Friday, June 22, 2018
Features and More

Mohr than meets the eye

If Jay Mohr told you that his podcast, Mohr Stories, is his favorite thing he's ever done — more than Saturday Night Live, more than Jerry Maguire, more than his two books — you'd probably call him a liar. He knows that, even if he doesn't understand it.

"There's always a new wrinkle to negativity," he said. "Out of all the things I could lie about — I would lie on a credit report or something. I would be taller on my driver's license. It doesn't behoove me to go, 'Guess what? I'm lying about what I like!' "

Maybe it's just that Mohr has always been good at playing cocky and disingenuous. Even today, he said, "I get a lot of tweets from people: 'I've always hated you since Jerry Maguire,' " where he played the sleazy agent who fires Tom Cruise at lunch. "Do you hate Glenn Close because of the movie with Michael Douglas? Are you like, 'Glenn Close is crazy?' "

Mohr is 41, but he's been in the public eye more than half his life. He started doing stand-up as a teen and had his first on-air gig, on MTV, at 20. By 22, he was on Saturday Night Live — an experience he turned into the backstage memoir Gasping For Airtime. Movies and other TV shows have followed, but through it all, Mohr has stuck to his first love: stand-up. His prodigious gift of gab led him to start Mohr Stories, a 90-minute show on Kevin Smith's Smodcast Network, that he says has led fans to see him in a new light.

As Mohr comes to the Mahaffey Theater for a show on March 15, he called us to talk about comedy, technology and Saturday Night Live. Here are excerpts.

What was the first podcast that made you realize, "This might be a thing people care about?"

I never listened to any podcasts before I did mine. Everybody always asked me to do theirs. I heard that Joe Rogan and other comics had made the jump from clubs to theaters because of the podcast. Then I spoke with Kevin Smith, who produces my podcast, and he told me if you do it long enough, and people listen long enough, if you come within a 100-mile radius of their town, they'll come and see you, because they feel like they owe you.

On your blog you wrote about why you do it, and you were talking about the late Patrice O'Neal. You said, "Record the laughter in your life. Record your parents laughing. Be sure to have hours of footage of the laughter of your children. Record your friends and you having a good time. Use all of this technology to your emotional advantage." Did you obsessively catalog your life before this digital age?

No, I'm a technological dunce. It's just because of the podcast — somebody comes to my house and hands me a microphone once a week — that I was able to record people laughing. I just got an iPhone, and I maniacally film my son. If nothing happens, you can just delete it. But the other day I saw my son stand up for the first time, just because I kept it running.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with SNL?

It's the only creature of its kind. There's no other show that rotates casts regularly, that launches original characters, that fans out into movies and then discovers new people. When you think it's gone and dead, it just forms a scab, heals, and the tulips come up through the snow again. And everybody we love — Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley — they all have one thing in common: They came from that show. People have tried to copy it, and for some reason, it just never has worked — with the exception of MadTV, I suppose, but I mean, name someone from MadTV? It'll take you a second. And I don't mean that disrespectfully. But if I said Saturday Night Live, it's a Rolodex of who's who.

What would have to happen for you to ever be invited back to host the show?

I would have to become a lot more famous. Gary Unmarried would have to still be on the air.

You have a skill set that's sort of uniquely suited for that show. There has to be a part of you that still thinks, "This is the place where I can get out some of the creative things that I want to do."

My wife and I are a writing team. And I know right now, we would move to New York to write — not even be on camera — on the writing staff of Saturday Night Live. And I know that we would absolutely dominate. It would be Jordan and Pippen. I'm telling you right now, you drop my wife and I on the 17th floor of 30 Rock, it's over.

At this point, has Tracy Morgan passed Christopher Walken as your most famous impression?

No. I have a clock in my head of how long I can stand here before somebody yells out, "Walken!" My go-to joke is always, "Do you go see the Eagles in concert, and the second you hit your seat, start yelling, 'Hotel California!' It comes at the end! It's a hit! You see how this works?" A lot of times I'll walk out and open with Walken, and then it's almost like I've broken the chain. Now I have an hour to do whatever I want. You know what? Maybe I'll do that in St. Pete. I'm going to open with Christopher Walken in St. Petersburg.

Wow. That's a bold statement.

I'm calling my shot. I'm a shot caller. Give me a bat. Let me take my cuts.

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