Sam Jay: Comedian or Therapist?

Sam Jay might be from Beantown but she’s been in New York long enough to master its rhythm. When Sam is not in production on various film and TV projects or touring, you can catch her stoned pretending to be a therapist to her talented comedian friends on stage during her live comedy “On Site” show.

I met this Bostonian-New York transplant several months ago where all the cool and hip creative types meet in NYC—Soho House. With an invite from a friend and killer stand-up comedian Petey Deabreu, who was previously one of Sam’s “patients,” I pulled up. It was probably one the most enjoyable NYC nights I had in a while. Petey was joined by comedian and SNL writer Rosebud Baker and her husband, comedian Andy Haynes, along with one of my favorite rappers, Smoke Dza. Jokes were cracked effortlessly left and right, countless laughs were shared, and lots of weed was passed around. 

Fairly recently was another quintessential NYC evening featuring Sam Jay. One of the more exciting new events in NYC featuring live comedy is a new partnership between my home team collective, The Good Life!, and NYC hip hop and comedy impresario, Cipha Sounds. “Underbelly Comedy” is a new monthly show at the Wythe Hotel’s intimate theater space, of which Sam Jay was the headliner of the second show, and she murdered it—with some real notable comics, like Shane Torres and Daniel Simonson. I was truly in awe of Sam’s set, as she says everything about pop culture that we are all thinking, but would never say out loud. The event clears out into a little speakeasy bar where Cipha Sounds holds court and tonight the beautiful and talented DJs and twin sisters Angel & Dren take us home! Hysterical jokes were made, uncontrollable laughs were had, and copious amounts of cannabis was consumed, as per usual. But the night was far from over. 

Courtesy Seth Caplin

Eventually, Sam and the gang migrated to an undisclosed location with The Lost Canna Club. After some vibes out there, we bounced to the freshly reopened Fat Buddha/Hidden Tiger bar for this year’s live recording of Bun B and Statik Selektah’s TrillStatik 3. As it turns out, Sam and Statik are really good friends with a lot in common. In fact, Statik produced music used for Sam’s latest special. And now Sam is here to lay down a very based outro for his album. Upon arrival, we were overwhelmed with legendary presence from the likes of Method Man, Talib Kweli, Rome Streetz, Smif N Wesson, Benny The Butcher, and star of the show, Bun B. If you read my article on Trillstatik 2, just know I was on my best behavior this time and didn’t bother Bun until most of his writing was done. The event was sponsored by Archive, who produces some of my favorite flower called Moonbow 99. The Astor Club family was on hand to roll that with some of their Blue Dream Cookies x Chemchi hash to create one hell of a donut for yours truly. So this time, delicious Trill Burgers were consumed, raps were recorded, and an amazing hash-hole was smoked. Moreover, I still had yet to interview Sam Jay, which was on the agenda.

I figured, let’s go and do this where consumption is not only allowed, but encouraged—the place where everyone knows my name, the Astor Club. This was a great place for me to wait for Sam who was running behind. I was privileged enough to try amazing cannabis as well as pick out some edibles for Sam who still gets really high a lot, just not from actually smoking the flower anymore. With Astor Club being the cultural hub that it is, it was almost no surprise that our familiar friend Statik Selektah happened to stop by, which made for even better vibes than expected. Upon Sam’s arrival, I gifted her a collection of edibles I curated from the menu, including one of my favorites called Astronaut Food, as well as some more edibles from Archive which were vegan, gluten free, 100 mg per package and made from actual fruit purées. I ate a couple myself. Then I let the Bostonians catch up about the Celtics game, waited a bit for those gummies to kick in, and then proceeded to alley-oop my questions.

Courtesy Seth Zaplin

How did it all start with you and your relationship with cannabis?

You know what’s crazy? I didn’t even smoke weed till like 25. I was like a D.A.R.E-ass kid, bro. I was scared as fuck of drugs. I was really brought up to believe that weed was a gateway drug, like I would be smoking crack. I literally believed all of the rhetoric—I was scared, and my mom was really anti-drug. It was not something that was acceptable in my house. Nobody talked about that kinda shit in my family. It wasn’t till I started smoking weed that I found out everyone was doing some shit, but when I was in Atlanta, my cousins was always rolling up and smoking. 

I don’t know what made me start, but I know I was a little drunk one night, and I just looked at my cousins who [were] constantly smoking, like fuck it, they ain’t dead and have been smoking for years, and I just went for it. So at first, it was just something I would do with them. I couldn’t roll or anything. But, I kept saying to myself, smoking weed is straight. I just love how expansive it made my mind. Honestly, I was like, “I kinda like how my brain feels on this.” One day, I was with my cousin, and I asked him to roll me a blunt, and he was like, “Nah you smoking too much, you do it!” Once I rolled my own blunt, I started buying my own weed. And just like that, I was a weed smoker. 

What would you have to do in order to cop weed when you were 25 years old in Atlanta?

I was living on the south side, at that same complex that Trinidad James shot the “All Gold Everything” video. There would be all these kids outside selling, like 2-for-$10, 3-for-$15, type-shit. So, you can buy weed, but there was no education. They would just say they had “gas.” You really did not know what you were smoking, but if it looked green enough, you’d buy it. 

Okay, so what was it like hitting Los Angeles and going to the dispensaries for the first time? 

That was crazy! But when I was going, you still needed that medical shit first. That was nothing for real, you was just paying for it, really. They ain’t give a fuck about what was wrong with you! So, I went to the weed store and I bought weed like a regular person and I loved it. I never wanna go back to having to find a dealer. Motherfuckers would sell you weed, but they acted like they were selling bricks of cocaine! The whole way they used to treat it was so fuckin’ crazy! I remember, my man made me pull over, he walked by a trash can, then he got back in and said, “Now you go by the trash can.” I’m like, “Are we really doing all of this for some fucking bud? When I started going to the store, they had drinks and mad other shit I had never seen before, and once you smoke that California weed, you don’t ever go back to smoking mid. It actually made me realize how much mid I would actually have to smoke in order to get high. 

Now you are a stoner and a touring comedian, any issues getting to the weed while you are on the road? 

No, once you are a known comic, everyone offers you drugs. It actually becomes very easy to buy drugs. It’s like, once you get into the town, n****s are like, “Hey! Let me know if you need drugs!” And that’s as soon as you get there. So, you don’t have to do much to find it. I mean, I could go to the club owner, and be like, “I need weed,” and he’ll be like, “Okay, we’ll figure it out!” 

But, when I wasn’t so prominent, I did a lot of hoping I wouldn’t get robbed and praying for an upstanding drug dealer with a good moral compass. 

Or, another thing I used to do was become cool with the weed man. When I lived in Atlanta, there was this young n**** named Piff. He was selling drugs, but had nowhere to go to do what he needed to do. So, he would use my crib just to bag up and burn with me. People got 5 different hustles in Atlanta, and I wasn’t really working, so he would show up at 8am and that was the morning blunt. 

The author, Sam Jay, and Statik Selektah. / Courtesy Seth Zaplin

I had a feeling you had a deep appreciation for the plant. I really respect the level of honesty you have been able to reveal about yourself, especially on your show, Pause. What were the difficulties, if any? 

It was easy and it was hard. It was hard because the format didn’t exist at all. In my head, I was like, “I think I can do this.” But, I wasn’t sure about the execution at all. I really wanted that shit to feel like a party, you feel me? I wanted to get people to talk the way they actually talk, and that’s hard to get on TV  because people are too conscious of themselves when they know they are on TV.  I had to tell HBO, “I don’t want any standing cameras and I don’t want my friends staged. Like, I don’t want you to tell my friend to go stand here…” So, we ended up putting 3 people on body cam. They had roaming cameras that moved around the room. I wouldn’t allow boom mics. Everyone was mic’d, so there was like 14 different channels of sound. The sound man hated me. We needed everyone to be chill, so we would have a party before, to get everyone comfortable using the mic, and hope they would forget they had it on. Then, we transferred them to the Pause party. Nobody knew the topics but me. So, I would start conversations and steer them where I want them to go. Also, I was high! 

You were high the entire time? 

 For most of it. 

Something that I wanted to highlight from Pause is that you are a self-proclaimed “Suck my dick!” kid. My punk rock spirit relates to this so heavily, please elaborate! 

I was just a very, “Don’t tell me what to do” type of kid. Don’t try to control me. Any sign of control, I was going the other way. Even like, being black and living in the hood, people were like, “You gotta be like this,” I was like, “No, I’m going to go listen to alternative, and be the opposite.” I’ve always been like that. Even in a dumb way, sometimes, because I have to ask myself, “Are you making this decision because this is what you want to do, or just doing this because you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing?” 

Well, I think it’s pretty punk rock that on Pause you just kinda decided to be a journalist, and now your live show “On Site” you’re basically a whole entire therapist. How does that even happen?

“On Site” really came from the desire to do a live show that wasn’t pure stand-up. Then my homie Keith Johnson, who I do the show with, was like, “You are always yelling at us, bullying us, and telling us how to run our lives. Maybe it’s a show where you fuck with comics the way you fuck with us!” And yeah, I thought it could be kinda fun to put comics in a different space and just fuck with them in a different way. It’s a really fun time, and it’s always fun to do that kinda thing with comics because they can throw it back at you. And I am also a mess, so I think that’s the underlying theme in all my work. With Pause as well, it’s like, “Well, I don’t know…” We are exploring these ideas—I’m not necessarily correct. We used to go into Pause and think it was okay for me to be wrong at the end of the journey or have my mind changed. I try to undercut that seriousness about it because [we’re all] humans that be fucking up. 

I find that most stand-up specials on streaming platforms are trash. What do you think?

I think they are putting out a lot of the same voices. And, you can’t really see the diversity until you’re out in the clubs and really see what’s happening in the streets.  

How did you and Statik link?

Statik Selektah: “We’re the same age and came to New York the same year.”

Hip-hop is something you obviously love and keep up with. Where does that come from?

My brothers are older than me. So by the time I was kid, my brothers were way into hip hop. One brother was very into De La Soul and Native Tongues, and my other brother was very into Big Daddy Kane and Run DMC—that type shit. I would listen to whatever they would listen to, until I got outside and started hearing what other kids was listening to. But, all of my hip-hop knowledge came from inside the house. 

What do you like or dislike about current hip-hop/rap music? 

I like a lot of new hip-hop. I don’t dislike anything, I just think there are things I don’t understand anymore. Like, I don’t get Playboi Carti. I don’t think it’s good, or bad, it’s just not for my ears. My little cousins, they are totally tapped in. They seem to understand it. It’s giving them something they need, so I don’t judge it. Gimme the beats, gimme the booms and baps, and gimme the lyrics—I’m an East Coast kid. 

Sam Jay and Statik Selektah. / Courtesy Seth Zaplin

How did you get Statik to give you an original beat for your HBO special? 

I just asked him. I just told him that’s what I wanted to do. A lot of times, when you do specials, they are open to creative shit—you just have to come with creative shit. I think it adds a real dope-ass element to the special, even when I watch it, it just sets the tone. It’s dope to have an original Statik beat. I’m such a hip-hop head—it feels cool to say that I have one now. 

TrillStatik 3 is out everywhere you can stream music, and Sam Jay’s new HBO special “Salute Me Or Shoot Me” is a must-watch. Please go see her live when she hits your city! For all things Sam Jay click here

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