One word you would never use to describe Jon Daly would be “boring.” If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing Jon’s sketch comedy bravura, you have been denied for too long! A veteran of the UCB Theatre, Jon has delighted audiences from coast to coast, rubbing elbows with the best in the industry. Some of his notable comedy troupe credits include Mother, Mr. A$$ and Sappity Tappity. Jon’s improv prowess makes his web presence all the more outrageous, most especially with his Tumblr Welcome to Jon Daly which includes some of the most head-turning photos and hilarious observations you’ll ever spy on the www. In addition to Tumblr, I don’t think I’ve ever read a dull tweet from Jon. A lot of his tweets just wouldn’t be interpreted the same way if they were written by anyone else. Here are some of the topical tweets that have made me laugh out loud: “So what if she spits food into her kid’s mouth. Alicia Silverstone is the Grunge Lolita and I LOVE HER! #someonesgottachewit” and “‘Hitler’ is trending! Always a trendsetter, that Hitler!” Only Jon Daly can get away with gems like that. This self-described “skinny, funny, and sexy/handsome” fellow will delight you with his candid responses and you will find there hides a very sweet kidder behind the often sarcastic, crude, and perhaps a little gruesome comic. I almost forgot, be sure to check out Jon’s Earwolf Presents podcast, The Rafflecast. It’s a winner! (Like him.)
Serial Optimist: Hi Jon! Where do you find yourself as you respond to this interview? What is your environment like?
Jon Daly: Hi. Right now I am in New York City to film a movie. I am naked and aroused in my hotel room, new-school Chili Peppers blaring, staring out the window trying to come up with the perfect celeb RT.
SO: Jeez! I hope you are at least wearing a sock.
SO: Who did you come up with in the comedy scene? Or maybe I should say, who did you start with?
Jon: I went to Drama School and then moved to New York and immediately started putting up sketch shows. I took a show I did in college with Brett Gelman and a couple of other dudes called “The Wings of Larry Bird” to New York and then kept putting up shows in the city. Then, most importantly, I started doing improv at the UCB Theater in 1998, and started putting up sketch shows there soon after that. My college group evolved (?) into Mr.A$$, with me, Brett, Vadim Newquist and Josh Perilo, and I was simultaneously improvising with my group, Mother, which did shows for 10 years and was a great comedy incubator for me, with all stellar and lovely, amazing hilarious people in it. I kind of came up with everybody in New York, or they came up with me? We all grew up together. I don’t want to leave anyone out and then get a call. “What the fuck, Daly?”
One time I did an improv show in a fake boxing ring for a ‘net-cast sponsored by Dewars, so I was very very drunk, and then way-too-psyched about being paid $75. I once also did a sketch comedy “competition” that was judged by an African American female clown, a New York City Fireman and Richard Belzer. I don’t know who won, but we lost and I was depressed for a week. So yeah, life was a nightmare for a while there. I did a lot of horrible prank shows where I had to lie to people on camera, which I do not excel at. I once did a pilot presentation for E! that went nowhere, but hey, it was the 90’s (till ‘07) and everything was happening. Sugar Ray was on the radio, George Bush was in the White House and the comedy-quality revolution’s nascence was nigh.
SO: What lured you to UCB? What is most rewarding about teaching long form improv? What do you want students to take away from the experience?
Jon: I started doing short form improv in Pittsburgh when I was 16 at a thing called Friday Night Improvs at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s still happening and I try to do it whenever I’m back (I’m from the ‘Burgh and my p’s still live there.), I did some ‘prov in college and then when I moved to New York I saw ASSSCAT at UCB with Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Amy Pohler, Ian Roberts, and Andy Richter with Janeane Garofalo doing monologues, and I, like so many before and after me, was like – “this rules”. I started taking classes and then teaching. The most rewarding thing about teaching is that you are King Shit of Fuck Mountain and everyone has to listen to you or their dreams die. You can act all cool and everyone has to pretend you know everything about comedy and life and whatnot. I thrive in environments like that. Otherwise I crash and burn. Also, I love people.
SO: You mentioned Mother, the comedy improv group you were a member of. Tell us about how that came together. How did you choose the name?
Jon: I was put on the group Mother by Armando Diaz in 1999, and we all stayed together, with some minor changes, until 2009 (I think?). Being in Mother was one of the best things that have happened to me. It was ten years of the same show every Saturday night, so I kept track of my life with it, in a way. We chose the name by going to a bar with slips of paper with our choices for the name of the group. I remember one of my choices being “The Flying Improvoni Brothers”, so that’s where I was at. Someone suggested Mother and we all thought it was a good name. Thank g-d.
SO: You are quite prolific on Twitter. Do you think people understand your sarcasm, your madness, or do you think most people just don’t get it, and do you care?
Jon: I love Twitter like a sister. I try and keep it light and breezy and not too racist. We’re all searching for that perfect Tweet, right? It’s like surfing. The Internet. #waves
SO: I saw you perform at the Los Angeles UCB Comedy Bang! Bang! show recently. To my untrained ear, you are QUITE the talented sax player. Tell us about your musical background and how you’ve implemented it into your comedy.
Jon: I started playing sax in 4th grade, and then into middle school. We played, I believe, selections from Andrew Lloyd Weber, Christmas songs, and one time I learned how to “jazz up” Mary had a Little Lamb, and I’d play my “jazzy” version with little improvised flourishes and wow, did my older brothers hate that. Anyways, I stopped playing in High School to pursue hand jobs and blowjobs but always kept my sax around. Sometimes I’d pick it up and improvise scales and ended up figuring out how to make it sound pretty OK to an untrained ear. Then I figured I should use it for a smooth jazz player character, which became Barry R. I think sax is the funniest instrument because it’s just so smooth and fucking sexy.
Bobby Bottleservice (Nick Kroll) & Peter Paparazzo (Jon Daly) On the Case!
SO: How are audiences in New York different from those in Los Angeles? Do you cater your performance to the audience? What’s the most outlandish thing you ever did during an improv set?
Jon: I think audiences in New York are more excited about seeing live theater, and going out and seeing shows is much more a part of life out here, so there is more of an understanding. That said, LA audiences are amazing too, and will put up with some of the weird shit I like to do in a cool way. (Everyone wins?) I would say that I don’t really cater the material to the audience besides maybe changing “Ronkonkoma” on occasion, to “Van Nuys”.
The weirdest thing I’ve done in an improv set is that I used to think it was OK to wear a white tank top (“wifebeater”) onstage to do shows. Matt Besser made an announcement to the whole theater once that we all needed to start looking more presentable onstage, but I knew he was just talking to me. I have VERY hairy shoulders.
SO: Let’s talk about your Tumblr blog for a moment. It is wild, wild stuff! Do you have a favorite post? Or are all of them near and dear to your heart? Do your posts ever offend anyone?
Jon: Any time anyone has ever made a piece of art for me, a poster or a picture of me as one of my characters, I love that. I would say that those are near and dear to my heart. Otherwise, I like to just throw up tripped out shit. The ones I think might be offensive usually get the most “likes” and isn’t that what we’re all after?
SO: Will you possibly be making an appearance on the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show on IFC premiering this summer? I caught the 10-minute promo after Portlandia and it looks amazing.
Jon: Barry R. may be making an appearance on that show, yes.
SO: What comedians currently really make you laugh hard?
Jon: I’m into Neil Hamburger, Joe Mande, Gabe Liedman, John Gemberling, Emily Maya Mills. I love Scott Gairdner and Danny Jelinek’s videos on Funny or Die. I love Convoy Improv. I also like Zach Galifianakis, Garrison Keillor and the Honey Badger dude!
Jon’s Imaginary Friend is Fabio
SO: What is your favorite comedy podcast and why?
SO: We are working on one! So you just agreed to be our first guest? Perfect!
SO: Are the people you choose to collaborate with strictly professional relations or are they close friends? I always find it interesting that certain groups of people that work together are often just as close off screen as they are on.
Jon: I’m friends with, and hang with quite a few of the people I get to work with, which is amazing. Some of them are real dickheads though, and I just put up with it because they’re funny.
SO: Work wouldn’t be work without a few dicks. Do people ever confuse you with Joe Lo Truglio? It’s quite the striking resemblance.
Jon: We used to have the same commercial agent in New York, and when I was signing with them, they said I was a “Joe Lo Truglio type”, and then I met Joe Lo Truglio, found him to be a lovely, talented, person, and so was then flattered by it. I think it’s in the eyeballs.
Online, people sometimes confuse me with the PGA Tour golfer John Daly, so I’m starting a website called JonDalyisJohnDaly.com to address it, and hopefully merge personas online with him. Should be up soon. Thanks bye!
SO: Thanks Jon. Its been a pleasure!