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For Sam Jay, comedy isn’t just an act

Kirsten Sims

Age: 32

Hometown: She was born in Atlanta, but her family moved to Boston when she was 3 months old.

Think of: She often gets compared to former Boston comic Patrice O’Neal, who died in 2011, because she can deliver confessional or potentially offensive material with a straight face and cool demeanor, dissecting the creepy crimes of “Law & Order: SVU” or describing how her girlfriends think she’s handy because she wears pants instead of a dress.

What caught our eye: She has frequently stolen the show at the Comedy Studio with her effortless honesty and confidence.

Light bulb moment: When she was living in Atlanta for college, a girlfriend asked her what she wanted to be, and Jay said “a comedian,” surprising herself. “As soon as I said it I was like, ‘Oh [expletive] I can’t believe I just said that.’ You know what I mean? Out loud to another person.” When her girlfriend asked her why she wasn’t doing it, Jay said, “Because I’m scared I’m going to be good at it.” About a year later, in 2011, she moved back to Boston to do comedy and hasn’t looked back since.

Biggest thrill: Being onstage, telling jokes to strangers. “You get up there and you piece together this bit and you say it, and it hits like you thought it was going to hit. And you get this huge laugh out of these people that you don’t even know. It’s like, nothing feels better than that.”


Biggest surprise: In March, Jay performed on New York comic Hannibal Buress’s show at the Knitting Factory. “To be onstage doing my thing and to hear him laughing at my jokes — to look over and see him — that was the first time I performed for someone on that level, that I respected. . . . And for him to confirm or verify that I was funny was like, holy [expletive], this is crazy.”


Inspired by: She loved Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby as a youngster, and Dave Chappelle when she started comedy, but her true inspiration is just being alive and getting to be a comedian. “No matter if I have two dollars in my bank account or I have two thousand, I feel great because I know that I’m doing what I’m intended to do on this Earth.”

Aspires to: “Have my own tour where I’m going to theaters around the country and venues around the country and people are there just to see me and my brand of comedy. They already know what I do and they’re there for that, and I can just be me for 40 minutes.”

For good luck: “I listen to Drake before every show and I sit, a lot of times, in bathrooms of venues all by myself for a little while. I do a little prayer moment. Just a little one. A little, ‘Hey, God, how you doin’? Look out for the kid.’ Then I just get up and walk out.”

What people should know: At press time, Jay was competing for votes with other comics on FunnyOrDie.com to play the second stage on the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Tour, which comes to the Xfinity Center in Mansfield on Aug. 15. But what she wants you to know is that her comedy is genuine. “The impression I try to leave people with is that I’m a real person. This isn’t something I made up to make you laugh. This is my life. These are my thoughts. I’m just trying to put them out there and see if you dig ’em.”


Coming soon: Jay cohosts the stand-up and sketch show Comedy Chop Suey with Tawanda Gona at the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain on July 31.

Link: www.twitter.com/SamJayComic

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.