Comic Jason Thompson on his accidental career as a stand-up
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Jason Thompson fell backwards into a comedy career — not once, but twice.
Thompson will make his Amarillo debut with an 8:30 p.m. Friday show at No Dogs Allowed, 700 S.W. 10th Ave. Also performing are Amarillo comics Skylar Potter and Tristan Pinter. Cover is $3 each or $5 for couples.
At 21, Thompson auditioned for sketch comedy troupe Red Octopus Theatre Co. — without realizing it actually was a sketch comedy troupe.
"I was trying to get back into theater after my daughter was born, so I was doing anything," Thompson said. "They handed me this ... script, and I thought it was some sort of dramatic thing. I was reading across from a girl, and it was almost like a soap-opera thing. I'm into it, getting intense, and people start laughing in the audience.
"I'm thinking this is supposed to be serious s--t we're doing, and the humor was going over my head," he continued. "I'm getting pissed on stage and committing to it more, and they started laughing more and more and more. Luckily, I didn't say anything inappropriate when we got to the end of the scene."
The company liked what it saw, so Thompson got a callback.
"When I came back, it terrified me. Comedy had always scared me," he said.
But after a few years with Red Octopus, Thompson moved to Los Angeles to see what would happen during pilot season, when TV producers are scouring talent pools for actors for new shows they're hoping to pitch to networks.
"I was looking for a day job and walked past the Comedy Store," he said. "I grabbed an application to work the door. I just wanted to be there — it was like a theme park of comedy for me."
Thompson had no intention of stepping foot on stage himself as a stand-up, but after hanging out with the likes of Paul Mooney, Ari Shaffir and others — and getting encouragement from club owner Mitzi Shore herself — he finally decided to give it a shot.
"They let the employees go up and not stand in line (for open-mic shows)," Thompson said. "I did it and ate s--t completely, but it was like a rite of passage thing. ... It was so much fun, so the second time I went up ... I had a whole new story ... and got a few laughs — weird, awkward, silly laughs, but that was it from then on."
That was in the year 2000, and Thompson started touring professionally six years later. After a hiatus of a couple of years in Seattle, Thompson has relocated to Little Rock, Ark., and resumed his comedy career.
"I never stopped loving doing it, it was just life stuff," Thompson said. "When I came back, everything kind of fell back into place, and I don't know if I had a choice to get back into it. ... It was just time to step back on the carousel."
Thompson largely draws from his own life experience for his set, especially from his sense of being an outsider in Arkansas, even though he first moved there as a child.
"I'm German/Cherokee, and in the summertime, I get dark. And as a kid, I had longer, curlier hair," Thompson said. "So I got (exposed to) a weird kind of racism that a lot of people can't relate to.
"It was almost worse for the racist redneck dudes to not know what race you are than it is for them to know. They don't know how to act around you," he continued. "They're scrambling for a racial slur to throw at you ... and if you're a friend, they don't know what kind of slurs they can drop around you. ... For the most part, I was a brown spot on the black side of the classroom. ... It was just a weird thing. At times, I felt like I had no enemies whatsoever; at times, I felt like they all were."
Returning home brings those feelings into sharper focus.
"I love being here, but I ain't f---ing stupid. I get it. I see it," he said. "It's relatively unchanged, but it's cool. I like it. I can go anywhere I want, but this is still a cool, safe haven for me, a nice little swimming pool of blue in a very red state."