LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Jay Mohr often sounds like comedy’s biggest fan, or at least its best student.
“It’s math, it’s music, it’s literature. George Carlin showed it’s lyrical when you can use words the right way,” he said. “It’s energy. You’re moving a thousand people at a time with words. You can trip out on it for a while if you think about it.”
With Mohr, it’s just a question of the delivery vehicle.
Lately he’s all over both podcasting and old-fashioned radio. He took over Jim Rome’s slot at Fox Sports Radio this year, and his fast-break comedic runs with Adam Carolla’s feed both Carolla’s podcast and “Mohr Stories.”
Although Carolla is blurring the lines between stand-up and podcast “content” in his live dates, Mohr says that doesn’t work for him.
“I did (the ticketed podcast) a couple of times and had club owners say to me, ‘If you were just doing stand-up, this would have sold out a week ago,’ ” he says.
Also, “My podcast conversations tend to get very personal and very intimate. When you’re in front of a crowd, you tend to maybe put on a face and talk a little louder. I wouldn’t get that live with a lot of the conversations I’ve been having lately.”
When Mohr does stand-up, he will bring along Christopher Walken and other celebrity impressions, but don’t confuse him with a celebrity impressionist.
“I’m not doing an impressions show, I’m telling stories about things that happened to me,” he said. If the voices of people such as Tracy Morgan, Norm Macdonald and Harvey Keitel don’t come up in the course of real-life encounters, it’s a challenge to work them in.
“I don’t want to lie to anybody, and I don’t want to make up a goofy scenario: What if Steven Wright was the announcer for pro wrestling?”
But as Walken and other voices made it into the cruise-ship lexicon, does that discourage him from doing them?
“If I don’t do Walken, people get mad,” he said. “I have to go out and I have to do it first.” If he doesn’t, he says he will be doing material he spent a lot of time arranging into the right order, and someone will yell “Do Walken!”
“Oh, really? Do you go see the Eagles and start screaming ‘Hotel California’ the minute they come out onstage?”
Mohr’s podcasts often detour into the process of comedy, and he might be the only person out there who can slip into the voices of Macdonald or Colin Quinn to deliver a line, then react to it as Mohr.
“Every subject in school is applied subconsciously to comedy, but I think the really great comics aren’t conscious of the fact that they’re ever applying it,” he said.
“It’s not until you’re sitting down on a podcast talking about it that you realize you’re using expressions like ‘That was just laying there, you picked it up,’ or ‘We both ran for it at the same time,’ all these weird things.
“But when you’re onstage you’re completely present,” he said. “You’re just there and there’s this live organism in front of you. I guess it’s like if you play guitar without looking at the strings. You can after-the-fact go, ‘Well then I switched to a C,’ but when it’s happening you’re just doing it, you’re not really thinking about it. It’s just what goes naturally.”
Mohr has a cameo in the movie “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” playing a bad comedy-magician named Rick the Implausible. “He’s so bad he can’t even get a good nickname,” he said.
Remembering a bar scene where he improvised with the stars, Mohr is the student again. “Talk about learning, when you see Steve Carell and Jim Carrey ad lib, it’s like the Winchester Mystery House. You didn’t even know there were stairs there until Steve Carell opens that weird door, and then you just learn there’s a whole different way to ad lib.”
Filming the scene was one of those pinch-himself moments that Mohr says comes only once in a while, his daily routine isn’t so bad either.
“It’s what I always wanted as a kid, to have my own radio show and to have done a lot of TV and films, and be able to headline theaters and surgically select which cities I want to play and for how long. I’ve got a baby at home that’s 18 months and every day at 2 o’clock I get to see him. This is the life, my friend.”