…I really struggle with this one but ‘try’ to separate ‘what you do’ from ‘who you are’. This is challenging as when you’re a creative the ‘what you do’ often defines the ‘who you are’. But it is a self-sabotaging trap. We get into all sorts of problems when our self worth is determined by if we are working, who we are working with and what we are working on. Just be! Have a life outside of your creative pursuits. Call the grounded school friends who you know have zero interest in being a comic, actor or screenwriter. I should be a life coach!
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Loeb. Jackie is a comedian, actor, screenwriter and musician originally from Australia now based in Los Angeles. Winner of the prestigious Australian MO Award for ‘Best Live Comedy Act’ Jackie Loeb has maintained her reputation as one of today’s most hilarious comedy performers. Jackie has been seen on Superstore, Better Things, Last Comic Standing, Aspen Comedy Festival, Hollywood Fringe Festival and soon to be starring in a new Netflix animation.
Thank you so much for joining us Jackie! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had just graduated from University with a ‘useful adjacent’ degree in Theater. After playing mostly prehistoric animals in children’s plays, I found out about an open mic comedy night. That was over twenty years ago and I’ve since performed as a stand-up comedian all over (some) of the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Almost nine years ago I was considering moving from my home town of Sydney to what is considered the cultural hub of Australia, Melbourne. A friend said “Why don’t you move to LA?” I was literally on the phone with an immigration attorney the next day. I have been based in Los Angeles since December 2010. Ok, perhaps not the most interesting story, but definitely the most random, unexpected and unplanned life story. It’s like my friend’s suggestion woke up a desire that had been dormant and festering in the back of my mind.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It was my very first open mic gig. I had all of three minutes of un-tested stand-up material. Another comic had to drop out of a show he was doing and asked if anyone could replace him doing a forty-five minute headliner spot. I was the first person to put up my hand and shout out “I’ll do it!” The lesson learnt was you cannot stretch a three minute set to forty-five minutes despite how much padding you do and that ‘winging it’ does not apply to live comedy in front of an unforgiving audience. I miss the bravado, stupidity and fearlessness I had back then.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
For the past year I have been fortunate enough to work on the most adorable Netflix animation, voicing one of the lead characters. In terms of my own projects, I’ve written, directed, acted in and produced an online sketch comedy series called ‘The Middle-Agers’ (catering for the neglected middle-aged demographic). Most fulfillingly, I have finally finished writing a comedy pilot after five years of working on it. I am currently writing a brand new stand-up show called ‘I Don’t Necessarily Like Your Dog’ which will debut in Sydney, Australia in September and hopefully in the US…eventually! And finally, I am recording my first non-English language music album in a language that I have completely made up.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have met the former Prime Minister of Australia which was awkward as I use to impersonate her. It took all my might not to try and sound like her as I was having a conversation with her.
Some of the most interesting people I have met have been at story telling events I have hosted. The participants have the most incredible real life tales of defying the odds and survival. I am always in complete awe and slightly embarrassed that my stories usually just involve a food court and a trip to the post office.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I occasionally run comedy workshops and the most important thing I tell my students is to “Think outside the hexagon because everyone else is thinking outside the square.” I am so proud of this advice! I encourage other artists to dig deep and to take professional risks. (That’s what credit cards are for!) Don’t try to copy or emulate what others are doing. Record every show! ( I still do at every gig) Sure you’ll cringe at some of your poor choices but sometimes there’s an improvised gem in there that you can build and develop.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Pay performers, writers, actors etc. The trickle down effect of this simple action knows no bounds both economically and spiritually. To quote Nike, “Just do it.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Collaborate with others. Find your people, the other nutty creatives that get you and your work. If you’re working on a project together…delegate tasks! I have been so lucky to work with amazing people in one of the most competitive fields. To have that extra support when you are first starting out is particularly important.
2. If you have an important gig or event coming up, don’t go out the night before. Our voices are our tools and are so precious. I can’t stress how important it is to conserve and protect your voice. I performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival many years ago and lost my voice two weeks into my season. It was terrifying! I sing as well, so had to drop all of my songs down an octave so I could partially get them out. Wear a scarf and stay away from smoke. I sound like a neurotic grandma! Maybe that’s my calling?
3. Don’t read reviews or comments on social media. I need to heed to my own advice on this one. There is nothing more discouraging than reading an average review of something that you have put your heart, soul and life savings into. A review is just someone’s opinion and as for Facebook comments…I have a saying…”Those that can’t, troll!”
4. Don’t buy chocolate at the gas station on the way home from gigs. Chocolate is a gateway drug to more chocolate and Pringles.
5. I really struggle with this one but ‘try’ to separate ‘what you do’ from ‘who you are’. This is challenging as when you’re a creative the ‘what you do’ often defines the ‘who you are’. But it is a self-sabotaging trap. We get into all sorts of problems when our self worth is determined by if we are working, who we are working with and what we are working on. Just be! Have a life outside of your creative pursuits. Call the grounded school friends who you know have zero interest in being a comic, actor or screenwriter. I should be a life coach!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
An amazing career coach once relayed what I would consider the most profound quote that resonated so much with me I thought my head would explode. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I can feel like I’m completely on purpose and happy with all I have achieved and then….THEN!!!!…I will hear about what one of my peers is doing and all my contentment will unravel within seconds. “I want to do that? Why aren’t I doing that? How come they get to do that? Aren’t I good enough to do that?” A career in the arts should come with a disclaimer. Warning: Do not compare yourself to others. It can result in self indulgent excessive crying and buying a treadmill on Amazon at 3am.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have an incredibly supportive family who have never questioned my dreams and delusions. And the loyalist of loyal friends that support me by attending shows and inviting me over to eat.
The professional turning point for me was finding a comedy manager in Australia after a decade of literally doing everything for my career myself. Sure, it taught me to be independent and resourceful, but sometimes you need a third party to open doors when you don’t have the professional clout to do it yourself. And I hate talking money. There is nothing better than letting someone else negotiate a fee on your behalf. Australia is a tiny pool by comparison where a manager does pretty much everything and one person handling your career is ample.
Things are slightly different for me here in America. I don’t yet have anyone representing me exclusively as a comic but here in LA I have a theatrical agent, an acting manager, a voice-over agent and I’ve just signed with a cruise ship booking agency. Sometimes it feels so excessive, but that’s just the way it is over here. I have worked incredibly hard to find representation. When I first arrived in LA, I actually pretended to be my own publicist as a way of potentially setting up a meeting with an agent. It was going ok until I forgot my made up name when the assistant asked me who was calling.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
My biggest grandest aspiration/career goal is to get my comedy pilot up and running. I would love to meet anyone that can assist me in making this happen. Producers, Network heads of Comedy, Artist Development, Production Companies etc. I would also love the opportunity to talk to a showrunner and hear about their journey. I can’t believe I used the word journey in an interview.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on all social media platforms.
Or my in dire need to be updated website www.jackieloeb.com