Fancy Boys Club sits down with: Jack Baker

A staple of the Chicagoan suburban comedy scene for over a decade, there are few comics working more than Jack Baker. Clubs and shows love him. Audiences love him. Other comedians love him. It’s really kind of gross.

This Sunday, Jack is preparing to record his first special at The Comedy Vault in Batavia. He agreed to sit down with us and let us ask him some questions…

Here’s where I want to start: so many comedians refer to their output in different ways; they’ll use terms like “album” or “recording” or “concert” or even just call it “an hour”. From the start of your promotion, you have made it clear that you are making a “special”. Is there a difference, to you, in those terms? And what are you trying to do to make sure that when people view this, it will feel special?

From the beginning, I’ve been focused on the final video product. If you want to engage fans in 2023, you have to think about video first. It’s how people engage with content. Even podcasts are video now! I think anyone who strictly records a comedy album is doing themselves a major disservice and greatly limiting their ability to reach people and build a fanbase. That’s why I’ve been calling it a special, because I’m focused on the video. 

I think every show is special. It’s the only time that all of these people will be together in the same place, at the same time, sharing in the same unique experience. So everything that we’re doing from how the stage will be set up, to the camera angles, to editing are all geared to drawing you in and making you feel like you’re part of the crowd. I’m trying to capture the energy and intimate feeling of attending a live show. I want it to feel like you’re there, packed in the club, sharing in that unique experience with 200 people in the crowd.

Tell me about how this idea started. When did you know you were ready to make a special?

I’ve been doing comedy for a long time, but I didn’t have a direction. I was just kind of doing shows and going through the motions. I took a break for over a year after the start of COVID and that was the best choice I could have made. When I came back, comedy was fun again. The scene changed a lot and so it forced me to go back in and reestablish myself. I had to bring it every night because there were so many new comics fighting for the same spots I was.

I liked that challenge and the idea for filming my special was a way to really challenge myself. I didn’t want to fall back into the pattern I’d been in for years. I wasn’t ready to film when I first started talking to the Comedy Vault about it. But getting the date on the calendar was the push I needed for me to raise my game and put the work in to become the best comedian I can be. 

It cannot be overstated how much work goes into preparing a special. In working on choosing what material is included and where it goes, is there any difference from if you were just headlining a show?

When I came back to stand-up after COVID, I made a point to change up my set list at every show. I moved things I was doing at the end to the beginning and vice versa. This was a great test and forced me to reevaluate all of my material and find new connections between my jokes. That process eventually led me to the jokes I’m including in the special.

I’ve always wanted it to be more than just 45 minutes of jokes. I want there to be a theme and have the whole thing kind of tell a story. I have that and now I’ve just been focused on tightening things up as much as possible. If anything isn’t either a punch line or absolutely necessary in order to get the next punchline, it has to go. 

Knowing myself, I will keep writing right up until the show starts and if I think of something onstage in the moment, I’ll probably throw it out there. I’ve never been afraid to improvise onstage and so there’s no reason to stop now.

Of course, performing a special also involves producing a show. What are some of the elements of making this special that surprised you as you are preparing for the night?

The response from the comedy scene has been amazing. I had no idea people liked me so much. I can’t begin to thank all of the comedians who’ve bought tickets for the show or opened up their stages to me. Krains Butter, Jared Corey, Nathan Clemons, Tony Carr and the Still Not Friday team all gave me the opportunity to do however much time I wanted. So many more gave me spots on shows and mics. I am forever grateful for the support I have received from the comedy scene.

You’re recording at the Comedy Vault in Batavia, a club that I have not heard a single comedian say a bad word about. What makes the Comedy Vault so great?

They put the comedy first. The whole staff from Liz and Mike down to servers, bartenders, and security are truly focused on making the best possible experience for comedians and audiences. 

You see that and feel it when you’re performing. You don’t have to worry about hecklers because they have security at every show. They wait until the headliner is done to do the check drop. That makes it harder for their staff, but it’s worth it because it doesn’t derail the momentum of the show 15 minutes before the end. If you’re running a show there, they have a great marketer, shoutout Stacy, who helps with graphics and everything you need to promote.

They are the best and have made something truly special in Batavia.

You have always been a person willing to be very upfront and open onstage. I’ve seen you talk about your DUI and tell the story of pooping your pants in an Aldi. While that transparency makes you very relatable to audiences, has your wife or family ever told you, “We would prefer you don’t talk about those things”?

No. My wife and family are very supportive. My wife hears the first draft of just about every joke I try out on stage. She gives honest feedback but there’s never been a topic she told me to completely avoid. The first time she heard that Aldi story she laughed so hard it retroactively made me feel bad about all the times she’d laughed at my jokes before.

I don’t know anyone with a bad thing to say about you. You are always so generous and giving of your time and supportive to newer comics. So, tell me two or three comedians you would most like to see a special from in the upcoming years.

I think I speak for everyone when I say we’d like to see the long awaited release of Jim Flannigan’s taping from right before COVID shut things down. I’d also really like to see what Josh Chuboff could put together. But the one I always dream about would have to be Joey Savior’s magic album, “Magic You Can’t See.” One day it will happen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s