Travis Jay: Doing It His Way
Posted on: 20/04/2013 02:00 PM
The son of comedienne Angie Le Mar on stepping out on his own.
by Dionne Grant: Printed in The Voice Newspaper
BEING THE son of a legendary comedienne, especially when you’re trying to carve out a career in the same industry, has its pros and cons.
Just ask comic Travis Jay, whose mother Angie Le Mar is regarded as one of the leading ladies on the black British comedy scene.
“When I first started, it was a really big deal,” Travis recalls. “Hosts would bring me on stage and introduce me as ‘Angie Le Mar’s son’. People would hear her name and immediately start cheering. I was like, ‘Woah, I can’t not be funny now.”
But in the four years since taking his first tentative steps into the competitive world of comedy, Travis has successfully managed to step from behind the glare of his mother’s legacy to begin work on sculpting his own.
“I’m kind of holding my own now, which isn’t too bad,” he says.
Having performed across Europe, with plans to perform in Dubai later this year, Travis, who gave up a promising career in basketball to pursue comedy, says he is diligently working on “taking my urban foundation into the mainstream circuit”.
“I’ve done the Comedy Store, [BBC 1Xtra’s] Comedy Club and performed at various different venues to extend the urban brand and get it more respect. At present, I don’t think that the urban scene is respected. I would like to play a part in changing that.
“There’s a lot of energy, but it’s quite repetitive. I think we need to avoid going down the same routes as people who have gone before us; we’ve got to take it from where they left off. With shows like The Real McCoy, we were on TV – but now we’re struggling to get back on. It’s really about pushing forward.”
Described as part of the ‘next generation’ of black British comics, Travis will take to the stage with fellow UK comedy acts, including Babatunde, Mo The Comedian and Axel, for the About To Blow show at London’s Bloombury Theatre on April 27.
“We’ve been doing shows with more established acts like Richard Blackwood, Kojo and Slim, but now it’s our time to show that us younger acts can hold a show on our own. We’ve been waiting for this to happen.
“The promoters contacted us individually and were like, ‘We want to put on a show with all of you young guys and really just launch you.’ We jumped on the idea, because we’ve been waiting for this to happen.”
But asked how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd when fellow acts deliver material shaped around similar life experiences of growing up in inner city London, Travis replies:
“The thing is, people have to buy into you. You have to work on your selling point, just like a business.
“With me, I can’t come out and talk about weaves and other played out subjects. You have to take that risk to be different.”
One of his most unique selling points is that he doesn’t swear on stage.
He explains: “I just don’t believe that you have to. There are some comics who can pull it off. You’ll get some slick Americans who swear and you don’t even notice it, but there are times when it just sounds harsh and can put the regular person off.
“I try and take that element away and keep people drawn into entertainment that everyone can take.”
So it has nothing to do with his mother being in the audience then?
He laughs: “She’s been to about five gigs [of mine] and I’ve been doing comedy for four years now. She gets so nervous and that’s when she becomes a mum. She’s not a colleague, she’s my mum at that point and she can’t take it!”
Asked what advice his mum imparted on him when he told her he would follow her into the world of comedy, he says it was simple:
“She just said ‘you better not embarrass me’. Those were her exact words. She actually made a conscious decision to stress that I had to experience things about the industry myself and explained that there are no shortcuts to anything. People would imagine that we’d sit down and get into it, but she left me to my own devices a lot of the time. At crucial times she’d come and give me advice, but then she’d back off.”
Instead it’s his father, a singer, who is full of “great advice”.
“It’s funny because people assume that I get everything from my mum, but when my dad comes to shows, he gives me critique, which is always solid. I don’t think I’ve had a bad show in front of him.
“Everything that my mum was doing in almost 25 years of her career, he was right there. He has seen comics come and go. He has seen what staying power is from the outside as well as the inside, so when I get his advice, it’s just as good.”