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A Conversation With Comedian Jason Weems, a Dad Who Literally Died Onstage

Jason Weems' new comedy special, "Unknown"
(Amazon Prime)

Jason Weems died in 2017. Literally, flatlined on the floor of a comedy club in Philadelphia. No heartbeat for 5 minutes thanks to a severe asthma attack.

He was (and still is) a rising star in the comedy world after reaching the semi-finals on two seasons of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and performing at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, and thankfully, his brush with death has only given him more material.

His newest special, which debuted on August 4, is titled “Unknown” in reference to the bizarre way the hospital labeled him on that fateful night.

Weems is also a father of three (and has plenty of material to prove it), so kicking the bucket that day would not only have been a tragic end to a promising career, but would’ve left his sons without a father.

In light of his new special and Grade-A dad material, we sat down with Weems to discuss near-death experiences, his sons’ pediatrician (who moonlights as a DJ), and balancing his roles of comic and father.


Jordan: So the title, “Unknown.” Can you jump into the origins of that a little bit?

Jason: Of course. One of the main themes for the special is I die, May 3rd, 2017.

Hell of a strong start.

[laughing] Yeah, I had a severe asthma attack in Philly, a few minutes into a headline set at a show. There was a doctor in the crowd, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to hook my nebulizer up quickly enough. And the attack was so aggressive that it literally shut down my airways and then ultimately stopped my heart from beating. From what I’m told from third-party people who were there—audience members, bar staff, all that stuff—I literally just coded right there in the venue.

Then there was a 16-hour period when I was unconscious in a Philadelphia hospital. And when I came to, they had me listed as “Unknown”. So, in the literal sense, it comes from that.

And it’s almost a decade since your first special, right? “Intellectual Property”?

Literally a decade. That was filmed December 4th of 2010, and this one’s coming out 2020.

That one was also filmed here in Baltimore at another great theater, completely self-produced. Both of these specials have been self-produced.

It wasn’t like somebody put the money up for us [for “Unknown”]. There was no guarantee for distribution. It was a true hail Mary, but it was a story that I felt was important. I felt it was, as much as “Unknown” as a comedy special, I feel it’s also a celebration of life.

You definitely delve into those deep and heavy themes that a lot of people might steer away from, but it’s those topics that really makes it feel authentic and real.

Yeah. Absolutely.

 

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I’m beyond proud of this project. This is the team that partnered with me to make this shit happen. Completely Self-Funded & Produced. We envisioned it, worked for it, manifested it, worked a whole lot more & now it’s almost here. It’s a pride & anxiousness you only truly know after witnessing your child being born into the world. This is dreams materializing. Not by chance, but by grace & by hustle. We really ran this bastard from end zone to end zone (in the rain ☔️). Thank you for the support. ⁣ ⁣ Please share the MF’ing wheels off of that trailer, thumbs up those tracks from the album on Sirus XM & Pandora right now, and burn the special up when it drops on Amazon next Tuesday August 4th, 2020. Then rinse & repeat. ⁣ ⁣ Even if you don’t think it’s funny, just write a rave review off of GP & then we can work out your poor taste in art in a personal text message. Don’t y’all fuck this up for me !!! Love y’all. I’m very grateful & humbled right now ❤️✊🏽.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ #JasonWeemsComedy #Unknown #6DaysAway MyBmore #FromBaltimoreWithLove #audaCITY🔥

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And speaking of this whole show being a community effort to come together and create something great, your house DJ and your kids’ pediatrician… are the same person?

Same dude.

I’m going to need you to talk about that.

Yeah. So, this guy’s name is Ashanti Woods. If anybody ever moves to Baltimore and needs a good pediatrician, this guy’s amazing. His wife and my wife went to high school together, but then they lost contact. Years later, I become a father and we need a new pediatrician. This was a world that we were new to. We wanted somebody that could grow up with the kids, not somebody who’s 85.

So we put out some feelers on Facebook and she responded to my wife, like “Hey, my husband’s a pediatrician”. And then we realized, ‘Oh, we do know him. And he’s a great guy.’

He was amazing with the kids. It was an instant comfort. And then years later, I’m a couple of years into doing comedy. I see that he’s starting to DJ.

Did he have posters in his office about future shows and stuff? He’s like, “Oh yeah. After you get this prescription, come down to this club.” Like, how does that translate?

[laughing] Yeah. And it feels like he does. So his name is DJ P-O-P. If you look at the trailer, that’s my DJ. P-O-P stands for Prince of Pediatrics.

Of course it does.

So then we were pulling this special together and we really didn’t want to outsource the talent. We wanted this to be us all the way through. So it was a no-brainer. It was just a matter of whether he was going to say yes or not.

And he was into it?

He was into it. He’s a dad as well. He’s got two little ones.

 

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La Familia ❤️. ⁣ ⁣ #JasonWeemsComedy #TeamWeems #WeemsTheNextGeneration #GangGang

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Speaking of kids, how has fatherhood impacted this new special compared to the last one? Have you noticed a shift?

Oh, absolutely.

I noticed you’re not wearing crispy white New Balances when you’re out there. You don’t have cargo shorts on or anything, but I’m assuming there had been some kind of development or evolution.

Definitely in the sense of material. I mean, the first special was 2010. I wasn’t even a dad yet. So we filmed the first special, “Intellectual Property,” December 4th, 2010, and I think December 11th or 12th, I found out that we were having our son.

We had shot the show. Everybody was exhausted. So my wife and I flew to Florida and went down to the Harry Potter resort.

We’re drinking Butterbeer and walking all around the streets, and she just kept telling me that she felt weird. So I figured we just drank too much Butterbeer.

You never know how that’s going to hit. It’s a magical concoction, man.

Then we got back to Baltimore, it was still continuing. And we were out with one of my buddies for his birthday party and she said, “Can you drop me at the house? And you guys can just continue on.”

So then I came home from the party and she was standing at the door with the test and it was a strong-ass plus sign.

Strong plus sign, like it’s punching through the screen.

[laughing] Yeah. You could feel it. It was like braille.

And then it instantly shifted the way I toured, instantly shifted the way I performed, how I accepted shows.

I was passing up so many gigs, because it was like, ‘I’m just in love with this little guy.’ But then it got to a point where, financially, I needed to start taking shows again.

But the thing was, I just filmed the special “Intellectual Property,” so I hadn’t been out enough to turn over new material and truly test it. So I started riffing a lot on stage. I’ve always been quick on my feet, but the crowd work element of my stand up, the fast and loose stuff, it really grew out of me becoming a father.

And now that’s probably what I’m known for the most. Like, if you talk to comics in the Baltimore-DC area, all of them go, “Weems just goes off the top of his head, he just riffs it. He just comes out of thin air.”

 

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And you can tell a lot from your material that you’re a dad who’s involved. Like, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of overlap when it comes to bathroom material and kid material. I think a lot of parents would have that Venn diagram, too. Toilets and showers and bath time… there’s always a story.

Right. I mean, there are just so, so many things can go wrong when you’re washing a little person. Or when you send a little person into a bathroom alone, you don’t know what’s going to come out. It’s always a gamble.

There’s a sentence in your special where you’re talking about giving your boys a bath and you say, quote “nut crumbs… butt crumbs… armpit juice… and piss.”

Right, it’s a good summary of boys in general.

Have any of your boys manifested that entertainer gene yet? Has that been passed down through your bloodline?

All of them…

Oh no.

It’s like The Wayans Brothers. Like straight up, these kids are so talented. Our oldest is eight turning nine, yet the level of humor that he possesses is easily that of a 14 to 16-year-old. I swear, he’s coming for my position.

Yeah, I’d totally feel a little threatened.

Now, the other two, they’re hilarious. I have twin six-year-olds. So the youngest twin is younger by a minute. He’s the most flamboyant and like really out there and he wants to dance on stage and be in front of people. And he has that real kind of firecracker type of humor.

My other twin, little quieter, his stuff is more, he’ll slip in something real quietly under a conversation. Like, me and my wife will be talking, but you hear him say something like [quietly, under breath] “I would have done that…” Like just real quiet.

Ooh, like a little sarcastic dagger.

A little dagger, yeah. Also, things lined up and my kids are in this special! Like physically you see them when the special ends. My wife, my parents are sitting front row and my mother-in-law, people I went to college with and high school. So it’s almost like a block party.

Yeah. It feels like a homecoming. A love letter to Baltimore.

It’s beautiful. Truly a love letter to Baltimore.


You can check Jason’s new comedy special “Unknown” here on Amazon Prime.

Jon Hamm Puts New Spin on the Old “If You Ever Hurt My Daughter…” Threat

Jon Hamm narrates a short film about a newly feminist father in "If you ever hurt my daughter, I swear to God I'll let her navigate her own personal growth"
(New Yorker/AMC)

You know the stereotype when it comes to being the father of a teenage daughter – a protective patriarchal figure threateningly cleaning a firearm on the front porch when the boyfriend arrives, not-so-subtly illustrating the kid’s painful demise should anything happen to his “little girl.” It’s a trope that’s been played out for years in both media and reality, but a recent short film is flipping the cliche on its head.

Adapted from a New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs column by Sophie Kohn titled “If You Ever Hurt My Daughter, I Swear To God I’ll Let Her Navigate Her Own Emotional Growth, the piece highlights a father’s personal journey in learning to love and trust his daughter in a less stereotypical way, all narrated by the indelible Jon Hamm.

“It’s flipping the script on what we’re perceiving men and fathers to be; not just in media and pop culture, but in real life,” Director Meghan Ross told The Dad. “And to me, not only is it so funny and biting, but it’s the self-awareness that this dad has that I really hope dads of all ages [see] and realize an antiquated viewpoint of raising young girls is not something that needs passing on.”

Meghan, a writer, director, and comedian residing in Austin, TX, originally heard about the New Yorker essay from her brother, Justin Ross, a producer for this piece who’s also the founder of Bravemakers, the production studio behind it all.

“I thought there was no better time to produce something like this,” Justin said. “We want to produce things that have some kind of a social message behind it, which a lot of brands are getting behind. But even in the entertainment space, I like that creativity is being challenged to have some kind of a positive message on a number of issues.”

The next step was to reach out to the editor, Sophie Kohn, a Toronto-based comedian, who was thrilled by the idea of a film adaptation. Apparently, she always envisioned her essay as something that should be illustrated onscreen, and this was the perfect opportunity. She probably didn’t expect a Hollywood powerhouse like Jon Hamm to jump on board the project, though.

“We do have to give credit to our sister,” Meghan acknowledged on roping Hamm into the project. “She was credited as an associate producer. She was helping Justin and me with casting. We were just brainstorming names and thinking about recognizable voices – people we thought would be a good fit, a funny fit. And then she was the one that mentioned Jon Hamm. I think she had watched something that he had narrated, like a documentary or something.”

“It’s pretty obvious that he’s a huge fan of comedy,” Justin commented. “And what Meghan was able to find out in the comedy scene—because she comes from the New York comedy scene, originally—is that Jon will just align himself with anything that he thinks is funny. Absolutely. Regardless of budget or anything like that. He’s just a fan of comedy. He’s not a father, clearly, but he is a fan of a socially powerful piece and comedy. It was a win-win for him.”

The pair fully recognize that the 3-minute film is controversial, but rather than shove an agenda about proper parenting (whatever that means) down viewers’ throats, Meghan and Justin hope to spur conversations between friends and family members with opposing views on the subject, and they’re confident that comedy is the perfect method for achieving that goal.

“Comedy is more important and necessary than ever,” Justin elaborated. “If you can pack a powerful message like this with comedy, it’s a win. It’s a better way to deliver things. You’re going to have the extremely one-sided people who are just going to look at this and be like, ‘This is a liberal piece and a liberal publication with a liberal Hollywood actor.’ I’m hoping that if people were on the fence about a particular subject or didn’t really know where they were taking a stance on something like this, in terms of parenting, that it made digesting a little bit easier”

 

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The Ross siblings aren’t parents themselves, and their dad wasn’t a gun-toting patriarch brooding on the doorstep either, but Justin admitted to playing the protective brother role from time to time when they were growing up in New Jersey.

“For my younger sisters, I was that prime high school/college age where I was waiting for any opportunity,” he remembered. “I think, Meghan’s prom weekend, I showed up with a bunch of my buddies to drive her home. Knowing the rite of passage of prom weekend, she was down the shore at a hotel with her friends, and I knew there was going to be drinking involved. We kicked in the door. We were the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms.”

“That’s a little exaggerated,” Meghan interjected with a smile. “You opened a cooler and you were like, ‘What’s in there?’ And there were just snacks. But it was funny because it was the end of the weekend and it’s, like, obviously we had already drunk all the booze.”

As for what’s next for the brother/sister duo, they are so proud of this project and have received such a positive response that they’re hoping to collaborate again, and soon.

“Justin and I are looking to collaborate on a lot more of these projects; something that’s entertaining and has a strong message behind it,” Meghan said. “We are in talks to potentially adapt another [essay], and we’re also always open to [working with] writers who write along the same vein.”

“This was our first step in that direction in terms of collaboration,” Justin added. “And we did not expect it to be this grand. We did not expect our first sibling project to be attached to Jon Hamm, but we’re aiming for even bigger and greater things, and hopefully, Meghan and I don’t kill each other in the process.”


If you want to see more from the filmmakers, Meghan currently hosts a weekly Instagram Live series called “No One Asked For This,” interviewing female experts, activists, and leaders about the social injustices in our world that no one asked for, all while completing activities at an average-to-below-average skill level that no one asked for (e.g., baking a sheet cake, coloring in a coloring book, etc.)

Justin’s current and past work can be found at Bravemakers, helping agencies and brands effectively communicate their story through video and connect with their target audiences.

Dad’s Breakfast Bottle Prep for His Toddler Is Bartending Mastery

We Can’Dad’s Next-Level Breakfast Prep
(Instagram/sanybacsi)

People often say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but until now, I just didn’t buy it. Seeing Sany Bacsi make his 18-month-old son Sasha the fanciest bottle of formula in the history of reconstituted food made me completely reevaluate my stance on a morning meal. A couple of months ago, Sany shared the incredible breakfast video to his personal Facebook page, and people couldn’t get enough. In just a week, the video accumulated over 300,000 views. This is obviously not your typical breakfast – Sany, who has spent over 15 years working at bars in several countries, has developed some pretty impressive skills. In the increasingly popular video, Sany uses his bartending skills to make a show-worthy bottle of formula, much to the delight of his adorable son, Sasha.

Sany told The Dad, “you can barely see it in the video but Sasha was constantly talking to me ‘demanding’ and ‘instructing’ what to do. He only speaks in his own language yet so this is only an assumption but the tone of his voice and the gestures were unmistakable. ‘Pour me more!!’, ‘Give me the bottle!!’”

In the video, we see Sany approach a seated Sasha from the other side of the table, like a bartender noticing a new patron. The song “Booty Swing” by Parov Stelar plays in the background as Sany begins to give his tiny customer the best service of his life. Tossing a bowl and a cup from one hand to the other before presenting Sasha with his finest S.Pellegrino. Sany then begins to make Sasha’s drink of choice (or drink of circumstance), his formula.

Swiftly and gracefully, Sany gets to work. He sends the bottle spinning through the air before catching it with his other hand, and displays the top-label formula powder like a fine bottle of wine. He then uses a double jigger to measure out the water (which, of course, is stored in a liquor pourer). Sany scoops in the formula powder stopping occasionally to do a little dance, much to the delight of his toughest customer. Every good thing must come to an end – after giving the bottle a good shake, Sany takes a small taste of his finished product. He puffs his chest with pride, giving Sasha a thumbs-up and admiring his handiwork before sliding the bottle over to the 18-month-old. Sany gives a small but humble bow before gesturing to someone off-camera as if he just noticed another customer was waiting.

Sany’s grace and mastery comes from years of working behind bars, as well as in the field of hospitality. “The moves and gestures in this video are all-natural and have been developed little by little almost unintentionally in the past decade,” Sany told The Dad. “Over the years I surely mastered how to make cocktails, but I also learned how to juggle a little bit and do magic tricks, I learned how to tell jokes or how to keep all sort of people entertained.” Including toddlers, apparently.

Outside of his home, Sany still makes use of his impressive skills. Originally from Hungary, Sany now lives in Dubai but travels regularly for his job as the Global Bar Manager of a Latin American Lifestyle Restaurant called COYA. When he’s home, he spends his time with Sasha and his wife. Sasha is quickly becoming his little assistant, much to Sany’s delight. “He’s enjoying very much everything that feels like an adult task from his perspective, like unpacking grocery bags,” Sany explained, “all cleaning activities fascinating him for some reason and he loves to assist -in his own way.”

Hopefully, this means we can expect more videos from this dream team in the near future. Follow Sany on Instagram for the latest updates.

Runaway Pig!

Teens Losing it Over Phil Collins is The Wholesome Content we Need

Teens Losing it Over Phil Collins is The Wholesome Content we Need
(YouTube/TwinsthenewTrend)

There is something so pure about watching kids discover things for the first time. Whether it’s a type of food, an activity, or a song, seeing a kid learn something new and wonderful about the world is unparalleled. Without the reserved and often jaded filter that comes with adulthood, we’re left with the wide-eyed innocence of a child experiencing pure, uninhibited joy. Twins Tim and Fred Williams from Gary, Indiana recently filmed a video that gave us a much-needed dose of that pure, wide-eyed excitement.

The teens post YouTube videos where they react to songs as they hear them for the first time. Want to feel old? Head on over to their channel and watch them discover songs you’ve heard no fewer than 1,000 times. We (mostly) forgive them for making us feel like ancient beings because their videos are just so dang wholesome.

Last week, the twins filmed their reactions as they listened to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” for the very first time, and let me tell you, they were into it. The second Collins started to sing, Tim threw his hand over his heart so quickly it seemed involuntary. The video continues as the twins bop their heads to the beat, and we all waited breathlessly for the iconic drum fill. The boys’ reactions did not disappoint – Tim gasps, both teens’ mouths drop and their eyes go wide as they soak it all in. After taking a few seconds to collect himself, Fred says, “I’ve never seen nobody drop the beat three minutes in the song!”

It’s easy to see why the internet has fallen so hard for this video. With over two million views in just a week, watching the teens listen to songs we love for the first time feels almost like we’re discovering them all over again. It’s reassuring that a generation who laughs at special effects in movies that were cutting-edge when we first saw them can still appreciate non-new (I’m not saying old. It’s not old. We’re not old) music that totally slaps.

Dad Helps His Daughter With Her Tricks