Jay Mohr is offering a guarantee to ticket-holders gearing up to see his Dec. 19 gig at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino's Grande Exposition Hall.
“You’re going to see the best show you’ve ever seen, or I’ll give you your money back,” he said.
The comedian, 45, has been performing stand-up since he was 16. But he insists he’s just begun to hit his stride, thanks to some sage advice that’s helped his comedy become “way, exponentially better.”
“My wife told me to take time off for a while and then, when I get back on stage, to tell the truth,” he said. “She also told me to enjoy the pauses.”
He began presenting material with greater authenticity and stopped struggling to fill every moment with patter. Mohr’s better half has also proved to be an able writing partner. In fact, she wrote all of the material for his latest comedy album “Happy. And a Lot,” which earlier this month garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album.
“I’m right up there with Tony Bennett, Pitbull and Taylor Swift,” he marveled. “Just for telling funny stories.”
We’re all familiar with the phrase “Behind every great man is a great woman.”
While Mohr will be the one taking the bow should he win, however, the woman behind him doesn’t exactly shy away from attention. He’s been married since 2006 to actress Nikki Cox, with whom he has a 4-year-old son.
“Boys in general are not as smart as girls,” Mohr riffed. “If you see a 7-year-old drawing by himself with crayons and ask him what he’s drawing, he’ll say, ‘It’s a big, scary monster with torpedoes.’ If you ask a girl, she’ll be like, ‘It’s a diagram for the seating at your funeral.’”
All jokes aside, he said his spouse’s bombshell good looks are the least of her positive qualities.
“She’s so much smarter than me,” he said. “My wife is a horrible insomniac. She’ll be up a couple of days. I’ll wake up and she’ll have a notebook filled with material. It’s perfectly written and great and was written with my voice in mind.”
The comedian may downplay his own intelligence at times, but he’s bright enough to have shown staying power in the notoriously fickle entertainment industry.
A career's beginnings
It started with a two-year run as a featured player on Saturday Night Live.
Upon embarking on the gig, which lasted from 1993 to 1995, he found himself in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere marked more by competition than mentorship. He received only crumbs of airtime, most noticeably in spots showcasing his uncanny impersonations of everyone from Christopher Walken to Billy Idol. He was also beset by panic attacks and an anxiety disorder.
He wrote about the period, arguably the roughest of his life, in his 2004 memoir “Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live.” Now on the other side of the ordeal, he has some words of wisdom to share with anyone suffering from similar issues.
“Men, specifically, never want to ask for help. We want to fix it ourselves,” he said. “But if you have depression, panic or anxiety, asking for help is the manliest thing you can do. See a doctor and say you’re not leaving until you are referred to someone who can prescribe you something.”
Mohr said it’s human nature for someone going through mental turmoil to try to “buck up,” but it’s a terrible approach.
“If you had bronchitis, you wouldn’t say, 'I’m going to pull through this.' If you had asthma, you wouldn’t refuse an inhaler,” he said. “It’s a neurological glitch. Go get help and live your life!”
Mohr has gained further perspective since penning “Gasping for Airtime.”
He sees how he contributed to his own dissatisfaction, getting so caught up in survival mode that he didn’t properly enjoy his time on a legendary comedy show, rubbing elbows with amazing guest stars and legendary musical acts. His alcoholism and tendency to hold onto resentment didn’t help the situation.
“It was all my fault,” he said.
What he has no regrets about is the time he spent with comedian Chris Farley, who died of a drug overdose in 1997 and remains iconic among fans for his kind-spirited, self-deprecating and careening humor.
“Chris Farley was the most beautiful man I ever met,” Mohr said. “When he walked into the room, it was like feeling the sun on your shoulder. Looking back, I realize he was the star of my book, and I was the villain.”
SNL was just the beginning. Acting beckoned, beginning with a breakthrough role as sleazy sports agent Bob Sugar in the film “Jerry Maguire.” “That character was such a villain,” Mohr laughed. “It’s been 18 years and people still think I’m a jerk because I fired Tom Cruise.”
He’s since landed enough film and TV roles to make for a dizzying IMDB page, including a starring turn on the CBS sitcom “Gary Unmarried.” Recently, he has busied himself with the sports podcast “Jay Mohr Sports” on Fox Sports Radio, as well as his personal podcast “Mohr Stories.”
Between those gigs and social media, Mohr has achieved a certain ubiquity. There are a few people who don’t take kindly to his opinions.
“When I put something on Twitter -- when I tell the truth and it’s not comedy -- people are like, ‘Stay in your lane. Who are you to talk politics and sports?'” he said. “I’m like, ‘Who are you, with your 77 followers?’”
“Mohr Stories” features celebrity guests, everyone from Charlie Sheen to music critic Bob Lefsetz, joining the performer for a good long talk.
“What I like to do is I imagine driving from Reno to Montana,” Mohr said. “By hour four of that drive, all of the niceties are gone, all the plugs are out of the way.”
Such a drive is not too hard to imagine, given that Mohr will be ensconced at its starting point this weekend. What will make the Reno gig a success, he insisted, is his continued enthusiasm for the art of stand-up.
“I love doing comedy. I’m going to be more excited heading for the Silver Legacy than my audience will be when they’re on their way,” he said.
Mohr likely will air some newer material, but he seeks to reassure his longstanding fans: “I’ll do the impressions you come to see, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and the gang. I’ll play the hits. Don’t worry.”
Mohr has a theory as to why his impressions are such perennial crowd-pleasers.
“What makes my impressions stand apart is that I’m telling my audience stories of things that happened to me,” he said. “These are actual conversations. I’m telling real stories, not Jack Nicholson ordering at a McDonalds.”
And for Mohr, telling stories never gets old.
“I keep finding these new things to talk about. And when the material is six months old, I’ll change one sentence and it will open a door to a room I didn’t know existed,” he said. “There are like doors upon doors upon. It’s like the Winchester Mystery House.”