JFL40: So What If Big Jay Oakerson Likes Bryan Adams?


Looking at Big Jay Oakerson – with his dark clothing, tattoos and piercings – it would be fair to assume he spends a lot of time listening to heavy metal.

Sure enough, the 44-year-old comedian has Marilyn Manson on his playlist. But, he also has Barbra Streisand and the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera.

“I’m all over the board and I mean that so genuinely,” Oakerson said. “I love listening to ‘80s soft rock, yacht rock stuff.”

To wit, Oakerson has tickets for a Rage Against The Machine concert but recently went to see a show with Train, Jewel and Blues Traveler in the line-up.

“My music taste is all over the place,” he said. “I love it all for different reasons.”

This includes Nickelback and another Canadian rock act. “I saw Bryan Adams, who I believe is your prime minister – I don’t follow politics,” said Oakerson. “He was awesome live. He’s still got it.”

Oakerson might be caught chest-pounding to Céline Dion later this month when he’s back in her hometown for the Just For Laughs festival, where he’s hosting The Nasty Show and the OffJFL show The Worst as well as doing a set at the Marc Maron Gala.

Oakerson describes The Worst as “a storytelling show” in which comedians share stories about their worst experiences. “It can be anything from the worst sandwich they ever had to their worst death in the family,” he explained. “It’s a very fun show.”

Oakerson’s first JFL appearance, at the New Faces showcase more than 15 years ago, wasn’t quite the worst – but it came close.

“I was so nervous. I did okay on stage, made no splash,” he recalled. “The stakes felt so high for me. I was having such a bad time at the shows because I was just not doing well.”

Part of the problem was he listened to his then-manager’s “terrible” advice to focus on jokes about his family – in hopes he’d land a sitcom deal. “But, I don’t do a lot of family comedy,” he noted.

He also agreed to go on stage in a short-sleeve buttoned shirt, straight-leg jeans and slip-on dress shoes. “It was the complete antithesis of how I would ever dress on stage.”

Oakerson discovered he could be himself – and do his best material – at Grumpy’s, a downtown Montreal bar below the now-defunct Comedyworks club. He remembered doing a killer 40-minute set at the end of an open mic night.

“I was cutting loose,” he said. “I was doing everything I wasn’t doing on stage at New Faces and I did my thing.”


Eventually, Oakerson earned a spot in The Nasty Show line-up at JFL. This year marks the first time he’s hosting.

“I can’t believe they offered it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”

As the name makes clear, the show – featuring Josh Adam Meyers, Liza Treyger, Robert Kelly, Sophie Buddle and Yamaneika Saunders – is not for snowflakes.

“It’s called The Nasty Show. If you don’t like this kind of thing, avoid it,” said Oakerson. And yet, “people still come and they’re like, ‘They can’t say that!’”

It boggles the mind that anyone attending a show that is transparently nasty gets offended, but these are the times in which we are living.

“It’s pretty crazy that you can make a joke on stage at a comedy club and there’s people laughing at it and someone else goes, ‘You’re a Nazi!’ The argument will always be, ‘Look at all the crazy shit you just said.’

“I’m doing stories. I’m trying to entertain people. You’re just pointing a finger and calling me a Nazi. It’s a pretty wild accusation.”

Not surprisingly, “none of them want to have a conversation about it. I’ve asked many times,” said Oakerson. “Why don’t we talk and you’ll see how ridiculous these claims are? They always say no.”

Oakerson said his teenaged daughter Izabella, who has been mentioned in his act, is not offended “at all” by what he says on stage.

“She’s almost puzzled why people are so upset,” he said. “She gets that I’m making jokes and then she sees an article where someone’s calling her dad a Nazi or a racist.

“It a pretty harsh thing to call someone in an article and then walk away from.”

Big Jay Oakerson hosts The Nasty Show from July 20-24 and 26-28 at MTelus and The Worst on July 27, 28 and 30 at Café Cléopatra. He also appears in The Marc Maron Gala on July 30 at Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts. Click here for tickets. Just For Laughs runs July 13-31.

Virgin Radio and CHOM are sponsors of the Just For Laughs festival, which is partly owned by parent company Bell Media. This article was adapted from a feature article at PopGoesTheNews.

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