Twelve Rounds of Laughter

Comedian Johnny Taylor Jr. performs the sport of standup at The Big Dirty

Johnny Taylor Jr.

California comedian Johnny Taylor Jr. stops short of calling his audience an opponent. He says there is something similar, though, to how boxers react to adversaries and comedians sizing-up their audience when they first come on stage. Taylor Jr. knows because he boxed as an amateur and also co-owned a combat sports gym in his twenties.

Host of The Hard Talk podcast on The Hard Times podcast network, Taylor Jr. brings a new hour of comedy to Eugene Thursday, July 21 at The Big Dirty. He recently opened for well-known standup Brian Posehn (Mr. Show with Bob and David) on a string of dates.

With a wry take on everyday life and an interest in mocking the orthodoxies of both mainstream and alternative cultures, Taylor Jr.’s comedy is autobiographical and storytelling in nature. “It’s dark a lot of the times, but life’s dark sometimes,” Taylor Jr. says. 

In a YouTube clip, Taylor Jr. compares his own three marriages, which ended in divorce, to an inning of baseball. “I like to get married a lot,” Taylor Jr. quips on YouTube. “Three up, three down, retired the side in order.” 

Comedy is like boxing because part of the comedian’s job is to adjust their set to what an audience is reacting to in the moment, Taylor Jr. tells EW.

“To my discredit,” he says. “I wish I adjusted more for what I see from the audience; sometimes I’ll do a bit I know the crowd isn’t going to react to well. It’s this antagonistic nature I have. I want the crowd to go home and have an existential crisis,” he says.

More than anything, though, Taylor Jr. says audiences are never a comedian’s enemy because “they’re rooting for you,” while you’re up there on the stage.

In addition to hosting a podcast on The Hard Times, Taylor Jr. also writes for the website, known for underground music scene satire and parodies of indie, heavy metal and alternative band culture. 

Early on in his stand-up career, his material included some politics. In a YouTube series The Nonfiction with Johnny Taylor Jr., a project he’s no longer involved with, he parodied the alt-right conspiracy-theory perspective that’s common on many online platforms.

These days, though, there’s less politics in Taylor Jr.’s material. “It’s hard to make fun of some of this atrocious shit” that’s going on in the headlines, he says. “I just tell my life story.” 

With two comedy albums to his name released on Stand Up! Records — 2014’s Tangled Up in Plaid and 2018’s Bummin’ with the Devil, both of which charted on Amazon and on iTunes — Taylor Jr. says material from his show in Eugene will likely end up on his next record.

He’s also been acting more recently, including an upcoming TV show, Press Pass, about a fledgling basketball organization, shot in the mockumentary style of The Office. 

Acting, Taylor Jr. says, is “definitely a different muscle to exercise. I never really wanted to be an actor; I always wanted to be a stand-up.” But these days, unless you’re doing a bunch of other things like acting and podcasts, “you can’t do stand-up how you want,” he says. ν

Hosted by Seth Milstein, Johnny Taylor Jr. performs with Eugene’s Angie Bloomfield and Seattle stand-up Dane Hesseldahl, 8 pm Thursday, July 21 at The Big Dirty; $10, 21+.