Travis Jay: One Man. One Mic
Posted on: 04/05/2014 04:00 PM
The UK comedian on his upcoming one-man show, evolving and working with his famous mother
by Dionne Grant: Printed in The Voice Newspaper
HIS MOTHER is dubbed 'the UK Queen of Comedy' so unsurprisingly when Travis Jay told comedienne Angie Le Mar he would pursue a career in comedy, she turned to him and uttered a series of words that the young comic will never forget.
“She looked at me and said, 'don't embarrass me,'” he recalls with laughter.
Five years into his career, he can safely say he has delivered on that promise.
From performing at the renowned Comedy Store to taking his talents abroad - recently headlining a show in Paris, Travis has carved out a successful career on the circuit.
“I feel like I've earned the respect industry-wise now,” he says. “Everybody knows I haven't used [my mum's] name to benefit myself.”
It therefore came as no surprise to learn that when Angie offered to host his first one-man show next month, the 26-year-old was understandably reluctant.
“She was like, 'oh maybe I can host it for you?' I was like, 'Hmmm, I don't know about that,” he laughs. “I understand it's going to be nice for everyone else, but that makes my life difficult.' Then I was like, 'Nah, let's do this, this is going to be powerful.'”
Not only will Angie, whose credits include hit BBC series The Real McCoy, Blouse & Skirt and a series of successful one-woman shows, host Travis’ solo debut, she will also direct it.
“For me doing this now, it's less about trying to separate myself from my mum as opposed to knowing this union is powerful for black comedy. This doesn't happen with anybody else. Why would I run from it? I won't ride this wave for my career, but right now, it is what it is.”
His understanding may come in handy when his three-year-old daughter, who is already showing signs the funny gene is alive and kicking in her too, makes a similar announcement about her comedic aspirations.
When asked if he'd be as supportive to his daughter as his own mother was to him, Travis laughs: “I'd be like, 'Hey, look at this piano!' Nah, if she wanted to do it and I could see the conviction, then I would be 100 per cent behind her. She would have the legacy on her shoulders - that's pressure!”
As well as inheriting his comedic talent, Travis' daughter has also made her father “become much more focused” and “level-headed.”
“There is so much more at stake now,” he says. “Before [fatherhood], it was just hand to mouth. Whatever happens happens. You'd prefer to have a good time than any long-term planning. Now, whatever I'm doing has to count in the grand scheme. All the work I'm doing for the [one-man] show is for that purpose.”
Travis has been planning his solo introduction to the comedy world “since my third year in comedy. I always said I would do this on my fifth anniversary so it's crazy that I've been able to stick to that.”
And for the first time in his career, he has involved both his parents in the writing stage.
“People would imagine that my mum and I would work like this all the time, but this is the first time I've actually opened up my material.”
But it's his father, David Prosper, a musician, who is his toughest critic.
“Both my parents are hard critics, but if my dad laughs, that joke is 100 per cent going to work.”
What kind of material has successfully passed the quality control of his parents?
“I will be talking about issues rife in the black community and about my upbringing. I’ll also cover the challenges of becoming a new father.
“I'm not just going for punch lines. I'm going to let the audience know how funny I am, but also who I am. I'm going to let people into my world.”
Naming US comedian, actor and singer Jamie Foxx as one of his biggest inspirations, Travis Jay says he hopes to head to the States in the coming years to fully explore his talents on the biggest stage in the world.
“Jamie Foxx is amazing and the fact he's so versatile is inspiring. There's a consistent quality in every craft he catches whether it's music, acting or stand-up. That's what I'm aspiring to.
“I haven't done anything high-profile yet, but I've had a few cameos in [comedy series] Brothers With No Game, which is now on London Live. I definitely want to break out as soon as.”
Asked whether he had grown frustrated by the tendency to often compare British talent with that of its American counterparts, Travis said it had in fact made him a better comedian.
“If you look at the black comedy scene in America, those comics are able to sustain themselves by only doing black comedy shows without ever having to do mainstream. Over here, if you commit to doing black comedy alone, that's you, but if you want to get onto TV, you have to be broad.
“It makes you better when you have to be broad. If you can only be funny to people who know you, it's not a true testament to how great you are. That's like being funny in your house. If I can be funny in a room full of strangers from different cultures, then I feel like I've got skills.”