BH Interview: Jay Mohr Says Comedy Clubs Should Be P.C. Free Zones

BH Interview: Jay Mohr Says Comedy Clubs Should Be P.C. Free Zones

Comedians are often held to a similar standard as politicians when it comes to free speech.

Say the wrong thing in a comedy club, and suddenly you’re forced to apologize even if the only thing at stake is a botched joke, not a new foreign policy initiative or tax proposal.

Just ask Michael Richards, Daniel Tosh or Christopher Titus. Or, most likely, Dane Cook after he incorporated the July 20 movie theater massacre into his act this week.

Comedian and podcaster Jay Mohr calls this trend “frightening.”

“The comedy club, to me, has been this insulated bubble not like the rest of he world,” Mohr tells Big Hollywood. [Editor’s Note: Mohr spoke to this site before Cook’s comments] “It’s one place you can execute free speech, really go and do it.”

The comic actor, known for his work on “Saturday Night Live,” the hit film “Jerry Maguire” and now his popular podcast “Mohr Stories,” quotes the late Patrice O’Neal who argued that comedians need the right to go for it, no matter the topic.

Mohr doesn’t hold out much sympathy for audience members who are quick to find offense at stand-up routines.

“When you buy a ticket to comedy show I need you, as a member of a democracy, to appreciate that First Amendment right,” he says. “It might not be for you, and you can ask for your money back, but as an orator for a living I have to be able to reach for that next wrung. If not, we’re all dead in the water.”

For now, Mohr feels free enough to say what he pleases on “Mohr Stories,” a podcast which recently split from Kevin Smith’s popular podcast network, amicably, Mohr explains, to go on its own.

Some comedians take up podcasting to enhance their resumes or try to crack show business. Mohr is already there, a veteran of film, television and standup. For him, the podcast offers perks no other current format matches.

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The podcast has increased the size of the crowds attending his stand-up shows – and they’re coming from farther away just to see him. One couple recently drove 11 hours to catch his show, he says.

And at a time when technology is all the rage, listeners are using their newest gadgets for the chance to hear Mohr and a series of guests like Henry Winkler and Bob Saget simply have a conversation.

“That’s what’s amazing about show business. That sitting in your garage and talking with your friends is the new ‘it’ thing,” he says.  “It’s not putting on a ‘show’ for me. It’s just people talking honestly. That’s the lost art of this post-Kardashian world.”

The podcast format allows for an intimacy level you can’t find in other media. That aspect caught him off guard.

“With a podcast, you make an appointment and listen to it anywhere you want,” he says. For many of his show’s fans, that means hearing “Mohr Stories” at their work place.

“Many of my listeners are doing jobs they don’t really like. I get many, many emails saying, ‘it really helps me … I’m not really doing what I want to be doing,'” he says. Mohr also hears from soldiers who thank him via email for making them feel a little closer to home when they listen.

Media consumers still chuckle along with the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman, but those late-night shows pre-interview their guests and conform to very rigid time constraints.

Not “Mohr Stories.”

“[Listeners] know my faults. I speak openly about when I’ve been a creep,” he says, adding he once told the story of how he lost a million dollar deal because he couldn’t hold his tongue. “I’ve had my manager on [discussing] times I ruined portions of projects with my behavior.”

Mohr doesn’t hold back on his podcast, but he does think it’s ironic that one place still exists today where people have all the free speech in the world without repercussions. It’s where one can read the most horrendous thoughts and no one blinks an eye.

“The only people who exercise free speech horribly are people who are commenting underneath this article,” he says.

Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies