Photo credits: Matt Misisco
“If I polled you, 99% of this crowd would rather be rock stars than whatever the fuck they do now. Myself included, so this is a dream.” That’s Roastmaster General Jeff Ross, segueing from the stand-up part to the musical part of his set at April’s The Goddamn Comedy Jam. GDCJ is a monthly show at the Lyric Theater in Hollywood that features comedians doing sets of regular material, then rocking out with house band Elemenopy, live band karaoke style. But this isn’t some kind of sad clown version of Don’t Stop Believin, the performers choose a song and rehearse it ahead of time and repeat guests like Adam Ray, Adam Devine and Fortune Feimster have the pipes to pull it off.
A lot of shows that mix music and comedy are… well.. a little bit cheesy. Not the GDCJ. The Lyric Theater is an intimate-160 seater on an otherwise unremarkable block of La Brea Av. It could be just another Hollywood black box theater/performance space, but instead Its decor and setup make it feel more like you’re at some combination of hip coffehouse, underground cabaret and awesome basement party. “It’s almost like the Lyric was built for the show,” according to GDCJ host and creator Josh Adam Meyers, “because it can handle both the comedy and the music so well.”
The Jam itself is full on rockstar. Josh crawls around the stage and surfs around the crowd like he just came from trashing a room at the Riot Hyatt. He’s thrilled to be there every minute of the show and that enthusiasm is contagious. The opening of the show, with Elemenopy running a few songs and then Josh joining them, is a great mix of fun covers the crowd can sing along to and silly original tunes that completely loosen up the place so there’s no awkward “I can’t believe I’m doing this”/”I can’t believe I’m watching this” when it comes time for the other comics to grab the mic, musically.
The show seemingly came out of nowhere and blazed into the group of Hottest Shows in LA. After all, what other show sells out weeks ahead and features Bill Burr donning a wig & full costume to perform as his favorite drummers like Tommy Lee and John Bonham? But like everything in Hollywood, the meteoric rise was more of a years-long slow climb.
“The beginnings of the Jam started at The Unknown Theater, the now defunct coolest theater in Los Angeles.” Josh explains. “That was basically the start of my stand-up career. Sarah Tiana and Laura Valdivia started that show and Angelo [Bowers], Jerrod [Carmichael], myself, Rell [Battle], Byron [Bowers] and Yassir [Lester] just gravitated toward that place. They were really great to us in our early years. And then they gave me a night where I got to book the lineup for my birthday and I had Elemenopy – they were the theater’s house band – I had them close the night out and we did a song together and it went really well.”
“Then when Sax Carr and I took the show over, Sax wanted to have Elemenopy be the show’s band and since I was hosting we just started doing some funny stuff together. People really liked it and then Josh Haness booked me and the band on the Josh & Josh Show. We tried to do the Jam in various forms, but what really got us to this show was Adam Devine. When we did it in the Valley at Mare’ka, he was the only one who actually played around with the band and asked them to do a song. It was a dead audience and this was only at the very beginnings of Workaholics but the crowd went apeshit. But then I just sat on the idea for four years. Angelo was the one who told me I should do something with music and it stuck in my head, especially after he passed. And he was right, I love stand-up comedy but I hate being judged and music isn’t judged, it’s just enjoyed.”
“So I sat on this idea because I liked it so much, I wanted to wait until I had matured as a performer and I had the kind of connections that could make it really work. Then one night I was at The Comedy Store and Bill Burr was up in the Belly Room and he comes up to me and says, ‘Dude, we gotta start jamming again, I’ve been playing drums.’ (Burr used to show up with Chris Porter at The Unknown and jam together). So I pitched him the show idea and he said, ‘Dude, I’m fucking down!’ And once I had Bill, I just had to get it done. Ryan Sickler and Jay Larson hopped on board and then Matt Braunger, and it was just great. But Burr was the one who really tipped the scales.”
The GDCJ recently took its first field trip to RIOT LA festival. “I was nervous taking it outside the Lyric, but we had Matteo [Lane] who is just incredible and Joe DeRosa [and Burr] and it was so well received. We were so loud, the cops were called and they were talking about shutting it down, which is pretty rock’n’roll. But it was really good to see it can work at other places and we’re really excited about the future.”
And the future looks pretty great for the Jam. After April’s killer show with Ross, Fortune, Sean Patton, Chris Porter, the May lineup boats Hannibal Buress, Felipe Esparza, Brad Williams and Andrew Santino. Plus, they’re looking ahead to take it on the road to another big festival this summer [and I’m not saying which one but maybe Bill Burr told me “I’ll only go up there if they do this show” and also accidentally dropped some supposed-to-be-embargoed news about it on his podcast recently. So if you happen to connect the northerly dots…
Amy Hawthorne is a comedy producer and writer living in New York City