Icing: Sleepaway Camp’s Jay Weingarten Takes the Cake
Jay Weingarten‘s Twitter profile reads “a comedian who embodies the cadence and swagger of a young Pauly Shore.” Well, he may be that but he’s so much more. Weingarten certainly dances to the beat of his own drum. The up and coming comedian is the creator of bizarre and hysterical videos. He has hosted his own podcast about the open mic experience, H.O.M.E. He hosts his own open mic at Echoes Under Sunset. And he is co-producer and host of one of LA’s hottest alternative comedy experiences, Sleepaway Camp. Get to know the man who will not only fill The Weasel’s shoes but most definitely surpass him. READ!
JAY WEINGARTEN: I am so scared of earthquakes. I don’t have any kooky stories but I was a young boy during the Northridge earthquake. My dad picked me up off the bed as I was still sleeping, threw me onto the floor and jumped on top of me. It was a terrifying, other-worldly experience. I still envy Laker PG Nick Van Exel because I heard him interviewed on KCAL 9 a couple days later and he said he slept through the quake. After the earthquake, my family and I walked out of our house because of aftershocks (I grew up in a very safe and Jewish suburb of Los Angeles) and this guy was walking around wielding a massive shotgun making sure everyone was okay. We were all like “we were fine until you showed up, you psycho.”
CAKE: What or whom inspired you to start your career in the comedy dark arts? Was comedy something your family accepted readily, being the son of a physician?
JAY: I was inspired by the Stella shorts. I remember seeing them for the first time and I would just watch them over and over. Discovering Stella was one of the happiest moments of my life and I couldn’t believe something so beautiful existed. My parents have always accepted the fact that I do comedy, which is pretty tight.
CAKE: What prompted you to start a podcast about open mic encounters? What kind of audience feedback did you receive regarding the horrific experiences comedians talked about on H.O.M.E. (Haunting Open Mic Encounters)?
JAY: I started the podcast about open mic encounters because at the time I was still pretty scared of open mics. I was very new to comedy, less than a year in and I figured the best way to reduce the fear of open mics was to face them head on and talk to some of my favorite comedians about worst case scenarios. Plus I think open mics can be amazing experiences, unlike anywhere else on this planet. You can see truly some of the most vile toxic waste ever, and then you can see a genius comedic legend like Maria Bamford on stage immediately after.
CAKE: You currently run an open mic at Echoes Under Sunset. What has been the most fulfilling aspect of that venture? What advice can you offer to new comedians just starting out on the open mic scene and those wishing to start an open mic of their own?
JAY: I feel like Echoes has become a second home. I love the family atmosphere and I have made many friends there. Echoes has helped me feel more comfortable on stage. Only a year or so ago I was still brand new and I would tremble at the idea of being on stage. Now I have spent countless hours on stage at Echoes and I don’t feel as nervous. I also don’t fear failure as much. Just a few months into comedy, I pledged that every single Monday I would do a bizarre sketch or bit up top that has never been tried before. I usually think of it the day of or the day before. Sometimes they don’t do so well (especially to an apathetic open mic crowd) but oftentimes they do well and are very fun. There have even been a few Echoes openings that have been pure electric magic.
CAKE: You have created some very strange and hilarious videos like “Borat Roach” and “Friends Shaking Hands”. I would describe these mini works of art as Adult Swim friendly. Where do you get your ideas for these pop culture amalgams?
JAY: My ideas come from all sorts of invisible (to the naked eye) energies that permeate everything around us. Both of the videos you mention relate to music which is very inspirational to me. I was listening to Louis Armstrong‘s “What a Wonderful World” over and over and thought “man, this is the most psychedelic song I’ve ever heard.” “I hear babies crying, I watch them grow” just sounds like Louis Armstrong is having a bad trip. Borat Roach is funny to me because I love anything Borat related, especially with nu metal fusion. Although I am worried it’s getting hack. I am always worried about that and I move on from topics almost instantly. The exceptions are Gangnam Style because it’s a great song and Shrek and Santana’s Smooth and anything 3D.
I learned so much working on Super Serious and Sad People Talking. Getting behind the scenes on those shows helped me prepare to perform and produce shows the right way. I cannot thank Joel and Mandee and Kyle enough for all they taught me. They are brilliant and they helped me grow so much. I love producing shows and performing. I pretty much spend every second of the day thinking about how to get better at it. How to get more people in the crowd. How to put on the best show possible. I literally don’t think of anything else. Just creating new comedy. Well, that’s not true. I think of friendship, brotherhood, animals, and naked ladies too.
CAKE: You recently performed on the Stoned Vs. Drunk vs. Sober show. What’s the difference between performing comedy sober versus being intoxicated? Is the crowd easier on you when they know you are compromised?
JAY: It’s definitely more fun intoxicated because the fear of failure COMPLETELY vanishes. But I would never do it because it seems like a waste of time. I am not going to be the drunk comic. I need to know how to perform as me. That said, performing on that Stoned vs. Drunk vs. Sober show was super fun and I think the crowd was way too kind at that show considering exactly how drunk I was (drunker than I’ve been in years).
CAKE: It’s been a while since Sleepaway Camp took over Dave Ross’ HOLY FUCK show, which closed its doors in July of 2013 at Downtown Indie. What was it like creating a show (with co-producers/stand-ups Austin Wolf-Sothern, Doug Freedman, Travis Rust and Ryan Schumaker) that would stand out on the alt comedy scene? How would you describe Sleepaway Camp to the uninitiated? What’s the most spontaneous thing that’s happened on the show that turned out to be outrageously funny?
JAY: The show has been a lot of fun overall. The brothers I work with have similar sensibilities to me and they generally appreciate the weirder things in life. That’s what I care about. I want to create an experience that you won’t find elsewhere, ideally an aesthetic/vibe of a warm welcoming community, connection, chaos, silliness, variety, novelty. I hope we are getting closer. I am never content but right now we are pretty pleased because we’re getting triple digit audience numbers consistently and have had some incredibly fun shows. At the first When Love Meets Fear (the night I host), I lit sage and passed it around the theater and the sage actually caught fire. That was so funny to me. I loved it. On another show we were having the audience interact with us on Facebook using #sleepawaycamp so as we waited for new statuses to be posted I was just browsing Facebook in front of the crowd. I clicked on #Cougartown and liked all these Cougar Town statuses/comments and it was so fun. I also blocked the comedian Tony Sam (who has done the show) in front of the crowd which I enjoyed greatly.
CAKE: What kind of cake would you choose for last meal on Earth and why?
JAY: Space cake broo, hahaha. Naw jus playin. Def chocolate, I could eat unlimited chocolate. One time I ate 33 slices of Kiwi at Marie Callender’s so I can eat a lot!
CAKE: That’s a lot of dessert, broo!
Mentions: Follow Jay on the Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to check out Sleepaway Camp Tuesday nights at the Downtown Independent and visit Jay’s open mic at Echoes Under Sunset, as well.