Jordan Carlos is ready for a homecoming, sort of.
Carlos, a stand-up comedian, writer and actor who can list Samantha Bee, Larry Wilmore and Stephen Colbert as collaborators, began a summer tour on Tuesday night that will take him to the deep South.
Leaving New York City and pressing pause on television work to do stand-up gigs in North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama — among other Southern stops — probably won’t give Carlos the kind of culture shock it might give other comics who live in New York or Los Angeles.
As the Texas native told me during a Wednesday afternoon phone interview, “I know about the Dirty Dirty.”
After performing at Crackers in Indianapolis Thursday through Saturday, Carlos is scheduled to do eight shows in eight nights in eight different venues in six different states starting Sunday. The penultimate stop in that eight-show chunk is at Durham’s Motorco Music Hall, where NC native Matt White will be the feature act prior to Carlos’ headline set.
Less than 24 hours after The Whale Sex Tour officially started, Carlos and I discussed the name of his tour, the lessons he learned working with Bee, Wilmore and Colbert, the way New York audiences prepare him for road shows and more.
Enjoy the interview, follow Carlos on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
Tony Castleberry: So the tour officially kicked off last night at The Slipper Room in New York. How was the first show?
Jordan Carlos: It was great. We had a really good crowd in New York. New York can be tough, but by the end, we were in love so it’s OK.
I’m raring to go and ready for Indianapolis. I tried out some new material that I want to try on the road and it worked. New York audiences are really hard. It’s almost like if you’re lifting 500 (pounds) in a deadlift and then when you go on the road, it’s so much easier. It feels like the weights are off the barbell because people are nicer in other parts of the world. They’re a little more accepting. … People are like, “Wow, I’m so glad you came all the way out here.” It’s a good feeling.
TC: Most of the tour will be in the South and we have a reputation for being very polite, at least on the surface. Have you found in your travels that crowds in the South are nicer?
JC: I’m from Texas so I know all about it. I know about the Dirty Dirty. I know how to treat people and where boundaries are and everything like that. I understand.
When I got to New York, people were like, “You’re way too nice” and they were right. I’ve become the gruff one in my family now, but I know about Southern crowds and manners and things like that.
It will be nice to go back. Even though I won’t be going to Mississippi, my people are in Mississippi so at least I’ll be in Memphis and they can come up from Jackson. I used to spend my summers in Mississippi growing up because you want to spend the summers somewhere where it’s not as hot. It’s like, what’s the logic there, mom and dad? It was free so that’s what we did, stay at granny’s house.
But yeah man, I’m excited to hit these spots because usually I’m just doing the Northeast so it’s great to essentially just go back home for a little bit.
TC: You’re calling it The Whale Sex Tour. Have you always been a proponent of whales’ reproductive rights?
JC: I always have. Whales are free to do what they want and we should not stand in their way.
The reason I thought of that name is because I’m a big nature buff. Love the nature, so I watch too much of it on TV. There was a bit about how the humpback whales mate. The thing was, well, they suck at it. [interviewer laughs] It requires three (whales) to make one and it requires your best friend in the whale pod to come over and push you.
JC: So my whole thing was, even though we live in divisive times, we all have better sex than whales. I just want y’all to know that. [interviewer laughs] We can all come together as a people over that. If there are any orcas in the audience or anything like that, they get a little tight, but I love talking about animals. I was like, this is why I watch all these nature shows all these years. I just report to people in comedy clubs what I’ve found.
TC: It was research!
JC: It was all research. That’s one of my most fun jokes to tell and I just called (the tour) that. People are probably like, “Why? Why, Jordan?”
TC: You would think with a name like humpback, which is the way men can often describe our position when we’re doing it, they would be good at it.
JC: We were just trolling them the whole time. It’s a total misnomer. It’s fake news. I was watching (the whales) and I was like, “Oh, dear me. How have they even survived this long?” I mean, it’s definitely some on us diminishing (the whale) population, but some of it is them. That is not sustainable at all.
TC: One of your tour stops is a private gig at my alma mater, Western Carolina University. Do you know anything about Cullowhee?
JC: I don’t. I know that they have great comedic taste. [interviewer laughs]
They asked me to do the convocation and I was like, convocation? I had to look that word up, and I’m really excited to do it. I’m gonna try to give the freshmen some advice. All jokes aside, I’m just gonna tell them to find out what you don’t want to do just as much as what you want to do in college. It’s super important to find out what you don’t want to do, right?
JC: Busboy at Ruby Tuesdays? Not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Don’t feel that what you’re doing is a life sentence. Even if you have a certain job right out of college, it’s not necessarily gonna be for the rest of your life. I was in advertising and I loved it and I learned from it because you learn about rejection, and that’s a lot of what comedy is. It helped me in so many ways.
TC: People might think about Western Carolina being this hick school stuck in the mountains of North Carolina and it’s so small and some of that is true, but I swear, it opened up a world for me that I never knew. It changed my life and I’m stoked that you’re going there, man. I will tell you that WCU has a solid track record of getting good artists. I saw Goodie Mob there.
TC: I’m not even joking. It was a small room packed with maybe 75 people in like ‘93 or ‘94. It blew my mind. Good luck following Goodie Mob, Jordan.
JC: Well, I feel like I’m in very good company once I’m in the Goodie Mob group. I love that.
I did a stage at Harvard that Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill played, but you’re telling me Goodie Mob played Western Carolina? I’m not ready, man. I’m not ready. Those are big shoes to fill.
TC: [laughs] How has working with Samantha Bee, Larry Wilmore and Stephen Colbert helped your stand-up, or are those two separate things in your mind?
JC: It just humbles you. Every day it humbles you. You see people that just breathe funny. Stephen Colbert breathes funny. Sam Bee, same way. Larry Wilmore is just a genius writer. Larry taught me brevity. Get to the punchline in a cold, calculated way. “I love what you wrote. I don’t care how smart you are. Cut it in half. Then cut it in half again.” When you work for Larry, it was like you weren’t even making jokes. You were making biscuits and that’s what it has to be sometimes. It’s show [pause] business, and I really thank him for that. If you come up with 10 jokes, maybe one of them works, you know what I mean? That’s what it is.
I learned from Stephen Colbert to stay in character all the time, which is what he did when I worked with him. He didn’t break. I was like, maybe when he gets home or something like that, but it was him all the time.
And Sam Bee, I mean, I don’t know if you can be taught to be a badass, so she is just a badass. She carries that persona around all the time so that just taught me to kind of live it. It was great working with her on the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” just getting those jokes in and the fact that those jokes even made it to air was just crazy.
They just teach you confidence mostly, having confidence in what you do. My parents have no association with showbiz at all. They were just kind enough to be like, “You can be anything” and I was dumb enough to be like, “Yeah, you’re totally right!” So I never questioned it. I just kept going.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
White House Attempts To Thwart Nuclear Attack With Shield Made Entirely Of Hillary's Emails
— Shari VanderWerf (@shariv67) August 10, 2017