Don't judge comedian/actor Jay Mohr too harshly. He was only a teenager.
But if any teen boys could hear his first routine — one that he performed at an open-mic on a Sunday afternoon — they'd appreciate his not so-subtle humor that eventually would launch hundreds of quips throughout his career.
"I was a bed wetter," Mohr, who'll tell better jokes Thursday, Sept. 27, when he plays Side Splitters here, told the crowd during his first stand-up routine, "but I wet the bed from the top of my dresser."
Hey, that's the kind of material Mohr did on his first time up. A high school wrestler — "a lone wolf," as he describes himself in those days — he also worked in a sports reference or two as well.
"I'm very athletic," he deadpanned to the crowd. "In high school, I was the captain of the miniature golf team. I'm out this season because of an injury. I got hit by a windmill."
Hold your groans.
Mohr acknowledges he was not a master of the art of stand-up back then.
"Buddy Hackett once told me comics are interesting people. It's the only occupation that the first time you do it you use less than 1 percent of your ability, and they still ask you to come back," Mohr says.
In his case, he was asked back.
If he started out at 1 percent, what will he be showing us at Side Splitters?
"I think I am up to around 95 percent," he says. "But that means the glass is more than half full. If I am truly a student (of comedy) then I'm probably at 75 percent."
Mohr does admit his comedy these days is "ego driven." And beyond that, 'it's mortgage driven," he says. "It's like ego and mortgage are fighting for my soul."
He still gets butterflies in his stomach before he goes on stage, but he doesn't feel that way because of jitters.
"I want to show off," Mohr says. Comedy "is the only thing I know to do. I can't long divide.
"But if you wake me up and hand me a mic, I'll kill it. Comedy is what I know how to do. "
His wife, actress Nikki Cox (NBC's "Las Vegas"), and their son are with him on the road. "My wife and I have been apart 15 days in eight years," says the busy comic, who can be seen on ABC's "Suburgatory" and has just completed a pilot for TV Land.
She goes along with him on the nearly 100 stand-up comedy dates he does each year. On Thursday, he'll make his debut in Knoxville at Side Splitters. Cox and their child will be around as well.
It's not exactly the way most comics hit the road. The vast majority go from town to town, alone, and stay in a different motel every night. If they are married, they see their families between dates.
Despite his high-profile acting jobs — he was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and starred in the CBS comedy "Gary Unmarried" and "The Ghost Whisperer" for several seasons — he's a comedian at heart.
Usually Mohr is cast as the lout, the juvenile-thinking man-child.
In real life, he's just the opposite.
Mohr prays before every show. "People work very hard in this lifetime," he says. "For them to spend money to come see me is an honor, and that's not to be taken lightly."
Tickets for Mohr's show are $25 online, $27 if ordered by phone or at the door. All ticket prices increase up $2 on the day of the show.
Side Splitters Comedy Club is at 9246 Parkwest Boulevard. Call 865-934-LAFF (5233) or visit www.SideSplittersComedy.com.
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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