Clean comedy — an oxymoron? Not when you’re Jason Love, a homegrown stand-up comedian who regularly makes people laugh by avoiding the kind of language (and subject matter) that many in his line of work can’t (and won’t) live without.
“The number one comment from audiences that I get is, ‘It’s refreshing that you didn’t ‘go there’ just for a cheap laugh,” says the 30-ish Ventura resident, who, accompanied by his guitar, offers wry, often self-deprecating observations about society and himself. “I find humor in my shortcomings, in what is embarassing to me, and I’m able to make it work.”
From Vonnegut to Split-a-Gut
Born in San Dimas and raised in Thousand Oaks, Love had no designs on a comedy career, although in retrospect Newbury Park High School provided a training ground, of sorts. “I led this running commentary for the people sitting around me in class. And I got suspended for making people laugh, even though the teacher didn’t even know what I said,” Love recalls. Later, at the University of California, Santa Cruz (“I attended on a hacky-sack scholarship or something like that”), he majored in English and psychology. “I wanted to write like Kurt Vonnegut. But I realized that wasn’t going to happen.”
Finding his voice
Instead, Love created a nationally syndicated cartoon, “Snapshots,” and wrote a humor column in the Ventura County Star. “But it’s like Seinfeld once said: ‘I never felt comfortable until I walked into a comedy club.’ I walked into the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club, and I knew, this is where I want to be,” he says. To get stage time, he did “whatever it takes — mop the floors, take the tickets, make the coffee. It was hard; the audience was quiet, but at least they were polite. And over time, as you learn what works and what doesn’t, they help you find your voice.”
Sticks and stones
To practice, Love would go into an empty field with a stick where no one could hear him, and perform for an audience of weeds and trees. “There is something about doing your material out loud that is helpful, even though the trees never laugh,” he says. “But the important thing is that you’re dipping your toe into the pool, having the words actually come out of your mouth, and that helps you grow.”
So is learning to deal with hecklers. “If an audience smells fear, they can be merciless. On a Carnival ship once, a guy actually announced at the start of my routine, ‘I’m here to heckle you, but I don’t want to throw you off your script.’ I said, ‘That’s O.K., sir, I don’t want to throw you off yours, either.’ And sometimes, I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I do look like Ellen, thank you,’ and move on.”
Cleaning it up
In addition to creating his own routines, Love sent material to comedians such as Craig Shoemaker, “who liked my Lovemaster stuff, and he took me on the road with him.” Along the way, the edgy nature of his routines — which mirrored the tone of his cartoon and columns — began to change, thanks to legendary comedians’ agent Judi Marmel of Levity Entertainment. “She told me, ‘Get rid of the dirty parts; you don’t need them.’ And as I made a commitment to being clean, a bigger world opened up,” Love explains “Corporate fundraisers, community events, even church-group date nights. That’s been a blessing.”
Six years ago, after losing a friend to cancer, Love founded Love and Laughter, a program that brings stand-up comedy shows — featuring Love’s headliner-comedian friends, who donate their comedic services — to cancer support centers in Southern California. “I see people in physical if not emotional distress from their ailments and illnesses,” he says. “And it’s amazing how these shows transform the audiences over the course of an hour. They leave the room in a different body. I like to stay inspired, and Love and Laughter certainly does that.”
Even though “maybe one of every 20 things I come up with actually works in performance,” Love remains “in love with the art and craft of comedy. The key is to be open to new ideas, and always look at the world with your head tilted. When an idea excites me, I stop what I’m doing. Finding the humor in everything is like a form of enlightenment, and I am grateful to wake up each morning and make people laugh.”
Jason Love performs on Wednesday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at Studio Movie Grill, 1555 Simi Town Center Way, Simi Valley, and on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. at Hillcrest Center for the Arts, 403 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. For more information, visit jasonlove.eventbrite.com or www.jasonlove.com.