I had an amazing opportunity to interview comedian/singer Jade Esteban Estrada while he was on tour through the Pacific Northwest.
But first, a little backstory. While I was a theatre/communications student at Yakima Valley Community College, I had taken one of his acting workshops and learned a great deal from him. Jade had made a stop in Yakima a few weeks ago playing two sold-out shows at Carmen’s Comedy Club, and a performance for Eisenhower High School’s Gay/Straight Alliance. Jade was also gracious enough to pose for a photo shoot inside the Howard Johnson Hotel bar where he was staying that weekend.
Jade has been seen in feature films, on Comedy Central’s The Graham Norton Effect, In the Life on PBS, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock on NBC. He was also the host for Seattle’s Pride Festival in 2002. His music has been featured on the Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning police drama The Shield on FX. Jade has been labeled “America’s Prince of Pride” by NBC News and The Advocate calls him “exquisite.”
XD: I know stand-up comedy and acting are two totally opposite directions and a lot of people try it because they either think they're funny, or their friends think they're funny. But then they get on stage and they bomb. What are your thoughts on that?
JEE: I guess you've got to really love comedy. I love getting up there and trying new things to get out of my comfort zone. I love knowing my jokes and knowing my settings but then messing with myself and trying something different. Sometimes it results in a laugh, sometimes not. I think that keeps you real and in comedy you really need to be connected to your audience. If you’re looking over their heads and doing the “actor thing” you can only go so far with that. There will be times when you get a heckler or your audience will mess with you. Another night you might get an audience full of Christian conservatives and they may hate you. Getting uncomfortable keeps a comedian real. For me, being able to use my improv experience and comedy to connect with people , that helps keep me real. If you don’t have that hunger to be by yourself with a microphone, to think of something new and fresh - you’re going to run into some problems. You have got to have that love and that hunger. If you don’t, then maybe stand-up isn't for you.
XD: Jim Carrey came out that he was suffering from depression. It seems many of the comedians are suffering from some sort of mental illness or many of them have problems with drugs and alcohol. What is your take on this?
JEE: I certainly believe the stand-up stage is perfect for depressed people. Where else can you go to talk about your problems and make light of such heaviness in your life and be loved for being so honest? When you’re really honest, the audience will appreciate it. The audience can also sniff out when you’re being dishonest, holding back, or when you’re lying. Like when gay comics try to play straight? The audience will walk out and be like “Yeah, he was funny but there was something about him that I’m not completely grooving with.” It’s because that honesty is not 100% in that performance and people may not know why they know, but they can sense it. They've got those instincts, too! But regarding your question about depression...Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, even Joan Rivers all came from places that were very dark. The only way they felt they could survive was by doing almost like...therapy in a public forum and it worked for them. I mean, I am a happier person for sharing my life but I always think that I can dig deeper because every day we experience something - we change - and I think , most times, that's worth sharing.
|Estrada sold-out Carmen's Comedy Club
|Photo by XANDER DECCIO
XD: What are your overall thoughts on Fox News?
JEE: I think there are some theatres in the theatre world that devote themselves to the classics. Some of them devote themselves to African-American heritage theatre, Mexican-American/Latino theatre, and the list goes on. When I see Fox News, I see almost like a campsite for people who think exactly like that. It’s very theatrical. It is what it is. For news, I go to the BBC. I don't think they're one-sided. The English seem to have nothing to gain by taking one side over another . But if you want to go for news and hear people that think like you, then go there. There are many news networks out there for liberals, conservatives and even the gay community. So going back to Fox News, it is what is for people who enjoy that kind of thing, but I look at it as entertainment rather than a place to become informed about events going on in the world.
XD: So you wouldn’t call it fair and balanced?
JEE: No, I would not. I would call it a great show.
XD: So it would be like watching HBO?
JEE: More like The Simpsons but I only say that because of the entertainment value. I often walk away going “Wow! I can’t believe they said that with a straight face!”
XD: So you have an act called ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World. Can you explain what this is about?
JEE: Sure. I have four volumes of ICONS: The History of Lesbian and Gay History of the World and I just debuted ICONS Vol. 4 in Tallahassee, Florida. It’s one of my passions to become all of these historical figures of the LGBT community. In this volume I play Plato, Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Freddie Mercury and Dustin Lance Black. I love theatrical journalism. I love becoming these characters. Some call it " very educational," hence the reason I do so many performances at colleges with these particular shows.
XD: So are there any comedians out there that you follow or look up to?
JEE: Steve Harvey is at the top of my list. I love people who are on the edge and are harsh like Andrew Dice Clay and Lenny Bruce.