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Seriously Funny
Interview by Zeddy Lawrence/The London Jewish Review

Considering the plethora of Stateside comics who've become household names on this side of the Atlantic, Stevie Jay could be America's best kept secret. Dubbed a "Buddha for the New Millennium," his one-man show has proved nothing short of a phenomenon across the pond, with fans flocking to see it over and over again, night after night after night. His faithful followers in the U.S., though, are in for a major disappointment, unless they're prepared to pack their bags and visit the old country. Stevie's in London for the next month, performing his multi-chakra extravaganza at the Finborough Theatre. So what exactly can the capital's audience expect? "A multi-chakra extravaganza called Life, Love, Sex, Death, and other works in progress."

Needless to say, with so many subjects under the spotlight, its a tall order to cram so much into a single show. But it shouldn't be too much of a challenge for a performer who's been described by critics as a latter day Lenny Bruce. Like Bruce, Stevie senses a purpose in his work beyond mere entertainment: "The show helps people open up...and wake up, really." Wake up to what, exactly? "To the fact that were all human beings, first and foremost; and that when we compartmentalise ourselves according to our religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and all the rest of it, we are placing something in front of our humanity, and that means trouble."

Such an outlook clearly confirms the old adage that comedy is a serious business. "When I started out, I just told my story in an honest way, opening it up for everyone to have a laugh at it. Over time, I noticed that, for all my soul-baring and True Confessions, the show (paradoxically) became less and less 'personalised.' I exposed my uncensored thoughts on the stage, and everyone else said, 'Yeah, me too.' It's like the Buddhists say, 'the love we share...the pain we share.' These are the basics of being human, and no one owns the patent on them."

"So in the end, this really isn't a one man show; the audience members are my fellow players. And when they really let go and make the journey with me—when their tears are rolling and they're laughing and falling over in their seats, that's where the richness is for me." So what was once a cathartic experience for Stevie Jay is now a cathartic experience for the audience.

The compulsion to bare one's soul, of course, is one of those peculiar traits from The Have A Nice Day Society we shun on this side of the Atlantic. But having gone down a storm already in Edinburgh, Stevie's unperturbed by the cultural divide: "There is definitely a difference in the way audiences in the UK respond outwardly, but I don't feel the need to alter my material other than local references. I've grown accustomed to this 'reserved' English thing, and I've grown to understand it, both on stage and off. Generally speaking, English people simply don't take to being treated as if they're your best buddy straight off. But once you're in with them, it's as if they're your oldest friend."

And who wouldn't want to be friends with someone who delivers hysterical monologues on all aspects of life, and even treats you to some intermittent go-go dancing? Or as Stevie puts it: The endless struggle to remain spiritually-oriented and irresistibly gorgeous at all times.

Stevie Jay: Life, Love, Sex, Death…And Other Works In Progress is at the Finborough Theatre until May 26. Box office: 020 7373 3842

life, sex, death, and other works in progress
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