Jered McCorkle: Comedy Provocateur

March 22, 2019

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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There’s a phe­nom­e­non in psy­chol­o­gy called the Baad­er-Mein­hof effect”.

It’s when you hear or see some­thing and take notice, and then it seems that every­where you go, and in every­thing you see, that thing appears to come up with an unusu­al­ly high fre­quen­cy; in fact, this is also com­mon­ly called fre­quen­cy illusion”. 

Giv­en that this is not Psy­chol­o­gy Today, I should note the actu­al rea­son I’m bring­ing this up is that this week’s guest, Jered McCorkle, is a name that, once I learned of him some time ago, it began to feel like every per­son we spoke with, or show we saw, had some con­nec­tion to him. 

In this case, it’s no illu­sion. McCorkle is – quite sim­ply – an extreme­ly active per­former and cre­ator in the Austin com­e­dy scene. He’s found­ed or co-found­ed mul­ti­ple show­cas­es and open mics, includ­ing Bub­ble & Squeak, Fierce Mild, and Dou­ble Bar­rel; co-host­ed pod­casts like Lead­ing the Blind and Cir­cling the Drain; and is a 3‑time semi-final­ist in Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin. It’s a ros­ter not often matched in the local scene, and, as we’ll see, there’s method to the mad­ness of this kind of productivity.

Ask­ing McCorkle about the start of all things com­e­dy in his life, he’s quick to jump to ear­ly mem­o­ries of his rur­al Geor­gia upbring­ing, and expe­ri­enc­ing the com­e­dy of the great George Car­lin. A chance VHS (Google it, if need be) rental in McCorkle’s ear­ly years (after some con­vinc­ing of his father) of one of the sight-unseen comedian’s spe­cials grew rapid­ly into a love of Carlin’s work that would short­ly lead to see­ing him on tour. 

He describes this dis­cov­ery thus­ly: To me, [Car­lin] was a guy who thought weird’…I didn’t think this is how you be a com­ic’; I thought this is how you be a per­son’.” While it may seem uncon­ven­tion­al for a par­ent to sup­port some­one so young being exposed to com­e­dy that can be quite edgy, I can say from my own expe­ri­ence with my daugh­ter that McCorkle is spot-on. Curs­ing and rants be damned, it’s the pow­er of hear­ing unique points of view on life that can be just as impor­tant and trans­for­ma­tive as the humor, for some­one still grow­ing into their own per­spec­tives and ways of inter­fac­ing with the world. And few fit that bill bet­ter than George Carlin. 

To me, [Car­lin] was a guy who thought weird’…I didn’t think this is how you be a com­ic’; I thought this is how you be a per­son’.” Jered McCorkle

Despite this ear­ly inter­est, com­e­dy prop­er would­n’t dom­i­nate McCorkle’s life until much lat­er. At this time, he was still test­ing life direc­tions using an extreme­ly sci­en­tif­ic method, say­ing: I want­ed to be what­ev­er got me atten­tion when I said it to adults.” It was a method, at least. High school and col­lege also took some cir­cuitous paths for McCorkle, leav­ing him in a con­tin­ued quandary about his long term goals, paired with the chal­lenges of still being – for all intents and pur­pos­es – a clos­et­ed young gay man. He was at a loss, in need of changes and struc­ture, skills to bring empow­er­ment and order to his life where he need­ed it most. 

Then came 911.

The idea of mil­i­tary ser­vice, brought to the fore­front by the dark days fol­low­ing the attacks, offered much in the way of those skills that McCorkle had yet to mas­ter. Rou­tine, direc­tion, and dis­ci­pline are potent com­po­nents in the recipe of devel­op­ing con­fi­dence and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. So McCorkle joined, along with many who turned their eyes to ser­vice in the after­math, choos­ing to fol­low a 6 year plan that would lead to the Spe­cial Forces arm. As expect­ed, the time served, served him well. The military…did fix me; I would not be capable…of liv­ing a life on my own,” he says, only half jok­ing­ly. This was also still the don’t ask, don’t tell” era, so his sex­u­al­i­ty remained a more secre­tive aspect of his persona. 

The vio­lence and very real risks in the field with urban war tac­tics ulti­mate­ly led McCorkle to exit his term when he had the option. Back in civil­ian life, time had arrived for him to bring the sus­pense and ten­sion of the unknown into a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent set­ting: behind the mic. McCorkle’s style was some­thing he con­nect­ed with quick­ly: sharp turns, and keep­ing the audi­ence in height­ened sus­pense. Shades of this came from oth­er comics he’d come to admire, like Bill Hicks and Mitch Hed­berg, mas­ters of the turn­abouts themselves. 

None of this to say the ear­ly days were easy; know­ing what you want and achiev­ing it are two dis­tant con­cepts. I still think this is all mag­i­cal,” he recalls, as he start­ed to for­ay into watch­ing more open mics, and end­ed up tak­ing the stage the first time, com­plete­ly unpre­pared, to fill a slot when a show was com­ing up short.

It wasn’t a per­fect set; the first ones nev­er are, but it had enough of the mag­ic ele­ments endem­ic to stand-up that McCorkle knew his life had changed irrev­o­ca­bly for the bet­ter. It was like this tremen­dous weight just lift­ed off my shoul­ders,” he remem­bers, and, walk­ing back to his seat, decid­ed I’ll be a com­ic til I’m dead.” In a bit of fore­shad­ow­ing, the joke that worked best for him that first night would go on to win the cov­et­ed Joke of the Night in Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin con­test years later. 

It was like this tremen­dous weight just lift­ed off my shoulders…[I decid­ed] I’ll be a com­ic til I’m dead.” Jered McCorkle

Find­ing this new and last­ing pur­pose, and final­ly able to live as the per­son he always sus­pect­ed he was, and hoped to be, gave McCorkle a new zest for life. His fans will no doubt note that with this came a bit of a head­strong, swag­gered, approach to social media and in his act. Learn­ing the dif­fer­ence between being a come­di­an and a provo­ca­teur proved cru­cial, and sup­port­ive play­ers in the Austin scene helped him real­ize the changes that would shape him into the com­ic that began build­ing a grow­ing appeal, and tak­ing on chal­lenges like com­pet­ing in FPIA. Now, it wasn’t as if a glit­ter­ing and gold­en brick road appeared, lead­ing direct­ly to pro­fi­cien­cy and star­dom; there were more lessons to learn and tal­ents to grow, and McCorkle shares uni­ver­sal – and per­son­al – moments and con­cepts that will ben­e­fit oth­er per­form­ers, aspir­ing or seasoned. 

Speak­ing of roads, McCorkle let us in on the news that he may be embark­ing on his ver­sion of the Com­e­dy Migra­tion soon. Come August, New York may be his new home, as he plans to hone and pol­ish his body of work, in the way that per­haps only the city that nev­er sleeps can pro­vide the required end­less oppor­tu­ni­ties to per­form, val­i­date, and refine your content. 

While McCorkle may be look­ing to the future, slow­ing his show­case work in Austin, he’s not by any means idle. He recent­ly start­ed a new pod­cast, FAN­tom Zone, where he and friends opine on comics of a dif­fer­ent kind: the illus­trat­ed and bound medi­um, where some of McCorkle’s oth­er child­hood heroes, like Thor, spend their days. It’s intend­ed to appeal to neo­phytes in that genre as much as sea­soned read­ers who know exact­ly when New Com­ic Day is.

Our time with McCorkle has been a while com­ing, and more than deliv­ers; we’ve cov­ered sig­nif­i­cant ground here and it’s bare­ly a taste of what he shares with Valerie in the inter­view. Lis­ten to the episode for more on FPIA expe­ri­ences and tips, how he rec­on­ciles mix­ing his sex­u­al­i­ty into his mate­r­i­al, sto­ries of your favorite Austin comics (new and old), and more wis­dom from a man who’s logged many a mile in the Austin com­e­dy community. 

And whith­er McCorkle final­ly lands on ter­ra fir­ma, after how­ev­er many more miles, we have no doubt he’ll keep putting that hard-earned eth­ic and pas­sion to good use.

Catch Jered McCorkle at these upcom­ing shows:

  • March 23rd: Chor­tle Portal
  • March 27th: Chuck­le­Buck­et @ South­west­ern University’s
  • March 29th Buzzmill in San Marco’s
  • April 4th: the Brix­ton Com­e­dy Hour @ the Brixton
  • April 12 and 13th: The Velvee­ta Room
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