After more than 25 years in comedy, Jay Mohr is pretty confident in his ability. And in what’s behind his success.
“I know who I am, and I know I’m good. If the show stinks, it’s you,” Mohr, 47, said in a phone interview. “If the show’s amazing, it’s also you. Drummers and comics, we just keep time.”
Mohr, who first gained attention on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and playing a sports agent opposite Tom Cruise in the film “Jerry Maguire,” has evolved into a different kind of stand-up comic. He says he doesn’t write jokes, he just tells stories about things that have happened or are happening to him, no matter how uncomfortable or filled with silent pauses they may be.
He’ll bring his personal stand-up show to Portland’s Aura on Saturday. Local comics Connor McGrath and Dennis Fogg will open.
Mohr said he’s developed his style over years of trying to figure out who he is. “Am I comic, am I an actor?” His act includes musings about his childhood and teenage years, including sexual experimentation, plus parenthood, divorce and the larger questions of what life is all about.
He has stories about changing diapers, about making blanket forts as a kid and about some subjects “too filthy” to recount in a newspaper.
Mohr said one thing he’s learned over the years is how to let silence linger, even if it makes the audience uncomfortable.
“It’s really powerful to stretch the silence out and realize that people aren’t going anywhere, they’re waiting, they’re frozen in time,” said Mohr. “It’s kind of trippy.”
He also might throw in an impression of Christopher Walken and stories about celebrities, like Al Pacino.
Mohr grew up obsessed with stand-up, video-taping comics on whatever TV shows they were on, from late-night variety to day-time talk shows. He also listened to comedy albums from Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart and others. But he said he didn’t really think about being a comedian himself until he saw a local TV ad for a teen open mic at a local comedy club, at noon on a Sunday.
“I was like, ‘Ohhhhh, OK, that’s me,’ ” said Mohr. “But they wanted us to do five minutes and I had like 12 minutes (of material). Even then I was complaining.”
Mohr grew up in New Jersey, outside of New York City. By his early 20s he was a featured player on the iconic NBC comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” He was with the show from 1993 to 1995. He later wrote a memoir, “Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live,” which included his struggles with panic attacks during that time.
He landed a recurring role on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” and then played sports agent Bob Sugar in “Jerry Maguire” in 1996.
He’s acted in dozens of films and TV shows over the years, including “200 Cigarettes,” “Pay It Forward” and “Suburgatory.” He starred in his own sitcom, “Gary Unmarried,” on CBS from 2008 to 2010.
When asked if his acting experience helped inform his current stand-up act, which is more about storytelling than one-liners, Mohr was unsure how to respond.
“I’d say yes if I knew how to act. But I just know how to play pretend,” Mohr said.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Aura, 121 Center St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $20 to $49.75
WHAT ELSE: Maine comedians Connor McGrath and Dennis Fogg will also perform.