Q&A With Philadelphia's Big Jay Oakerson at Helium Comedy Club

We caught up with Philadelphia native Big Jay Oakerson before his show at Helium. Here, Big Jay explains how his crude, yet conversational, style was crafted by comedy heavyweights Patrice O'Neal and Dave Attell and how he became a fearless comedian.

Big Jay Oakerson at Helium Comedy Club
Big Jay Oakerson

WitOut: What do you enjoy most about coming back to Philly?

Big Jay Oakerson: I come back once a year to do this club and maybe a few times a year to see family. My favorite thing every time is--I think I’m supposed to say the club--but it’s the goddamn food. I miss the food here. Even in New York, which has a wider array of cultural food, like, fuck that, I’ll eat cheesesteaks twice a day while I’m here.

WiOut: How long have you been doing stand up?

Big Jay Oakerson: 15 years. I started at the Laff House, that shut down recently, but me, Kevin Hart, and Kurt Metzger all started there together.

WitOut: What’s your favorite part about doing this job?

Big Jay Oakerson: The live performance. Going out there and interacting with the crowd. I like to talk to the crowd a lot. Mixing it up with them and trying not to do jokes for as long as possible.

WitOut: You talk to the crowd a lot.

Big Jay Oakerson: Yeah, as much as possible.

WitOut: When you’re writing, what’s your process?

Big Jay Oakerson: I don’t write. Sit and write on paper? I never do that. There’s a big chance that I’ll go out and have a bunch of things that I’ll just say just tonight, but there’s also a chance that, if I say something for the first time, off the cuff, that will take me on a tangent. That’s how I write. Kurt Metzger will call and bounce jokes off me and ask me for a punch, but I found that when I sat down when I was younger, I would sit and write simplistic jokes that a thousand other comics make. I think I’m very original in my genuine take on shit, so I’d rather just talk to them. I’m just not afraid of them not laughing.

Anyone who starts doing comedy who has any arrogance to them, the first time you say something to a crowd, that in your mind was guaranteed to be funny and they’re going to laugh, and they stare at you, there’s just no way to simulate that emotion. The thing I worked on the most in comedy was to be unafraid of that. I’m not afraid of the room being completely silent. Patrice O’Neal gave me the advice that you don’t go up there and say anything you can’t defend genuinely. You should defend your right to be funny and that comes with having no fear of the audience.

WitOut: You mentioned Patrice O’Neal, who else did you look up to when you started doing comedy?

Big Jay Oakerson: In Philadelphia, there was a guy name Turae, who ran the open mic at the Laff House. He was a big influence because of how smooth he was and his style and how comfortable he was. And Keith Robinson took me, and Kev [Kevin Hart], and Kurt [Metzger] out of Philly and to New York and got us acclimated up there. From there, Patrice took me under his wing and we became friends. I found my real mesh, in terms of opening for somebody for years, was Dave Atell. I went all over the country opening for him. I think those two guys are the two best at their type of comedy.

WitOut: I was actually warned that your act was kind of dirty.

Big Jay Oakerson: Kind of? That’s bad advertising. I’m trying to desensitize you and make you hear the message that I’m saying.

WitOut: What’s the biggest difference between the New York comedy scene and the Philadelphia comedy scene?

Big Jay Oakerson: Frequency. New York has between 8-12 pro clubs running 7 days a week. Dozens of rooms, comedy shows, open mics, one nighters, every night from 5pm to 3am. Philly, you can probably, if you hustle, get up twice a week. Because there are a decent amount of comics and we’re down to one club. If you’re going to get better at comedy, it’s repetition. Repetition will make you stronger at it. It’s part of not being afraid.


You can catch Big Jay Oakerson tonight at Helium Comedy Club (7:30p.m. and 10:00p.m.) with Mary Radzinski and Aaron Berg.

Mary Radzinski at Helium Comedy Club
Mary Radzinski


Aaron Berg at Helium Comedy Club
Aaron Berg


Pizza Pals with Joe Moore featuring...Big Jay Oakerson, Dave Smith and Chris Cotton

Hey pizza gang what's shakin'!? Word is the best way to reheat a slice is in a pan over the stove with the slice face-down... don't knock it until you've tried it!

Big Jay Oakerson
Big Jay Oakerson. Photo courtesy of Helium Comedy Club.

This week Philly-bred comedian Big Jay Oakerson, Dave Smith and local comic Chris Cotton will all be at Helium Comedy Club.  Before you go see them, you may be wondering to yourself, "Hey, I wonder whaBig Jay Oakersont those guys think about pizza?" Well, wonder no more...


Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like Pizza?

Big Jay Oakerson: So much, that I would leapfrog someone having a seizure to grab a slice!

Dave Smith: What?

Chris Cotton: Collared greens

PPJM: What is your favorite slice in Philadelphia? What's your favorite outside of Philly?

Jay: Lorenzo's on South Street. Huge and delicious!! Outside of Philly, Ben's Grandmas slice in NYC.

Dave: Philly blows.  Any slice outside of this dump is great.

Chris: Chicken...cornbread

What are you favorite pizza toppings?Jay: I always go Xtra cheese, pepperoni and mushroom! Best combo!

Dave: Sauce and cheese stupid!

Chris: Wings...macaroni and cheese

PPJM:  What day was "Pizza Day" in your house growing up?

Jay: Friday! My mom-mom would always order me pizza on Friday nights and watch TV with me!

Dave: I grew up in an apartment. We weren't all born rich, you asshole!

Chris: Kool-aid, grape soda...

What is your favorite pizza reference in pop-culture (TV/Movie/Music/etc)?

Jay: I always loved that the teenage mutant ninja turtles loved pizza!! That was funny AND fun!

Dave: I read books...TV and movies are for weak minds

Chris: Tyler Perry...rap music

PPJM: Anything else you'd like to add?

Jay: This was really fun! Thanks for including me in your questionnaire !!

Dave: Add?! ADD?!..Yeah...Fuck you!

Chris: Oh yeah...coco butter!


Big Jay Oakerson, Dave Smith and Chris Cotton will be at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street) this Friday and Saturday night.  Get your tickets online!

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 72

Local comedy website It's Always Funny In Philadelphia, with some help from some favorite local comedians, released their list of Comedians to Watch in 2013.

Philebrity is starting an Ask Juliet Hope Wayne advice column in which you can anonymously ask for the guidance of the comedian and storyteller.

Space 1026 Comedy Nightz Presents Martin & Lawrence and Others this Tuesday at Space 1026 (1026 Arch St. 2nd floor). The show will feature comedy from Martin & Lawrence, Joey Dougherty, Aaron Nevins, JP Boudwin, and The New Dreamz.

Also this Tuesday you can check out Polygon Comedy: The Perfect New Year at 8pm at L'etage (6th and Bainbridge) featuring stand-up from David Piccolomini and Vegas Lancaster and improv from Nielsen, Steve Rogers is Dead, and Grimacchio. Or you can go to Free Improv at Connie's Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) at 9pm to see improv from Deleted ScenesThose Two Nice LadiesBad JamesThe Five "Best" Male ImprovisersGross ButlerAngry People Building ThingsCock Hat, and Vertical Scream.

This Wednesday a new Open Mic at Liberties Restaurant & Bar (705 N. 2nd St.) will debut. The mic will be produced by Sonny Vellozzi and Michael O'Donnell and promises to be "a room with a lot of potential" as well as having "beer specials and other benefits in the coming weeks."

Philadelphia's own Big Jay Oakerson will headline Helium Comedy Club this week. The comedian will perform six shows from Wednesday to Saturday at the club. Tickets can be purchased online.

The Sideshow returns to The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St.) this Friday with a night of variety comedy from Lizzie Spellman, Chaperone, The Necrosexual, Kristen Schier, and more!

The Humor Has It Comedy Show (Maximillian's Restaurant, 3001 Naaman's Creek Road, Boothwyn, PA) this Saturday will feature performances by: Bradley Beck, Fastball Pitcher Gob Gutierrez, Mike Rainey, John McKeever, and headliner Tommy Pope. Reservations can be made by calling 610-485-3500.

Don't forget The 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy are this Sunday at World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St.) Tickets can be purchased online.

If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to contact@witout.net