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.