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With a new season of ‘Pause,’ Sam Jay keeps the conversation going

Sam Jay interviews a Satanist on a duck boat on her HBO show "Pause With Sam Jay."HBO

HBO’s “Pause With Sam Jay” doesn’t feel like any other show on television. With Dorchester’s Jay as the host, it’s a talk show that takes place at a party, with field pieces and occasional sketches. Each episode is a deep dive into a single topic, and it’s as fearless and personal as Jay’s stand-up. Season two has seen Jay and her fiancé talking to a counselor on camera about cheating. Jay also explored what prison does to an individual in an episode that included conversations with her brother about how the experience changed him. But her show also has a lot of silly and incongruous moments, like the one where Jay rode a horse through Boston yelling “The crackas are coming!” in an episode about race relations, or when she interviewed a Satanist on a duck boat. We caught up with Jay in the midst of the show’s current season. New episodes air Fridays at 11 p.m.

Q. The show seems designed to avoid concentrating on guest stars or pundits. And the party seems especially set up so someone can immediately call you out. Is that the design of it?


A. Yeah. We wanted to do a show that was different than the other shows that we were seeing. We wanted to hear voices that weren’t in the late-night space. And we also wanted to do a show where the host could be challenged. It seems like a lot of shows, the host has the authority, and there isn’t a lot of pushback. So we just wanted to bring a diverse group of people together and kind of tailor something that felt more like a real conversation that would happen out in the world.

Q. There’s an element of lampooning current events, but the emphasis seems to be on that discussion. You actually seem to want to get somewhere with the discussion rather than just fill the space with an anecdote.


A. That’s the goal, to try to move these conversations forward and to talk about these things that are going on in a more evergreen way. Things were feeling very stagnant to me when I watched TV. There was no real conversation about all the gray that kind of goes on in the middle, and also how people get to how they think. We just wanted to create something that you could take with you after you watch it and try to bring it into your day. And maybe you leave going, “Oh, I need to continue this conversation, because it’s interesting to me.”

A scene from "Pause With Sam Jay." Jay (center), from Dorchester, is the host of a talk show that takes place at a party.Macall Polay/HBO

Q. A lot of these topics are intensely personal — the episode on cheating, the episode [of] your brother going to jail. Is it different putting yourself out there on the show than how you might approach it in stand-up?

A. It just feels more concentrated. Stand-up a lot of times, it’s just a joke, and then you kind of move to the next joke, you know what I mean? Like, it’s a little blip in a moment of a bunch of moments you’re creating, whereas in the show I can sit with one subject and really pull it apart. And I can also bring other perspectives into it, and stand-up is purely just my perspective.

Q. Would you agree that this season seems even more personal than last season?


A. Yeah, for sure. It kind of felt like that’s where it needed to go. It just felt like a natural progression.

Q. I feel like there’s probably a lot more footage of you riding that horse around Boston than we got to see.

A. Just more yelling and more riding. I mean, it was a little bit scary ‘cause that horse was huge. But I had ridden the horse a few weeks prior just to get comfortable. I definitely felt very silly and dumb. [Laughs]

Q. There’s a great mix on the show, I think, of just enough silly to not torpedo the seriousness of an episode.

A. Exactly. We try to find that balance for sure. We always say, what’s the goal of the episode? Then we’ll find the funny. But let’s not shy away from the episode because it’s heavy or it’s not a funny topic. Find the funny within it. But the importance of the conversation leads the day. And then, you know, we’re comics, we’ll figure it out.

Q. How did you come up with interviewing a Satanist on a duck boat?

A. We were just like, what’s some Boston [stuff] that will really feel Boston? Then we just thought it would be very funny to see a Satanist on a duck boat. A lot of it is pure silliness. What would make us chuckle?

Q. But at the same time you made a connection with that guy.


A. Yeah. He was a cool kid. [Laughs] This is my natural way. I’m always down to talk with someone and try to, like, figure him out. You know? I’m always up for that.

Q. Do you have any ideas for what you’d want in a third season?

A. No ideas. I gotta go out and live some life before I can even figure out what that is.

Q. That always seems like the question when your comedy is so based on your personal life. Are you ever worried of running out of [ideas]?

A. Not as long as I’m alive, baby boy. As long as I’m living, I think I’ll be OK.

Interview was edited and condensed.