Full interview with Elliot Gonzales (iTalkTelly)
I TALK TO Travis Jay
"I didn't want to make it public for a long time and make it seem that I was trying to ride off my mum's reputation."
10 years since starting out in comedy, Travis Jay is ready to bring his debut hour to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which explores the time he accidentally became leader of a Black Lives Matter protest, his South London upbringing and offer a raw look at the impact of his grandfather passing.
I caught up with him to find out what else audiences can expect from Funny, Petty, Cool, what it's like starting out in the industry as "Angie Le Mar's son" and the surprise advice his mother gave him.
How did you first get into comedy?
I guess this is one of those nature vs nurture things, I often wonder if it's in my DNA or if I do comedy because I was around it so much.
I've grown up around stand-up and I have to guess that my parents did not have great relationships with babysitters because I was always going to venues, being backstage at comedy shows, at the back of the room for rehearsals so I was the boy in the corner for many many years.
I was an avid basketball player and my dream was to go to the NBA but then I saw a comedy club get heavily promoted on Facebook - Kojo's Comedy Funhouse - and they were doing some MTV Base recordings at the time, this was about 2009.
I remember going along, being in the audience and experiencing the hysteria when a comedian is hilarious. I just had this crazy feeling that I could do that. It wasn't because the comedians weren't good and I felt like I could outdo them, it's just that it was one of those crazy moments of inspiration even though I knew that stand-up comedy was difficult. And it just never left me!
I started to go to comedy clubs on my own and at that point it wasn't a fun night out, it was research. That's when I decided to give this a crack.
You've been doing comedy for 10 years, why has it taken you so long to debut in Edinburgh?
I've actually planned to go for so many years but for the longest time I've had a 9 to 5 and getting August off is an impossible task so I'd either need to leave my job and really go for it - and I'm a dad so the idea of losing that security was quite daunting - but I convinced myself that I don't need Edinburgh and that I'd be OK.
But the further I get into my comedy career the more I realise I'm missing out on a huge experience. Even if it's not life-changing, I just think it's a great thing for me to do as a comic, perform an hour-long show every single day.
Last year I packed in my 9 to 5, made the jump and this year Edinburgh has got to happen! I was actually planning to come last year but it coincided with my son's arrival so I didn't want to be away for a month at such a crucial stage.
Do you feel like in 10 years you've managed to distance yourself from being "Angie Le Mar's son"?
Well initially I kept it very secret because especially on the black circuit, where I started out, my mum's reputation is huge so I'd go to shows and meet huge comics but it wasn't "Look at this new guy on the scene" it was more a case of "Wow look how much you've grown! You look just like your dad."
There was a real familiarity which I couldn't shake in that way but I didn't want to make it public for a long time and make it seem that I was trying to ride off my mum's reputation.
Of course there were some unavoidable situations, I remember one time Richard Blackwood introduced me on stage like "This guy coming on stage comes from great stock, you guys are going to love him, this is Angie Le Mar's son!" and the crowd cheered but I was like "Dude, you haven't even said my name!"
I never wanted to announce it or make it public until 5 years in I did a solo show at the Arcola Theatre and I got my mum to host it - that was me being confident in myself to stand next to her as a comic. And I had a tremendous performance that night so I felt from that moment on I'd earnt my stripes and can confidently say "I'm a comedian and Angie Le Mar's son".
Has your mother given you much advice along the way?
My parents have quite contrasting parenting styles. When I first told my mum that I was going to do stand-up, I expected lots of advice, The Lion King hand me down type of moment but she just literally leaned into my ear - in a room where it was just us! - and said to me "Don't embarrass me. I've worked way too hard" and it's been that level of intensity on the rare occasion that we've spoken about my stand-up or worked together.
Where as my dad - growing up I was a really skinny tall child - but I was committed to being a body builder. I wanted to be huge so I'd work out and come out of my room and I'd feel like my muscles were pumping and he'd inflate my ego and go "Aw man, looking good, looking great!" but when I look back at pictures of me at 13 I'm like "This kid needs to go to the hospital!" I looked ridiculous.
What can people expect from your debut hour?
This is a show that I believe is a well-rounded introduction to myself. Funny, Petty, Cool is what it says on the tin. I am proudly a petty person and a lot of petty situations have benefited me in the end. I open up about a lot of serious issues in the midst of it all such as my grandfather passing away and I offer a lot of social commentary.
But more so than anything, I like to have fun. That should shine through in my show so I hope it's a really good experience for the audience.
Why did you decide to call the show Funny, Petty, Cool?
It's kind of a play on words of the TLC song Crazy, Sexy, Cool - it's three words that work really nicely together. I really wanted to roll with the 'Sexy' but I really didn't want to post this for someone in the Instagram comments to be like "Nah, I don't know about that."
I did have some crazy ideas for a title for this show but I had to bin those because I didn't want to get my show cancelled before the show actually starts.
How have you found putting together the Edinburgh hour?
It's an ever-changing process for me because I write in spurts. For example, the hour back in September when I did my first preview is completely different to the hour I have now.
Because I've been going for a while, it's not a foreign concept for me to bin my favourite material. I'm not attached at all, if it's got to go it's got to go. I'm really looking forward to going up there and adapting.
The thing is, you do a lot of previews and you hope you're getting it right but the truth is, you'll know once you get up there.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?
I'm really looking forward to the buzz of being around other performers. Like-minded individuals who are chasing a similar dream and just watching them execute. I love watching other stand-ups, especially when I've never seen them before.
A good friend of mine is Jacob Hawley so I'm looking forward to seeing him and Marlon Davis too, I can't wait to see his new show.
I'll be going to see so many shows because the level of inspiration, being around people who are as dedicated as I am, is bound to be a really inspiring experience.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
I've got the Undefeated podcast that I do with another comic called KG The Comedian where we have a lot of fun and talk about boxing. Serious boxing fans have really in depth serious conversations about boxing and we're trying to bridge the gap between the serious side and the guys who only watch Anthony Joshua.
But other than that, I like to deal with things one thing at a time. I have a few ideas for TV shows but right now it's best that I focus solely on Edinburgh. After Edinburgh, then we'll move on to something else. I just wouldn't want to overlook such a huge experience.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
Hilarious. Intimate. Boisterous. Fun. Wild.
Travis Jay: Funny, Petty, Cool runs from 1st - 25th August (not 12th and 16th) at 2.35pm at Just the Tonic at The Mash House (Just the Attic). Book tickets here.