Interview: Clark Jones

Clark Jones is a member of local comedy collective The Starting 5, alongside with comics Calvin Evans, Lem Slaughter, Sean Munroe, and Quincy Brown. He's been doing standup for over 4 years at this point, working regularly at rooms like Zanies, Jokes & Notes, and Up, as well as hosting Two Black Dudes and an Open Microphone, a monthly open mic night at Town Hall Pub.

Tonight (December 13th), Jones will be recording his headlining set at Jokes & Notes for his upcoming DVD, entitled Here's My Problem. What follows is the text of an email interview; I talked with him about his background with The Starting 5, as well as his experiences in comedy so far.

Can you tell me more about the Starting 5? How did you all start working together?
The Starting 5 came about from just working the south side circuit really putting emphasizing a new wave of "urban" comedy. There were comedy groups that existed before us that we respected (Last LaffCYSK) but we serve a market that many have adopted as cerebral comedy at our home club Jokes and Notes. Our crowning moment thus far has been having our own show at the 2012 Just For Laughs Chicago festival. I like being around the Starting 5, they make me sharper and I want to know what they're going to do next.

This is the 4th installment of the group's DVD taping series, what are you planning to do with the footage once all 5 of your guys' sets are recorded? Something like a single DVD with a collection of the best bits from everyone's sets edited together or separate, individual releases?
Each of us plan to film our DVDs for sale at shows we do (gotta have merch) but also as a motivation to come up with a brand new 30 minute set. I don't plan to use these jokes ever again...pssyyyyyyche. But no, I plan to write new material, but not let this material go yet, because there's a country full of people who haven't laughed at it yet.

You're definitely a talented dude, and confident enough in your skills to record a special, you've mentioned that the original title for your special was "Here's My Problem...I Don't Know Shit About Comedy." How much of that is self-deprecation and how much do you actually believe that?
The title comes from the honest to God truth, Comedy constantly reminds me I dont know shit about it. Its that girl you're dating that constantly frustrates you, has the upperhand, and when you think you understand it, she throws you for a loop. When you hear a Chris Rock or even a Seinfeld talking about the toughness of the business, or even bombing, its comforting but it makes you wanna succeed that much more. I wish I knew more about comedy, but I fail a LOT more than I win.

In addition to The Starting 5, you're also the cohost of Two Black Dudes and an Open Microphone at Town Hall Pub, which has run for over 4 years at this point. What have you learned from successfully hosting a mic for so long?
"2 Black Dudes" is like my comedy home. If I could record the DVD there on a packed night... It would be a terrible idea, but it's where I would be most comfortable. You gotta have a place where you can try anything, and the hope is to get to a place where everywhere feels like that place. We've had some of my favorite comedians come through there, and I definitely would not be as close to being a decent comic if it wasn't for the work Will and I have put in every month.

Me being a diabetic is a topic I have recently discussed more in my stand-up because I never wanted it to define me, but fuck it, it is what it is. I think Patrice O'Neal's passing kind of set me off to just be loose. I never met him but, I'm sure he would have traded any joke, TV show, opportunity, show just to not have it. Thats why Its crazy to ever be jealous of another comic because you never know what they're going through to be that "genius" that you see on stage. Everybody has their demons they fighting, one stage at a time.

A short thing before this Friday's fundraiser

There's a special fundraising show this Friday (11/16) at saki for Joe McAdam's Aunt and Uncle, whose home in Brick, New Jersey was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The show features standup from Junior Stopka, Will Miles, CJ Toledano, and Joe Kwaczala, and music from Gabe Liebowitz from Dastardly. We've also received several generous prize donations from local businesses like Second City, The Owl, The Music Box Theatre, and more, which we'll be raffling off at the show.

If you'd like to make a donation but can't come out to the show, head over to Joe's website and click the giant "donate" button in the top left corner.

What follows is a brief piece from Joe about his family and his personal connection to New Jersey.

My aunt and uncle along with their two boys just lost their home the other day to Hurricane Sandy.  It seems hard to even imagine completely losing your house, but I've seen the pictures, there was about 5 feet of water in their living room and it completely destroyed nearly everything they owned.

I'm racking my brain to think of a comparable situation I may have been in.  One time someone stole my clothes at a party, it was weird.  That might be the closest.  

It's hard to imagine a place you used to visit being gone.  I went to their home a lot as a kid, it was my favorite place.  

My aunt Krissy McAdam was always "the fun aunt".  She is a lot younger than my dad and had Grateful Dead posters and a Nintendo.  I remember meeting her husband for the first time too.  He showed up with literally a car's trunk full of candy.  I'm not kidding at all.  To this day, I've never seen such a thing.

My memories of visits with her are some of my favorites, she would always take me out to the boardwalk to go on rides, play carny games and all the other Jersey-type fun.  She used to own a pseudo-head shop store that sold bootleg concerts and incense and all that, and it was my favorite place to hang out.  I'd sit around there all day learning juggling sticks or something.  She let me be in a parade float for her store one time too.  I got to dress up like a Grateful Dead bear and ride a jet ski on the bed of a truck.  This sounds weird and looking back, it was.  To me New Jersey was like an entire state that was an amusement park.  Now I know that it's just Jersey, but my aunt and uncle made it the best place imaginable to a kid.

Even growing up and visiting as a teenager was great.  I remember having one of my first beers at that house (if you tell my dad, I'll fucking kill you.  Also if you tell him about the swearing, well, that's not exactly cool either.)

The point is, my aunt Krissy and her family have been really important to me.  They've been extremely generous and have always been some of the most welcoming and loving people I know.  As a young nephew you're rarely in the position to do something to return the favor.  But right now they need some support to get back on their feet and rebuild.  I'm a broke comic, but I have a lot of good-hearted friends so I figured I'd use the only real skill I have, tricking people into laughing, to help them out.  I know what I'm able to give back pales in comparison to what they've given me, but I feel like they don't even want me to dress them up like Dead bears at this point anyway.

-Joe McAdam