Jason Denton–Advice for Sketch Comedy Writers

What is your name? Any nicknames?
Jason Denton. My parents used to call me for some reason Jaycee. A friend ironically called me Jay-Dog.

What do you do with your time?
Middle school substitute teacher and stand-up comedian.

How old are you and where do you live?
39, and in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Behind the Ingles.

Where can we find you on the internet?
I’ll put in a plug for J/K Comedy. You can find us at jkcomedy.rocks or follow us on Twitter @jkcomedy007

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Chicago, in the sixth grade, I was twelve or thirteen. The Museum of Science and Industry was great. My uncle was living there and my older brother and I took the Amtrak (with a layover in Philadelphia.) A funny thing–Mom and Dad had packed us IBC root beers. They weren’t twist-off, so you had these two young boys carrying what looked like beer bottles to the lounge car to get a bottle opener. We got stopped a couple of times.

Your favorite meal would be?
Cream of chicken soup with turkey sandwich on the side.

Pet peeve?
Not thinking two steps ahead. Doing something without forethought. (This applies to me more than anything else.)

Can you tell us about a time you wish you’d thought two steps ahead?
Heather and I are both bad with money, I guess, making bad financial choices. Early in our marriage we got a timeshare. If we’d taken the afternoon to just think about it that would have been a better thing. I’m also bipolar and one way the mania manifests is buying things. I’m on medicine right now, and doing better. But for instance, If I hear a song I like I’ll go ahead and download the song, then figure out who sang it and buy other stuff they’ve done and go on from there to other albums and by the end of the hour I’ll have bought fifty dollars worth of songs.

Wow, and thanks for sharing. Favorite book, or movie, or TV show?
Book: “To Kill a Mockingbird”
TV Show: The earlier seasons of “The Simpsons.”
Movie: “Dark City,” a science fiction flick, “City Lights,” with Charlie Chaplin, and “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World,” which was the most fun I had at the theater.

Why was “Scott Pilgrim” the most fun at the theater?
Well, this is kind of a downer, but my vision was going and it was one of the last movies where I could really see what was going on. But the audience was really engaged, and the movie was visually interesting with lots of animation and it was also, it feels like, one of the last movies that was made for my generation. Seinfeld, video games, lots of nineties references.

Would you mind telling us about your vision issues?
It’s called retinitis pigmentosa, or just RP. It’s the opposite of macular degeneration. Instead of a blind spot in the middle it’s tunnel vision. Starts out as night blindness, affecting the rods of the eye first, losing your night and peripheral vision, then later starts to affect color and clarity. It affects different people in different ways, and it’s progressive. It’s hereditary–my mother has it and my older brother has it worse than I do. Mine hadn’t been that bad until the last year or so when the peripheral vision really started to really go downhill. I’m now using a cane to get around the grocery store, that kind of thing. Also you tend to develop cataracts early; I had cataracts seven years ago.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
Just throw a good prayer out there in general. Good thoughts, good prayers.

I know this answer because I interviewed your wife a few weeks ago, but let’s go ahead and ask: are you married or have you been? Any kids or pets?
Yes, married, and we just had out tenth year anniversary. One dog, Toonie. Did Heather tell you how Toonie got her name?

I don’t think so.
When we got her she’d apparently been named Petunia. I couldn’t see myself calling a dog “Petunia,” so I shortened it, but still kept some of the sounds so she could hopefully recognize her name.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Well, I used to be able to do a one-legged squat, but my knees are blown.

Oh, I feel your pain. If you had any spare time (and money), what would you do with it?
Travel to Europe.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
Well, I do improvisational comedy. I got involved in college, I do stand-up, do character-based humor. I’m moving more to observational, but I may get back to character based. I like to write monologues and sketches; I used to write monologues in college for people for auditions.

What’s the most rewarding part of stand-up comedy?
Hearing the laughter. Getting your point of view out there, your own brand, your sense of humor. There’s lots of different kinds of comedy: observational, one-liners, story-telling, character-driven. The fun is trying to find your own voice.

What’s the hard part of stand-up comedy?
Weirdly enough, the same thing. Something you might think is incredibly funny but you can’t get it out either verbally or physically on stage to where it “reads” for the audience and it’s not relatable.

Can you offer some advice for sketch comedy writers?
The clichéd thing, but it’s true, is to write what you know. If it’s something you know and care about, then it will be relatable. To make it funny, take something that happened to you in real life and by “yes, anding” it, take it to a ridiculous extreme.

What do you mean by “yes, anding” it?
Taking a situation and pushing it a little bit farther as far as stakes go, building on what you have. If you have a scene, for instance, in a space station. One character: “I snuck my pet mouse on board.” “Oh, no, that’s terrible.” “Why, because it’ll use up the air?” “No, because I snuck my pet cat on board.” It’s the ultimate comedy improv rule.

Jason, thanks much for sharing with us. Good luck and blessings on your adventures.