My first impression of Jamaine was that he has a ridiculously good beard. Fluffy, voluminous and framing the friendliest grin, it's not surprising that when we are photographing him on the street a stranger compliments him on it. He says he gets that a lot.
But he's by no means just a friendly, bearded face. He wears a hat too, and has a teenage-like gait that belies his age of 31, which reflects his stand up material perfectly - joyously childish, but thoughtful and intelligent too.
He giggles a lot, has kind eyes, and a steady pace of voice which makes you feel at ease in his presence both on and off stage. Our interview started with him handing me a flyer for his show mid giggle, hands in pocket, wearing a Wolverine t-shirt. I was instantly sold.
I’m really excited to be interviewing you Jamaine as Brendon just told me you have the kindest eyes in Auckland.
Giggles (very) infectiously
And clearly the best laugh too!
Oh that sucks I’ve been hyped up!
What can we expect from your show?
Er, my show, it’s kind of about me, and the obsessions I had during my childhood, that I’m still kind of obsessed with now and how that affects my life as an adult. So you can expect a lot of nostalgia in there, talking about Transformers – that’s the main thing that’s come up, but then there are also adult things, like being married, and middle class stuff.
When did you get married?
Two years ago or so.
And is it a goldmine for jokes?
Well yeah it sort of is but I haven’t gone there yet, I haven’t attacked it yet for material. I haven’t been doing comedy for very long, I’m 31 and I only started four years ago, and a lot of people start when they’re 20 or around there, so I’m still doing the material I would have done if I’d started then – so I haven’t got round to the stuff I would do as a 30 year old yet!
What was the first joke you wrote?
The first joke that I wrote that I thought ‘this is a joke’, was when me and my wife were driving to her parent’s place out in Huntly, and there was a sign that just said ‘Eggs’.
And I was like ‘not eggs for sale, just eggs. They exist, they are there! Like just letting people know there are eggs’ and that was the first time I thought I made that a joke – that wasn’t a joke before I made it funny.
You could do that for everything! Just start naming objects.
Well actually yeah, that’s like on the harbour bridge there’s a sign that says ‘ahead’, just ‘ahead’. And I always think, yeah you’re right, that is ahead – that is there, you’re right!
So would you say that you see the funny in everyday life?
Npo, giggles a glorious giggle once more. I’m not that good at it. But I tend to tell stories and talk about things that I find interesting, you know things I want to say something about. But it’s definitely not like ‘Oh trees!’ it’s not like that at all really.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever done?
Well this is up there, but I won the Raw Comedy Quest a couple of years ago, not bragging, whatever. And because of it I got to perform at Last Laughs which is at SkyCity and it was huge, and I was super nervous, and I went on before Rhys Darby and he was really nervously pacing backstage and I was like ‘oh wow I’m just like Rhys Darby! Except he’s twenty times better than me!’
And I just went out, and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves!
Can you tell when you’re on stage? Is it hard to hear laughs from up there?
Yeah, well I have long pauses so...
To lap it in?
gloriously giggles. Yeah!
But yeah, they want to laugh, and I want them to laugh, so I’ll just wait until it dies and then start talking again.
It was up North somewhere, I think Whangaparoa, and it was the opening of a pub, and the guy running the gig had the idea that we do the opening for the pub and then do monthly gigs. So I arrived and was like ‘so what’s the audience like?’ and he was like ‘I don’t know? Pub…people?’
But it turned out they were all 50 plus, and my stuff doesn’t really relate there, and because I didn’t know, I hadn’t prepared anything for them that was for 50+ people, so it didn’t go down very well…
Like I had all the younger people there like the bar staff coming up to me afterwards saying ‘It was really good! Just not the right crowd, I mean I loved it!’
Do you have any pre show rituals?
No, it’s always different. I’ve started now being like ‘I have to get my energy levels up’ and so I do the wave, like the dance move, while I’m thinking, and that’s really lame. But the other thing is I play with my phone because I like to record my set, so I just play with my phone while waiting to be introduced.
Got any sweet games?
Yeah Candy Crush. Giggles. Your face is like ‘that’s not a sweet game! That’s a shitty game’
No judgement! Who’s the funniest person you know that’s not a comedian?
A friend of mine, David, who I went to high school with. He just says really funny stuff and then I steal his jokes. It’s really awesome because he doesn’t even want to be a comedian.
Or my wife. Similar thing, she says funny things, and then I steal her jokes.
That sounds like a sweet deal. So who inspires your comedy?
I can’t really say ‘inspires me’ as I never really went out of my way to watch a lot of comedy, but there are people that I would like at high school, like Chris Rock, everyone watched the Chris Rock Special, and the Kings of Comedy like Bernie Mac, so everyone was watching that. But in more recent times, Dave Chapelle, I really liked Dave Chapelle when he was out. But I don’t tend to want to do that style or anything, I just really admire it for what it is.
What do you like about the other Billy T Nominees’ comedy?
No, everyone is really different and unique and that’s what’s awesome about us all being nominated – if you go to every show you’re going to get something completely different.
But they’re great.
What question do you wish you were asked more often?
I genuinely don’t get asked questions – I don’t talk to a lot of people about comedy really.
Do you find it hard to put what your comedy is into words then?
Yeah well I guess I don’t really overthink it – if I tell people I’m a stand up they say ‘awesome!’ and that’s about it!
And I guess a lot of your friends are comedians so you don’t tend to ask ‘what’s it like being a comedian?'
Yeah, yeah exactly. Yeah we should get together and ask each other comedy questions!
Do you think you have to be crazy to be a comedian?
No not at all, I’m not particularly crazy, I’m pretty boring.
But you’re brave? Or do you find that strange when people tell you that?
Yeah people say that a lot, and I always find that weird as I’ve never had a problem being the centre of attention, or standing in front of people. Everyone can be funny, I think, you just have to decide to stand in front of people and do it.
So what does terrify you?
Sharks? There’s nothing that really terrifies me. Not doing well on stage? I guess I’m a pretty calm person I think, and because of that, nothing really excites me, nothing makes me go ‘YES!!” but at the same time nothing makes me go ‘AHH!’
The relaxed feel to the greeting at the door continued throughout his performance making the gig seem more like a chuckle filled catch up with an old mate. ‘Jamaine Says Funny Things’ runs until Saturday the 17thof May and is best enjoyed with a carefree beer.
Ross uses his time wisely on stage as he indulgently amuses his audience with the things he loves to talk about; but not just indulgent for him, indulgent for everyone! Stories about his wife, family and growing up ‘kiwi’ transition confidently into tales and lessons from iconic childhood rites of passage. ‘Street Fighter 2’, ‘WWF’ and ‘Transformers’ feature heavily leaving anyone of that era blissfully reminiscing alongside him and anyone ‘not in the know’ laughing along regardless. Ross encourages mild audience participation and in this intimate setting it felt as though we were all creating the comedy. His infectious giggle makes it impossible not to join in with the fun and as if by well rehearsed magic puts everyone instantly at ease.
Ross state’s and argues in a series of call backs ‘that he is the second funniest ‘Jamaine’ in comedy’ (behind Jemaine Clement). To his credit though and to continue on this theme he was and undoubtedly will be the funniest ‘Jamaine’ at The Classic Studio all week. ‘Jamaine Says Funny Things’ is easy entertainment and will only get tighter as the week goes on. As a comedian Ross is as accessible as they come, add in the fact that you’ll be supporting local talent and it’s a no brainer.
Chelsea Hughes - The Ruminator'I think Jamaine is hilariously funny, and his comedy is very intelligent and accessible. He’s a playful and giggly person – both of which become very contagious throughout the show...'open/close
I walk down the stairs into the Cavern Club to see Jamaine Ross’s show and he immediately greets me with a friendly handshake, a warm smile and a jovial ‘hello’. I introduce myself and know immediately I’m going to like this show.
As the show begins Jamaine claims he has to greet us because the venue is so small it has no backstage area. I don’t believe that for a second. He seems genuinely interested in creating a welcoming vibe, and he succeeds.
Most Billy T shows, and this one is no different, seem to focus on the comedian’s ‘story’ – the path they’ve been on to get where they are now, peppered with stories and anecdotes about their lives to this point. For Jamaine that centres mainly around stories from his youth, which heavily influences the childlike fascination he has with the world.
The show was full of pop culture references from the 80s and 90s - from Fresh Prince to Transformers to video games – and the crowd loved it, laughing with recognition. I did wonder if a crowd not of his generation would enjoy it in the same way we did, and considered suggesting in this review that if he wants to broaden his audience then he should work to be more inclusive. But then I thought, no. If younger or older generations don’t get the references and their experience suffers for it – then he’s not the right comedian for them. Simple.
Jamaine Ross is probably the most charming man in NZ comedy. He smiles and the world smiles with him, his giggles are echoed by guffaws. Because of this, essentially it doesn't matter what happened in his hour-length show. You'll love it, trust me. You can't not.
But let's go into in a little more depth anyway, because despite his effortless charm and ability to adapt on the spot, Jamaine's show was well written and cleverly delivered. He's well-deserving of his Billy T nomination, and he could just be the guy that takes it home this weekend. That's a contentious thing to say though, because I think that about them all.
Jamaine's show is about himself, the second funniest Jamaine in New Zealand comedy. The married, mortgaged, bearded man. The geek. The lover of Street Fighter, Transformers and Wrestling. His show is an indulgence for the 80s and 90s nostalgic that hides within all of us. Jamaine is ridiculous and self-deprecating and just plain adorable. He's a big kid, the kind that gets really excited about going to Rainbow's End for the first time, and goes off on long imaginative tangents about pirate teachers.
The hour was as much about Jamaine's enjoyment as our own. The audience interaction appeared to fill him with such glee that whenever he was entertained, so were we. If it's been too long since you've sung in the round or thought about a Rising Dragon Fist, then you'll love it. If your not into that kind of geekery, but would like to spend an hour listening to a great guy saying genuinely funny things, then you should get your tickets now.
Raw winner 2012 and 2014 Billy T nominee Jamaine Ross is earning his stripes in the New Zealand comedy scene.
Throughout his one hour show, ‘Jamaine Says Funny Things’ the audience chuckles along and Jamaine can’t help but join in too, with what turns out to be a very infectious giggle. He talks about his life ,and gives us reflections on his many passions including; transformers, his wife and WWF wrestling (not necessary in that order). He has taken inspiration from his childhood interests and experiences, to create a warm-hearted and funny show. Distinct nostalgic sequences were woven together with reoccurring themes.
There are plenty of great belly laughs from the audience who get ample opportunity to participate in the show. Singing a childhood favourite guided in the round by Ross, and getting some pronunciation lessons in the form of Streetfighter game commands where some highlights (great for those who’ve always wanted to be able to say ‘surging fist’ in Japanese). This sort of audience participation is a crowd pleaser as no one gets singled out and everyone gets to join in the fun.
Jamaine really does say funny things, though as he points out at the beginning of the show, he technically only needs to say two funny things for the title to be accurate.
Ross’ brand of comedy is down to earth, and inherently entertaining. His memories of a kiwi childhood are endearing, and he really is just a big kid still; that’s the joy of the show, a childlike silliness and enthusiasm that a lot of us have let go of. This is not to say he’s immature, he has grown as a comic and is a likeable performer who connects with his audience. His show stands out for its ability to spread sheer joy and positivity.