It’s great when an up-and-coming comedic ace pays homage where it’s due, which is exactly what happened when I was hanging with Twin Cities ace K Jay the other week. Leaving his car, I noticed a Redd Foxx CD on the backseat.
“Yo’, man, let me hold your Redd Foxx,” I asked him.
K Jay’s not petty or stingy: “Yeah, man.”
Then, he gives me one of his looks. Nice, but no-nonsense: “I expect to see it again.”
Which prompts from me, “Ain’t nobody gon’ steal your Redd Foxx. May take you a while to get it back, though.”
We go into my crib so I can interview my man about what’s new in his career. The Redd Foxx CD is a good place to start. How does he regard the original old school: greats like Foxx, Nipsey Russell, Moms Mabley and them?
“Actually, I have a tremendous amount of respect because their point of view was authentic and real relatable.”
K Jay (short for Kelechi Jaavaid) is “relatable” himself. I’ve been catching his routine off and on for years and if you can’t relate to his style, well, you pretty much can’t relate. The guy brings laid-back hilarity to life’s everyday dilemmas. He even makes a job interview funny with his bit about strolling into an office where the woman asks, “Why do you want the job?”
He promptly answers, “I don’t want the job. I want the money and the benefits. You can keep the job.”
If you’re not up on this guy, K Jay’s credits include the runaway YouTube hit “Whopper Freakout (Ghetto Version)” with 2 million hits and climbing, Scholar to Comedy (DVD) and The Art of Life (CD). He works a lot of stand-up, hitting clubs throughout the Midwest and — whenever he gets a shot — L.A., where he also did an episode of Divorce Court last fall with his wife Angela.
They just finished taping nationally syndicated The Bill Cunningham Show, doing two installments titled “Love on the Rocks.” Seems he and the Mrs. may have found themselves a niche, going around to TV shows, threatening to break up.
Next time he’s here at home, where he’s performed at the MN Fringe Festival, Brave New Workshop, Comedy Gallery, Acme Comedy Club and Club Underground, check K Jay (KJ) out.
As usual, once he and I sit down for an interview, it turns to more of an off-the-cuff chat. We spoke about K Jay’s career, his craft and a few other things.
MSR: What’s this about The Bill Cunningham Show?
KJ: It was just recently shot yesterday. It airs in September. Me and Angie went. She was my sidekick. I think it’s going to be hilarious, but [it’s also] about issues couples have across America. So, I have my perspective on it. Angie gave hers. It was real unpredictable. They had us do two segments, and it has a surprise ending. I’m not gonna give it away.
MSR: I saw Divorce Court, and you and your wife do work well together on camera.
KJ: Well, they’re talking about inviting us back.
MSR: You’ve gone and got busy. I remember a time when you used to be cooling your heels awhile between gigs. Now, you on the go so much I’m surprised you don’t pass yourself coming the other way.
KJ: Yeah, things picked up since a couple years ago. Have to stay on my grind to keep ’em that way. Do a lot of touring when the opportunity comes up. Last summer, was at The Third Annual Detroit Comedy Festival, did The World Series Comedy Tour in Las Vegas, Laughing Skulls Comedy Festival in Denver, and Trial by Laughter Festival in Indianapolis.
This week, performing in New Hope [on a bill] with Shannon Paul, then a hotel resort in Duluth.
MSR: Well, I’m not going to Duluth just to see you.
KJ: It’s a nice establishment, so they probably wouldn’t let you in.
I will be, though, breaking in a new show, new routines. In fact, I’m working on a new CD. Trying to survive in this double recession, whatever they call it. I ain’t even seen the first one leave, yet. For that matter, Black folks always are in a recession. Also, I’m getting ready to try L.A. again for a minute. Jump out there with the sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
MSR: You goin’ fishin’?
KJ: Man, shut up. You know what I mean. Probably [going to L.A.] the end of September, first week in October.
MSR: You got some spots, some dates lined up?
KJ: Yeah. I’m working with a couple people out there, networking. I know a few comedians: Lavell Crawford, Melanie Camacho.
MSR: So, it’s grind, grind and then grind some more.
KJ: I get nervous if I’m not working two, three times a week. I’m talking to a lady right now. She tryin’ to put me in the resorts in Las Vegas. Can’t mention her name, because I ain’t sign the deal yet.
MSR: Okay. You just loaned me this Redd Foxx CD, which you think you getting back.
KJ: I “think?” Keep playin’.
MSR: You ain’t gon’ do nothin’. Anyway, it’s deep that you would have that.
KJ: Those pros, man, you could get a sense of a comedic genius that was letting you experience their world. Nowadays, it’s a lot of shock humor, crazy, in-your-face stuff. If you ain’t makin’ the younger generation laugh in the first 10-15 seconds of your bit, they are gone. You’ve lost them, especially with our people. Some of these new-age performers ain’t got to write no real jokes. They can just talk [stuff] and work off star power.
I ain’t hating, but what I am saying is every Black comic can’t have the same style or use the same type of language to be funny. I would like my comedy to be a fusion of Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor and Bill Crosby.
MSR: You mean Cosby.
KJ: Shut up. I’m trying to tell you something. Basically a mixture of different joke styles, like a storytelling bit, followed up with [a] traditional piece and one-line fillers to make transitions. Old school gives you the foundations of your craft to find your own voice, the basic ingredients to a comedic recipe to serve up a hearty laugh.
People ask me why I don’t use the N-word in my act. Out of respect to my mom, ’cause when she heard me say that to my sister she whipped my [behind] like Harriet Tubman was telling a slave to get on a train. She whipped the N-word out of my vocabulary. I can hear her voice: “There will be no ‘N’s’ around here. Only Black folks.”