Jarrett Campbell: Respect for the Grind

March 26, 2020

Photo Credit

Ryan Bannon

Interview by

Lara Smith

Article by

Lara Smith

Listen

Toronto based comedian Jarrett Campbell came across my radar some years ago when he cohosted The Rude Dudes podcast and I knew he was funny. I tell anyone that will listen that his Twitter bio is still my all-time favorite, but it wasn’t until I listened to his latest album, Straight White Fail, that I realized exactly how skilled a comedian he really was. Full disclosure, I’m late to the game of telling you how good this album is, as it got me through driving around Christmas shopping without committing vehicular manslaughter. Having now listened at least five times, I thought I would see if Campbell would sit down and talk with us at Comedy Wham.

Joining me via phone from his shelter-in-place in Toronto, amidst the current pandemic, Jarrett Campbell and I had a wonderful chat about his comedy start and how it has taken him to quite the career, with Straight White Fail receiving a Juno nomination for Comedy Album of the Year. The album also debuted on iTunes at number one and made The Interrobang’s list of 11 of the Best Canadian Comedy Albums of 2019. Incidentally, I agree with them that it is so good for a road trip!

Campbell grew up in a small county outside a small town. From his description, the town of Letterkenny looks like a metropolis by comparison. To a kid growing up in a town so small, stand up might as well have not existed. Access to it didn’t exist there like it could today. Instead Campbell digested comedy in television form, through cartoons and sitcoms. Given even that little exposure, he knew he wanted to be a comedy writer. One of his early experiences with standup came in college, watching Jim Jeffries’ first special on a plane. Taken with the special, stand up still wasn’t in his mind to try yet.

For all his self-deprecation, Jarrett Campbell is highly intelligent, and pursuing his dream of comedy writing, he grew to understand that the best and most immediate feedback for joke writing was stand up comedy. He was going to school for television broadcasting at the time and working in television. Despite his fear of public speaking, he was determined to do it. His first open mic (he still remembers his first joke) completely bombed, but determination kept him coming back.

...it did not take long for stand up to just take over and become the thing..I was immediately hooked on it, and then it ruined my life.
Jarrett Campbell

That determination turned into an obsession for the art itself as he recalls, “...it did not take long for stand up to just take over and become the thing..I was immediately hooked on it, and then it ruined my life.” It seems that the grind and the hard-fought battles for respect in the world of stand up that some might resent, Campbell absolutely loves! “I just knew that in order to ever get even remotely good at this, that it was all about repetition and stage time.” He adds, “I understood enough to know that I was going to take a beating for a long fucking time in order to get to a good place.“

I just knew that in order to ever get even remotely good at this, that it was all about repetition and stage time...I understood enough to know that I was going to take a beating for a long fucking time in order to get to a good place.
Jarrett Campbell

Campbell also knew a major key to getting good was the company you keep. “What I did, from an early age, was I surrounded myself with better comics than me,” he continues, “it’s not like I was kissing ass or trying to get around these guys, those are genuinely the people that made me laugh and that I respected.” Laughs from these guys were earned, not given, and seemed to be a good gage for where he was with his writing. And who were some of these influences? Tyler Morrison, Dave Merheje of Hulu’s Ramy, and K Trevor Wilson of Letterkenny.

Jarrett Campbell’s love and respect for the grind have paid off, coming off a successful year of award nominations and album buzz. And remember that small town college kid watching Jim Jefferies’ first special on the plane? Well he got to perform at The Jim Jefferies Gala at Montreal’s Just For Laughs last year.


  • Listen to Jarrett's Straight White Fail is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and cdbaby.

Follow Jarrett

MORE ABOUT
Jarrett Campbell