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Al Jackson Is A Chill-Ass Dude

The ‘Bob & Tom Show’ regular reflects on hip-hop, fatherhood, and the divisive times we live in

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Comedian Al Jackson regularly appears on The Bob & Tom Show.

Comedian Al Jackson loves his family at The Bob & Tom Show.

“I always love hanging with Tom,” says the nationally touring comic. “We go out to lunch after every show [I do in Indy]. We must just look like a failed detective team. I’m like the young black hotshot, and he’s the old white veteran cop. I honestly love to go and connect with the people of Bob & Tom because we’re friends for real.”

Having already had a busy 2018, Jackson will make his way to Black Circle Brewing Co. on Saturday, Nov. 10 for a stand-up performance. Beforehand, our Seth Johnson chatted with Jackson about everything from old school hip-hop to Lance Stephenson.

NUVO: Where are you originally from?

AL JACKSON: I started my career in Miami. I’m originally from Cleveland, born and raised. I went to graduate school in Miami and started doing stand-up down there when I was teaching seventh grade science. That gave me a lot of material. [laughs]

NUVO: Aside from your teaching experiences, what was it that prompted you to first try your hand at stand-up?

JACKSON: Honestly, on a teacher’s salary, you can’t afford a psychologist. So I was just like, “I need to go talk about this to people.” I just started going to open mics, talked about being a teacher, and they really responded. Teaching is so universal. Everybody’s been a student at some point, so you can kind of relate. I think everybody’s kind of curious as to what their teachers were thinking all those years.

NUVO: I know that you’re a pretty big sports fan. Do you go with Cleveland or Miami teams?

JACKSON: I’m a diehard Cleveland fan.

NUVO: Well with that in mind, what are your thoughts on the Pacers battles with LeBron James while he was on the Cavaliers?

JACKSON: It looks like you guys got the best of that Paul George trade. You got Victor Oladipo. You guys have a nice young team to build around. I’m really excited for you guys. And now, it’s weird because LeBron’s rival, Lance Stephenson, is on his team. I’m sure LeBron wants to throw the ball at the back of his head every once and a while.

NUVO: I know that you’re also a father. What is like balancing life as a comic with life as a father?

JACKSON: It’s impossible. [laughs] Once you become a father, you then completely understand your father. Your dad was just a dude that was sitting around with his friends. And then, all of a sudden, he’s got a couple new human beings that are like, “Feed me, or I’ll die.” It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility, but it’s the best job in the world if you embrace it.

NUVO: So are you now living in L.A.?

JACKSON: I kept my place in L.A. and perform in L.A. on the weekends. I host a daytime national talk show called Daily Blast Live. I’m hosting that now. I just interviewed Sarah Silverman on Sunday, so we get lots of big guests. I’m also part of The Bob & Tom Show, so I call into Bob & Tom every Thursday.

NUVO: How did you get involved with Bob & Tom?

JACKSON: I’ve been doing Bob & Tom for about eight years now. They just saw me, liked me, and started putting me on. I guess they like what I do because here we are eight years later. I’m as close to Tom as I am to anybody in the world. He’s a good man, a good friend, and I love him dearly.

What I like about Tom is he’s super honest, and I think comedians gravitate toward that. I can smell B.S. from a mile away. That’s why I tend to gravitate towards honest people. I think that’s why comics do what they do. We want to be honest about what’s going on. We just gotta do it in a funny way, which I love doing.

NUVO: Officially Amazing is a CBBC show that you host where people try to break world records. What has that experience been like?

JACKSON: We’ve done 100 episodes and eight seasons where I watch people break Guinness World Records. With any record that’s been broken in the last five to six years, I was probably standing right there. It really showed me the importance of focusing. When I first took the job, I was like, “These goofy people breaking some kind of chopstick record…Where’s my check? I don’t care.” But once you see how hard these people practice, [you realize] they are just driven people, and they believe in themselves.

NUVO: Can I Kick It? is a comedic review of old school hip-hop. You sold the pilot to truTV. Why was that show something you wanted to do?

JACKSON: I just love hip-hop music. I think it is the soundtrack for my generation. I think a lot of people can listen to a hip-hop song and tell you exactly where they were in their life when that song was playing. That’s why I love Can I Kick It?. It deals with an era of hip-hop right before the internet fractured everything. There was a period in time where the only time you could hear rap was on Yo! MTV Raps or on the radio. Everyone was kind of listening to the same stuff. So unknowingly, what it did was it allowed all of us to be able to connect

Most people know who Tupac and the Beastie Boys are. And even if you don’t, we’re just making fun of the videos. The period of hip-hop we talk about during my show takes place from the late ‘70s o up through the early ‘90s. The reason why that was such an important period is because there was no budget. [laughs] Now, I’m sure the latte budget on a Kendrick Lamar shoot is $25,000. But back then, it was just a bunch of kids with cameras. It was just this really innocent period. There were no shots where the director was like, “Your shoe is untied.” They were just like, “Well, that’s a wrap!” It’s funny, it’s innocent, and there’s a beauty to it.

NUVO: What are your thoughts on where hip-hop stands now?

JACKSON: It is the predominant music in our culture right now. It’s much more popular than rock. Hip-hop just grips people. Whether it’s hip-hop, comedy, or biting social commentary, everybody is a sucker for the truth man. Hip-hop is just like, “I think I’m the best person. If you think you’re better, show me.” If you said that to your Uber driver, they’d be like, “Wow, this guy’s a jerk.” But if you put that on a beat, everybody’s like, “I love this dude!” I think hip-hop is everybody’s inner spirit animal.

NUVO: Have you seen the current political climate affect your work as a comedian?

JACKSON: Oh, brother, you see it every night. We are in a place in time where people are so unfortunately divided. You can just say a word without getting into the joke, and you’ll see people turn off, even though the joke has nothing to do with politics. People are just in a defensive crouch, and they’re lobbing grenades at each other.

It’s almost like a trigger word now. You say “Trump,” and it’s either, “I love you,” or, “I’m going to strangle you.” The plus side is people are out voting in record numbers, and people are participating in our democracy. But the bad side is…I think about how many families will be divided for these holidays. How many people have blocked their effing brother on Facebook? I would say most people have blocked someone they grew up with, someone they’re related to, or somebody they used to date because of their political views, and it used to not be like that.

Writer - Music, Comedy & Sports

An Indianapolis native, I love all things music, especially of the local variety. My other passions also include comedy, social justice, and the Indiana Pacers.