What’s the most annoying thing about being a comedian? According to Jason Carlen, it’s an all-too-common request.
“When people find out I’m a comedian and say, ‘Tell me a joke,’ my first response is almost always to ask what they do for a living,” Carlen said. “If they say, ‘Oh, I’m a plumber,’ I tell them to fix my sink.”
Carlen, 37, is gearing up to record his first-ever comedy album, “Whiskey and Silence,” Sunday. Carlen’s first foray into the comedy scene was almost six years ago, while he was still in college.
“I was an acting student at LCC, and one of the guys in my class did open mic comedy at a comedy club,” Carlen recalled. “He said, ‘Hey, I think you’d be really good at this. Do you want to try it out?’”
Carlen loved the experience and started looking for comedy gigs around Lansing. He has a regular spot as a featured comic at Mac’s Bar’s Monday comedy night and hosts Sunday comedy night at the Green Door, where he is recording the live album.
“I’ve been an employee at the Green Door for eight and a half years; I bartend and all that. It’s a familiar setting,” Carlen explained. “My friends Robert (Jenkins) and Dan (Currie) that are doing the show with me, they recorded their albums at Mac’s Bar. I wanted to give the Green Door a little publicity as a comedy venue and not just as a music venue.”
Being relatively new to comedy, Carlin is happy to have his routine at a place where he feels comfortable putting it down on an album.
“You trust your material — that’s one of the hardest lessens to learn for newer comics,” Carlen said. “I’m no veteran. I’ve only been doing this five and a half years.”
Carlen hopes to leverage the album to tour more locally and branch out into new cities.
“It’s hard not having a comedy club in town anymore, but there’s other venues I’ve been looking at,” Carlen said. “I’ve done some shows in Indiana and Ohio and all over the state. The next natural progression is to get out and travel more.”
Carlen is used to audiences not laughing at some jokes, but said that it’s all part of the learning process.
“It’s almost more satisfying to win the audience back after a joke you think is good doesn’t land,” Carlen said. “I think the hardest thing to recover from is getting your jokes interrupted.”
Carlen doesn’t tie himself down to any particular approach to comedy, preferring to keep his options open. He tried to select a good mix of material for “Whiskey and Silence.”
“It’s a lot of almost autobiographical stuff, with a little social commentary in there too,” he said. “I don’t think I really have a locked-down style. I’ve got some quick one-liner jokes, and then I’ve got some longer stories too. If I think it’s funny, I’ll just throw it out there.”
But underneath the jokes, the album, and the timing of it, have a deeper emotional meaning to Carlen.
“The whole reason I’m doing this album now is because my mom was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago.
I wanted her to see this album get made,” Carlen said. “Unfortunately, three weeks ago she passed away.”
Carlen’s mother was one of his biggest supporters. He recalled how she once broke her leg but chose to see his performance before going to the hospital.
“I’m definitely doing this to pay tribute to her because she showed up to so many of my shows over the years,” Carlen said.
Live comedy album recording With Robert Jenkins, Pat Sievert, Dan Currie and Mark Roebuck Sunday, July 31 Doors at 7 p.m.; show begins at 9 p.m. The Green Door 2005 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 940-6186, greendoorlive.com