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Book Review: Deep Cuts, Volume 1: (Some of) All of the best of Jesse Jones on STAB!

Jesse Jones collects his verbal comedy best in the print edition of Deep Cuts
© 2017 Jesse Jones

Condensed Wit For Erudite Sickos On The Go!

It should comes as no surprise that for its first review of the printed word, Fields Point Review should cast about for high-minded material, offering tasteful and lasting enrichment to readers old and young. In like fashion, it figures that this frustrated search might later veer headlong into a bewildering anthology of willful provocation, acidic satire, and decidedly child-unsafe comedy that one critic (possibly this critic) once described as “so grim it makes your hair fall out.” Without further fanfare (well, not much further), may we present Deep Cuts, Volume 1: (Some of) All of the best of Jesse Jones on STAB!

If the book’s title throws you off, you may be missing vital context. Sacramento-area comedian Jesse Jones is co-creator of, and a permanent panelist on, the live comedy show STAB!, which reaches the world beyond Northern California in the form of a podcast also cleverly entitled STAB! A group of comically minded folks, fed writing prompts on short notice by show host John Ross, recite their most outrageous freeform humor before an audience of their peers.

[For more about the STAB! program, including our interview with John Ross, look here!]

What Jones has done with Deep Cuts is compile one hundred assorted segments he has performed over the show’s run, illustrating the madcap, patternless and altogether unpredictable landscape of STAB! It pays to warn non-initiates that STAB! is built for and around extremely dark comic sensibilities. Jones himself warns in the foreword that “taken out of context, some of the things you’re about to read COULD be horrifying.” True enough, but what makes his work more than merely off-color is the ability to give a clever and original slant to the material. Tackling taboos calls for skill. Some will inevitably be put off no matter what, but fearless reader/listeners will find that STAB! comes at even the most loaded topics with due irony and forward-thinking candor. “These are jokes,” Jones also thinks to mention, and seldom if ever does a bit come across as tasteless for its own sake. There are thoughts here, ripe for the provokin’.

The themes in STAB! have names evoking party games, which they more or less are. In “Reorganization,” well-known acronyms receive new meanings. Jones interprets the computer protocol HTTP as “Heterosexual Threesomes Take Precision,” a treatise on tackling gay panic in male-heavy encounters.

If at any time you come into contact with the genitalia of the other gentleman involved, it is proper and indeed encouraged to simply shout “Sports!” at which point the incursion will be forgiven as an accident and the threesome may continue without incident.

“Topical Haiku Challenge” calls for a formally correct poetic meditation on the latest national news fiasco. Writing of the Washington Redskins, Jones targets an unguarded flank of the controversy, observing

Of all tragedies
heaped upon native people
this year’s team is worst.

Not all items are quite so edgy. Some are surreal, some merely silly, and yet some go much darker. There are dating profiles, marital vows, tourist brochures, and festive celebrations planned for scores of whimsically inappropriate subjects. A manifesto written in dual commemoration of the Unabomber’s birth and Pac-Man’s arcade debut opines

They feed us pills, telling us that they’re our real power, but they don’t make the ghosts go away! The pills make the ghosts fear US, but only for a fleeting moment, only to return once the high has subsided.”

Assuming you are fundamentally on board for the style of humor, the chief negative of this book is not actually hearing Jones, a master presenter of his own material, shouting it at your head. The best and highest function of Deep Cuts is as a companion piece to the voluble library of STAB! episodes, available wherever listeners choose to acquire their podcasts. In addition, hearing the other show panelists (not pictured here) riff on each topic before Ross bellows at Jones to “BRING IT HOME!” is well worth the time it takes to listen. But to date, none of these other folks has put together a best-of reel that sits on a nightstand or e-reader, poised to assault the eyes with strange and delightful remembrances previously reserved for your ears. Whether as a collectible supplement to the audio adventures of STAB! company, or as a free-standing comedy panoply in the tradition of Bob Odenkirk’s A Load of Hooey, Jesse Jones’s Deep Cuts Vol. 1 is handy provender for the misfit sense of humor.

Pick up a copy of Deep Cuts, Volume 1 in your preferred format here!

Follow Jesse Jones and the STAB! comedy podcast for high-venom comedy dosage.

Podcast Review: STAB!

by Dan Fields

Outrageous Live Comedy, Deadly Sharp

“Roughly 24 to 92 hours ago*, STAB!’s team of comedy scientists commissioned 4 specific humorists** to give various potentially comedic takes on several random topics, which they’ll now perform for the first and likely last time, in front of a live studio audience, in a show called…

STAB!”

With these words of introduction, welcome to a world of high-spirited, fiercely funny, savagely dark entertainment. Stab! is a live comedy show featuring a rotating lineup of the freshest young comics you ought to be hearing. Lucky for those outside the show’s home territory, the performances are available as a weekly podcast. Created by Sacramento comedians John Ross and Jesse Jones, Stab! began as a friendly teamup of like minds looking for a new kind of comedy project.

The format of Stab! is simple, but open to endless possibilities. Each night’s panel of humorists take turns presenting sketches, poems and monologues based on a series of prompts they have received only a short time in advance. The format incorporates the wild variety of a standup open mic, the careful composition of a sketch show, and the madcap spontaneity of improv. There are few if any limits on the material, and the results while often inspired tend to be mighty edgy. People wishing to know more of Stab! should take a clue from the show’s title. It is not safe or comfortable comedy. Let those with delicate sensibilities be warned.

*Despite what the introductory voiceover cites, panelists routinely berate John Ross, the show’s MC, for sending them prompts less than a day in advance, much to general amusement.

**Stab! has since cut the original 4-performer lineup down to 3 (and occasionally 2), but rather than waste the signature voiceover track by John Alston, show audiences have made a game of yelling out these inaccuracies as the intro plays. Tradition is important. And do you think these folks are made of authoritative voiceover? They are not.

Earlier this year, the Stab! crew performed at the 4th Annual Los Angeles Scripted Comedy Festival, held at the prestigious iO West Theater. Some will know iO West, or its mothership theater in Chicago, under the former title of ImprovOlympic. By a happy chance, the timing worked out for Stab! to record its 100th show at the festival. Fresh from triumphant conquest in LA, show host and co-creator John Ross shares his perspective on the history of Stab! as it (sort of) turns a century old.

FPR: First of all, how was the Comedy Festival?

John Ross: Overall, it was great. We had a good time, and it was fun to be able to perform at iO, which is kind of a bigger theater. Danielle [Mandella, one of the show’s producers] and Jesse [Jones, a regular featured panelist] are both iO alums, so that was kind of a homecoming for them too.

Is this the first time Stab! has gone “on the road?”

JR: Predominantly we’ve kept it in Sacramento, and that was the first time we’ve gotten to LA.

Most people’s access to the show is limited to what they can find on iTunes, maybe 70 or 75 episodes. How old is Stab! really?

JR: I think we just put our 71st episode on. It’s funny how it landed when we did the Comedy Festival at iO. That was actually our hundredth show! When we first started, it was about three years ago. Jesse and I were producing different shows, like the 48-Hour Comedy Festival. That was an all-night marathon. I had done a show prior to that called Comedy From The Couch. I would host it. Three comedians would be on a couch, and then I would write a couple of bits that we would play with. Most of it was to bring the green room to the stage, where they’d have a comedian on stage and we’d interrupt each other, just talk trash about each other on stage.

So the seeds of Stab! were there.

JR: Yeah. We did that for a few years, and eventually for the 48-Hour Comedy Festival, I’d bump a format to Jesse like “Hey, here’s something I think you’d be good at,” because he’s an excellent writer. We were both working at the Sacramento Comedy Spot, which is sort of a UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade)/iO of Sacramento. It’s more improv and sketch based. I was teaching a standup program there and he was running the sketch program. We had never done anything creatively together. We were at a bar after some shows, and were like “Why are we not working together? We need to work together on something.” And we came up with the idea of Stab!
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