More than a decade ago, Larson left his native Stoneham for Los Angeles to try to make a name for himself in comedy. Since then, he’s performed everywhere from “Conan” to “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,” and headlined his own half-hour special on Comedy Central. Next week Larson returns to Boston with his new act, “Talking to Strangers: Jay Larson,” which he’ll perform Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Boston Center for the Arts. Information is at www.bostontheatrescene.com.
‘That’s the best part about stand-up. You don’t know the people and they don’t know you, so everyone feels comfortable laughing at things they [otherwise] might not.’
Q. What’s it like returning to Boston for a big stand-up show? I hear you had a bit of a crash and burn here a while back.
A. Yeah, I did do that. I’d been doing comedy for around three months, [and it was my first] 20-minute show. The show sold out and there were like a hundred people there to see me — everyone I knew growing up and my family — and I tanked for 20 minutes straight. When you do five minutes you can be really funny, but with 20 minutes you have to really stretch out. I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. It was a slap in the face, but it was a good wake-up call that I had to work harder at it.
Q. What does “Talking to Strangers” entail?
A. It’s a double entendre because I’m literally talking to strangers when I’m doing stand-up. That’s the best part about stand-up. You don’t know the people and they don’t know you, so everyone feels comfortable laughing at things they [otherwise] might not. But I’m always talking to strangers because I just love people and talking to them, to see what I can say to people and what interaction or reaction I can get from them. There’s so much technology, and if we don’t know someone, we don’t need to talk to them. But you don’t know what’s going to be out there if you don’t talk to people or take a chance. It forces me to interact with people in everyday life because I never know what’s going to happen from it.
Q. You’re a guy who comes from Stoneham — or as you put it, “a small ’burb with a bunch of old people” — and you’ve made it big. Any advice for aspiring acts trying to do the same?
A. One thing is for sure: You’ve just got to want it. If you don’t want it, no one’s giving it to you. I went with the theory that ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know anything about LA; I didn’t know anything about anything. You just have to believe no matter how hard it is — no matter if you want to be a comedian, if you want to be a doctor, you want to open a restaurant — you get knocked down, you’ve got to tank in front of your friends and family, get back up, and go again. Keep going and going and going.
Q. Is there anything you’re definitely going to do while you’re back in your old stomping grounds?
A. Definitely going to get a lobster roll, definitely going to get an ice cream at the Dairy Dome in my hometown, I’m going to see my nephews, and I’m going breathe in the Massachusetts air — nothing like it. I’ll have my big show and then hit my favorite spots, see my family, and just feel like a Bostonian for a week. And then I’ll be good till my next visit. Or until someone else dies.
Q. Oh. That’s uplifting.
A. Well, I usually only come home when someone dies. I’m like, “Oh, God damn it, someone died, I gotta go home — but on the plus side, I’m getting a lobster roll.”