilarious people on the site who work in the world of comedy. And today is absolutely no exception. It’s Jake Flores, Everyone!

Jake is an amazing comic and podcaster. As he discusses some what below, for die-hard comedy fans, the name Jake Flores is synonymous with DIY comedy. He has built a huge following through his act and with the popularity of Pod Damn America. And more importantly, he did it HIS way. Now, of course sacrifices have to be made, he is just human after all. But what I have always found impressive about Jake, beyond just being absolutely hilarious, is an obvious glimpse of diligence on his part to always do the right thing. He says what he thinks, but not in a ridiculous Trumpian kind of way, you know?

Jake is also a brilliant writer, having written for The Observer and other outlets. And his 2014 album Humours is such an amazing hour of hilarity that I would personally put it up there with some of my favorite albums of the last ten years by the likes of Amy Miller (Solid Gold), Sean Jordan (The Buck Starts Here), or Sarah Tollemache (Voluptuous Boy). He also has yet ANOTHER podcast, which he will tell you about below. He is an absolutely hilarious and was generous enough to share some words with us here today. And for that, we are so grateful. So, please enjoy some amazing words from Jake Flores!




What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

When I was a kid I was pretty antisocial. Wasn’t great at making friends, school stressed me out, but I watched a lot of TV. I think a combination of old sitcoms like Taxi, really tightly written shows like The Simpsons and News Radio, and then later on just straight stand up on Comedy Central planted a lot of the seeds in me. When I was a little older I wanted to play punk music. I liked the subversive nature of it and the fact that you could do it yourself without much money. I was terrible at music though, still am, but was told in school I was a good writer. Eventually I found out about open mics and all these elements sort of came together. When i first started out I wanted to do with comedy what punk did with music: take it out of the big bourgie venues, make it edgier in content. I think it worked. Much like punk music, my early comedy also was unlistenable.



What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

I think the first time I ever got paid was at a bar called Beerland in Austin TX. It was a music venue and the show was run by some scenester types who were expressly intent on taking comedy out of the clubs. Nowadays like literally every bar has a weekly stand up show, but back in 2007 this was an entirely new concept. The DIY thing really stuck with me. Everyone at the comedy club open mics was just sort of waiting for some manager to come and tell them they were allowed to work the club. I think we were all assuming they had some kind of monopoly on the elements that made stand up work, but to see it happen in a dive bar I realized that you really just need a mic and maybe some drinks. I also remember realizing that the audience is different people depending on where you do it, and I liked the scene crowd more than the strip mall types.

I always like to ask comedians who (used?) to travel across the globe making people laugh this one question: What are some of the more obscure cities and/or venues that you have enjoying performing in? What are some places that most people may not realize are wonderful places for live comedy?

I fucking LOVE touring for exactly this reason. Last time I went to Memphis they had no proper comedy clubs, but a BANGER bar scene. It kind of seemed like everyone was just in it for the love of the game since you couldn’t really headline a Funny Bone or whatever around town. I also had a great time in a small college type town in northern California called Arcata a couple years ago. I also keep having these really fun shows at this place called Leftwoods in Amarillo TX because there are like 6 people there who like me and the bar will let you go long on a monday and sleep in the built in condo. The room where you crash is literally connected to the bar so you can just go buck wild and then go hit the bricks. Great time.



Besides the fact that it is practically required for every comedian to have a podcast, I am always curious to know the origin behind fine shows such as yours, the wonderful & renowned Pod Damn America podcast. So what made you want to put this show out into the digital ether?

It’s funny, in politics people always accuse each other of being really cynical and grifting for cash and fame, but PDA is really a labor of love. I’m not trying to use it to become a cable news pundit or something. I started it because I’d always had an interest in history and socialist politics, like since I was a kid. I went to a magnet high school where a teacher gave out Howard Zinn books to kids when they graduated. I had a lot of run-ins with the cops, and then later in college I studied a little sociology. But I put all this stuff on the back burner when I got into comedy.

In the process of pursuing a career, and really thinking about what that means, while simultaneously working really gritty day jobs, I started to think about class politics again. Being able to seriously pursue something as dumb as stand up comedy is a lot easier if you’re rich, so there’s a class element to it that directly conflicts with all the meritocratic stuff we’re told about it. The funniest person doesn’t always make it in this business, it’s usually the person that has the most free time to put in, which costs money. So I was thinking about this stuff a lot, and then Trump got elected and I decided I wanted to catch up on my education because it felt too absurd to be a comedian and not be putting any work into understanding how that happened.

But reading theory and history and shit takes a lot of time that would have tanked my ability to do comedy on top of working all the time, so I turned it into a comedy project. Really I just wanted to make a comedy show out of my study group, and monetize it if I could. I kind of wanted to make a materialist version of what Duncan Trussel does with his podcast, where he talks about what woo woo metaphysical stuff he’s reading every week. Anyways all of this ended up working because I got lucky with this thing where I pissed off Homeland Security and they came to my house and was able to funnel the buzz from the viral story about it into the show.

And basically the same question for your latest pod, Why You Mad. You’ve actually had some friends & past guests here at TWS on the show, including Steve Hernandez & Myq Kaplan. So what made you want to bring this intriguing show out into the digital world?

WYM also happened pretty organically. Luisa [Díez] is a pal of mine and I’d had her on PDA a couple times to talk about the comedy/politics discourse and I think we just kind of realized we had good chemistry. Steve Hernandez actually suggested we make a side project, and I decided to pitch it to Luisa because the more I thought about it the more I realized we have really similar views on the certain things that we center around on the show. We’re both applying our understanding of art and art history and theory and all that stuff to the stand up game in ways that I don’t think other people in our circles are really willing to do. I admire her integrity a lot and I really enjoy coming to her with ideas that my own scene has made me feel crazy for thinking and then hearing her go “No man, of course it’s like that!” Honestly this show keeps me sane. Also, being latino is really complicated in this day and age and it means a lot to me to be able to talk about that with someone who’s involved in my world. I moved to New York from Texas and I really lost a lot of those connections, so talking about that stuff on our show has been a boon to my mental health. WYM is really cathartic for me. I guess I put a lot of work into PDA and try to really make a shiny technically valuable product with it, but WYM is where I let my hair down and really express myself. I’m glad I have them both.



If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any figure from the days of comedy past, who would you choose?

Honestly? Boring answer, but Lenny Bruce. I’m a big fan, and like him, I also had a run in with the state over comedy, and am a leftist. What’s crazy about him is all these conservative types try to claim him these days, and I just don’t think they understand what he was talking about at all. Free speech is really complicated and it gets twisted by people a lot, but back in the early history of this country it was a left wing cause, and Lenny was a damn beatnik. I would love it if someone told his story in a way that engaged with how his beliefs clash with what the free speech movement is all about today. 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I might try to write a book this year. Or maybe a screenplay. But honestly I’m sitting pretty until comedy comes back. I plan on spending the rest of the pandemic reading theory and trying to use my comedy chops to make it funny or easy to listen to or whatever. That’s it. Listen to PDA and WYM and if you’re an internet freak sign up for our patreons and Twitches and Discords and stuff. I’ll get back to touring when it’s safe.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I live in this shithole loft and I’ve been fighting the city and our landlord to get our heat turned on and to fix the leaks in our roof and that sort of thing. This has been going on for years while I was out on the road. Anyways recently I got the place looking kind of nice, got them to put a stove in for us. The main thing is I had this tarp hanging from the ceiling catching roof water, and I was finally able to take it down the other night after they fixed the roof. So I went outside to smoke a cigarette and I was looking at the empty Brooklyn streets, now that all the rich artist types have fled back to their suburbs and whatnot, and I was really taking in the moonlight, and then that song “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlyle came on my spotify mix. That shit made me laugh.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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