Photography by Van Corona
Morgan Jay’s performance finds its home in two realms. One being the comedy clubs and theatre halls in which he deftly builds instant rapport with his audiences, both as a whole and simultaneously connecting with every individual present. He earned his performance prowess cutting his teeth on the New York comedy scene, so it’s no wonder Jay can weather the toughest of crowds via his comedy-come-music routines, guitar in hand. However, he’s also equally now at home on the social media feeds of Instagram and TikTok, the latter of which he’s garnered an impressive 1 million followers and 27.4m likes on, meaning snippets of his comedy now find its way into the hands of users internationally, everyday, at the click of a button.
Delivering for audiences in the room and those watching via screens was important for Jay in his recent comedy special Live at The Village in LA. “I really wanted the people watching on their mobile devices to feel included in the show,” he tells Man About Town.“So much energy and electricity between the crowd and performer is lost when filming a comedy special and I wanted to make sure we didn’t let it all escape the room.” Thankfully, the autumn offers ample opportunity to catch the man himself in-person too, with dates across North America scheduled for between September and November.
Sitting down with us, Jay goes deep on his story so far, his early musical and comedy memories, and what fans can expect when he hits the road later this year…
Hey Morgan! How’s your day so far? What was the first thing you did when you woke up today?
My day is pretty good! First thing I did was call to make a massage appointment at this place called The Massage Garage. I worked-out pretty hard yesterday and woke up sore as hell.
You have an amazingly unique style to your comedy. How would you describe the essence of what you do?
I would describe it as an intimate dinner party where someone whips out a guitar but it’s not cringe – we’re actually here for it and we’re gonna have some fun together.
Can you take us way back to the early days of Morgan Jay. What’s your earliest memories of comedy and music – whether consuming or performing?
Steven Lynch for sure. Adam Sandler’s album They’re All Gonna Laugh at Youand my own dad singing in our home. As far as performing, I actually think my first musical comedy bit was in Eighth Grade. I was running for class president for freshman year and as my speech I brought a tiny guitar on stage. I’m talking four inches, which when I think about it now, four inches is huge. But the guitar had tree buttons on it that would make a little guitar riff. I would say something and then press one of the buttons. It killed and I won the election.
We know you earned your comedy muscle doing stand up in the backrooms and bars of the New York comedy scene. How do you think those earlier days for you have influenced the performer you are today?
Those earlier days prepared me for almost any type of show or situation. When you’re doing an open mic at midnight at a place called Maui Tacos for eight other comics, it can only get better from there. But I do miss some of those long nights and those cool bars. I felt like a super hero with another identity.
Your comedy also exists extensively now on social media, which has gained you a massive audience, however, you’ve also spoken about the pressures of social media in your performances. How do you find navigating the relationship between performing and making content online?
I’m lucky that I started comedy in a time before social media was the predominant form of entertainment. Truthfully, it was exciting at first – going viral, gaining followers, and then the reality sets in that you kind of have to feed this beast and stay relevant because people will forget about you. You also have to accept that the numbers fluctuate. Sometimes you’re growing and sometimes you’re not. Also realise that no matter how many followers you have there will always be someone with more and even if you had the most followers ever in the history of the universe, then what? They’re still just numbers.
What’s been the proudest moment in the Morgan Jay story so far?
Honestly, it was doing a show at the Nyack Levity Live last September. That’s the closest venue to my parents. They were able to see me perform for the first time in about a decade. My step dad has had Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years now and it’s tough to get my parents out of the house, but they came. They got to see me at the end of the show with a line of people waiting to take photos with me. I’m glad they got to see that, to know I’ve been working and making progress in my career. And they were just waiting there for me just smiling and then we all drove back home to White Plains.
We’re excited to hear that you’re on tour in the coming months! If you could sum up the experience of coming to one of your shows at this stage in your career, what would you say?
Unpredictable and feel good. I’ve had audience members tell me after shows that it felt like we were just hanging out and that’s exactly what I want. No two shows are the same even if some of the songs are.
Finally, apart from this interview, what’s one thing you really want to tick off the to-do list today?
I’d like to finish this other song called “Intrusive Thoughts”,but I probably won’t because I’m worried that when it’s done I’ll sing it and realise it’s complete dogshit.