Talks About Comedy
The FX Series The League
By: Libby Freeman
I recently had a chance to talk to Jon Lajoie about comedy, the internet, the FX series The League, and more. Here ya go!
PG- Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell the Punk Globe readers about your early years growing up?
JON LAJOIE- I grew up in Montreal, Canada. I have eight brothers and sisters. I went to theater school in college. Then I did some acting in Montreal and one day I just wanted to do comedy. There weren't any opportunities in Montreal whatsoever. There was basically just auditions for Quaker Oatmeal commercials. So I just picked up a camera and started shooting stuff. Then I learned how to edit videos and it all snowballed into something I hadn't planned. So I just kinda rolled with it.
PG- Have you always been interested in theater?
JON LAJOIE- Yeah. I grew up in a really religious Protestant Pentecostal home. We went to church quite a bit. I'd get up on stage once a year for the Christmas play and that was always my favorite thing to do in the world. I didn't really know much about theater and that world. Then when I started going to theater school and even before that in high school I started learning. That's really when I fell in love with Shakespeare and all that crazy stuff.
PG- Were you a goof off as a child?
JON LAJOIE- Yeah, a little bit. I'd get into a lot of trouble, but I was a very shy kid. I was never the comedian or the actor at that age. I could turn it on if I was trying to do something. My family was so straight; church three times a week, not allowed to swear, can't even watch He-Man. Every friend I had was always the worst kid in school. I'd go to their house cause then I could watch horror movies, smoke joints, and go run off into the night and cause trouble. Generally speaking I was an ok kid.
PG- Did you do stand up early on?
JON LAJOIE- I do now. I always loved comedy, but I never thought I was a funny person. Really, I just started making videos about three and a half years ago. I just decided I wanted to do comedy so I sat down, started writing and then went out shooting stuff. From then on there were opportunities to do live shows and that's been quite recent.
PG- Your segue from theater to comedy is interesting. Was there any integral moment that made that shift happen?
JON LAJOIE- It was mostly my band. I was in a band for five years and I was in a relationship with a girl who was in the band for like seven years. I think both of those things falling apart made me go, "What do I feel like doing now?" I guess it was really just not having that band and that relationship. At that point I felt like doing something with the subject matter that we were so introspective and deep about and just turning it on it's head by making it silly as opposed to commenting on it in a more serious manner. I could still make people laugh and have some kind of point of view. That was basically it, two things falling apart in my life.
PG- Gotcha. You've managed to turn a cult following through internet videos into a wide mainstream audience. Do you have any thoughts on that?
JON LAJOIE- I just keep doing what I feel like doing. The great thing about the internet is that you never have someone approaching you once your videos are popular and saying, "Now you're gonna have to do this or that." Basically, you can just keep doing what you've been doing and no one is looking over your shoulder. Whatever I think of I can put out, which is a creative freedom that is amazing. Once you start getting into television and film, then it gets a little tricky. I've been approached by a few companies that I won't name to be a spokesperson for their ad campaigns and so far I've declined all of them because I felt weird about having my online fans seeing something on youtube in a square next to a video they're watching and they click on it and it's me doing whatever ad so body spray. I don't want to do that. Those opportunities have been there and I've declined them, I guess until I'm starving and I need to I won't do that. Even big movie offers where I'm like, "I don't know if I should do this kind of thing." There's that kind of decision making that goes along with more mainstream appeal and I'm just trying to make the right decisions.
PG- Do you have any thoughts on the differences between TV and internet, aside from greater creative freedoms?
JON LAJOIE- It's an interesting place. I've equated it to a stage. You own a stage, everyone has a stage in a huge city. You can do whatever you want on that stage. The key is, how do you get people to come to your stage? It's really a magical thing to be able to do anything and have an audience. It's just a matter of finding your audience. It's very democratic. Well, so far. Let's see how much the internet is going to stay like that. Hopefully it does. In Los Angeles and Hollywood, everyone is sticking their head in everything, making it all so middle of the road. They want to be so careful with everything to make sure that the target audience is this or that and the advertisers are appealed to. Internet, literally I could take a piss in a cup, film it, put it out there and if someone wants to watch that, they're gonna watch it, and no one is gonna say anything.
PG- How would you describe your work?
JON LAJOIE- It differs. Sometimes I put something together that's silly and it's literally just to make people laugh. Then sometimes I have a point to make and am commenting on something and I still try to make people laugh, but have a layer or two (whether people get it or not) of my point of view. I love absurdist, kind of crass, kind of social commentary, kind of silly nonsense stuff.
PG- Can you tell the Punk Globe readers about the WTF Collective?
JON LAJOIE- Yeah. I was writing a song about this rapper who everything he said was completely incomprehensible, I called him MC Confusing. Then I felt like that was just one joke and I didn't want to make a whole song out of just one joke. So I just started brainstorming insane characteristics that a rapper can have. I brought out stuff like MC Amnesia who can't remember any of his rhymes and MC Doesn't Know What Irony Is. Just a bunch of crazy stuff and I put it together. Then I decided I wanted to do a sequel cause it was just so fun to sit there and come up with insane rappers. Then there was MC Historical Inaccuracy, all of this guys rhymes were historically inaccurate. That was just me playing around and having a good time. I guess I wrote it around when Prop. 8 was still a huge issue, so I added MC Homophobic Asshole in there as a little jab.
PG- Have you ever had the experience where you felt that people were laughing for the wrong reason? Or do you feel that there is there no such thing as a wrong reason to laugh?
JON LAJOIE- Oh my God. Yeah, I struggle with that a bit. Particularly with songs like 'Show Me Your Genitals' where in my mind it is clearly a parody of all that music, and all that shallow, stupid, misogynistic crap. I thought it was so funny to take a guy who was clearly a loser and have him say the exact same thing, except maybe in a less pretty way and maybe people will see just how stupid this music is. Then you just get half of the people understanding that and the other half saying, "Yeah. That's how I think." And you're like, "No, that's not what I was saying." I don't know if there's such a thing as laughing for the wrong reason, cause it's so subjective, but something like that, if you are laughing for the wrong reasons then you're just a horrible person. I've gotten beautiful letters from feminist orgs. saying that that was a clever way to approach that. Then, I've also had dudes emailing me going, "Yeah. Finally someone writes a song about how I feel about women." Wow, that is a wide spectrum of interpretation of my song.
PG- Many of your spoof commercials seem like critiques upon critiques. They all seem to mock at advertising, then satarize particular social themes. Would you say that's accurate?
JON LAJOIE- Yeah. I did one in particular that was pretty obvious. It was a commercial for the mainstream media. I tend to comment on social themes. But then, I have one called Hands. I made a commercial for hands. Literally, if you don't have hands, look we've invented something called hands. That's less of a commentary and just me making something fun and silly. I think, at least I hope to believe that most young people get that mainstream media is a big pile of crap. Sometimes I make videos and I don't want to be too obvious and preachy cause I like to assume that people understand that kind of stuff.
PG- So, you've been working with an ensemble cast on FX's The League. Can you tell the Punk Globe readers about that?
JON LAJOIE- This is another great thing about making your own stuff and putting it out there for an audience without waiting for anyone. Jeff and Jackie Shaffer (executive producers of The League) approached me about a year and a half to two years ago after seeing a bunch of my videos. They had an idea for a TV show and a character within that TV show called Taco. They said that when they saw my videos they said, "Whoa, Taco exists. Let's go meet with this guy." So I came out to L.A. and I met with them and a bunch of other people. It was one of those things that seemed really cool, but I didn't think it was going to happen because when you get to L.A. everyone just talks up your ass and nothing ever comes true. But that's one of the things that actually came to fruition. A year later I was standing on the set shooting the pilot. It's a great experience cause they know me and my sense of humor and they give me a lot of creative freedom. There's no script, there's just an outline. So I can just sit in my trailer and write a bunch of jokes, come on set and just go at it. It's a great creative environment. The people I work with are amazing: Mark Duplass whose a fabulous filmmaker and Katie Aselton whole a fabulous filmmaker as well and they're both great actors, Steve Rannazzasi, who does hilarious stand up and is such a funny dude, Paul Scheer from the Human Giants, who I can't even look at without laughing, and Mick Croll who does very funny stand up as well. It's a great cast and we have a blast. It's such a low budget TV show that we're all there because we want to be there.
PG- Who would you cite as comedic and/or theatrical influence?
JON LAJOIE- In terms of comedy, Kids in the Hall and Monty Python were my favorites. Also, comedians like Carlin, Eddy Izzard, Chaplin, Peter Sellers and Adam Sandler. Even stuff like The Kinks, they did some hilarious, witty social commentary in a bunch of their songs. In terms of theater, I was always really drawn to Theater of the Absurd, stuff like Samuel Beckett, Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Sam Sheppard, stuff like that.
PG- Do you ever have any favorite punk bands?
JON LAJOIE- I think someone like Frank Zappa is pretty punk, but he's not punk. I like The Monks. I like a lot of late 60's garage bands that were punk, but again weren't. Can the Velvet Underground be punk? I'll probably think of more when I hang up with you.
PG- What is the most ridiculous thing that's ever happened to you on a tour?
JON LAJOIE- There's weird things like girls wanting me to sign their vaginas. There's nothing really crazy. I mean, I hung out with The Kids in the Hall after a show and I went out later and I won't say who, but I got completely trashed with one of them. We were hanging out all night and all I kept doing was quoting lines from Kids in the Hall in his ear. I've also killed a bunch of people on tour, but I don't really want to talk about that because I'll probably get arrested.
PG- Do you have any upcoming North American tour dates?
JON LAJOIE- Yes, we're booking right now. I don't have exact dates, but we're going to be going to Portland, Seattle, Michigan, etc.
PG- Are you working on any new projects presently?
JON LAJOIE- I'm writing a few things for TV and I'm trying to get this musical together that I've been working on for awhile. I'm always working on stuff for the internet. I just shot a video with my buddy in Montreal, which was out on Dec. 15th. This one is just silly. I'm very impulsive, so I can be working on all this stuff and then tomorrow I'll drop it all cause I just figured out something that I want to do. So, for now I'm doing all those things.
PG- Do you have any links you want to share?
JON LAJOIE- My website:
Mainstream Media Commercial:
PG- Thanks again for doing this interview. Do you have any parting words for the Punk Globe readers?
JON LAJOIE- Advice for the kids. Everyone does have that creative spark inside of them. It's never been a better time to explore that. Just do it. I never thought I'd be a comedian, I never even thought I was funny. I only figured it out by doing it. Or just drink a lot of alcohol and you'll forget about shit, that's what helps me get through the day. Just do it, be creative. It's a fascinating time to be alive and to be able to do stuff.