Nate Jackson: What's Your Story?

April 7, 2024

Photo Credit

Nate Jackson


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


The loom­ing apoc­a­lypse eclipse seems to have me in a frame of mind where I see change every­where I look. This week’s episode is no dif­fer­ent, with both an unusu­al loca­tion (The Driskill hotel in down­town Austin, vs Valerie’s domi­cile) and a guest of a stripe beyond our norm: Nate Jack­son, the Deputy Enter­tain­ment and Arts Edi­tor with a lit­tle paper called the Los Ange­les Times.

Jack­son, while not our typ­i­cal on-stage tal­ent, has his fin­ger on the pulse of the nation’s enter­tain­ment, its own stage where Austin has played an increas­ing­ly impor­tant role. He’s writ­ten about the scene mul­ti­ple times, and I know I’ve had his arti­cle How L.A. helped det­o­nate the explo­sion of the Austin com­e­dy scene” shared with me more than once. Once you hear his res­o­nant, growl­ing, voice, you’ll not be sur­prised in the least to learn he’s also a vocal­ist and bass play­er, and pri­or roles at OC Week­ly, and as music edi­tor at the Times, give Jack­son an author­i­ta­tive voice and plat­form from which to pro­vide com­men­tary on enter­tain­ment in its many forms.

It’s impos­si­ble to talk in any way about the com­e­dy indus­try with­out touch­ing on some recent painful news: the can­cel­la­tion of 2024’s Just For Laughs Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val, and JFL the com­pa­ny fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy. It hap­pened seem­ing­ly overnight, and has hit per­form­ers across the US and Cana­da hard, as ques­tions turn to what the future will bring for a true com­e­dy insti­tu­tion.

I think the gen­er­al com­e­dy fan just wants to go see a show, and those haven’t stopped,” Jack­son says, not­ing that the big names head­lin­ing fes­ti­vals like JFL have devot­ed fans that will come out to see them wher­ev­er they may be. The up-and-com­ers will con­tin­ue to find their medi­ums, and chart out their own path to the stage. Net­flix con­tin­ues to loom larg­er here, with fes­ti­vals like Net­flix is a Joke poten­tial­ly fill­ing the (hope­ful­ly tem­po­rary) gap vacat­ed by JFL, and Lopez and Jack­son touch on how com­e­dy seems to be infil­trat­ing every form of enter­tain­ment in some way.

I think the general comedy fan just wants to go see a show, and those haven’t stopped
Nate Jackson

What about the dawn of Tik­Tok come­di­ans?

While per­form­ers can rack up fol­low­ers and views on plat­forms like Tik­Tok and Insta­gram, Jack­son under­scores the impor­tance of face time” with fans, and diver­si­fy­ing to pre­vent lock-in or drop-off with any one ser­vice. What if one of these plat­forms goes away,” he ques­tions, allow­ing that what a com­ic does online needs to be treat­ed as just an aspect of what [one] does as a com­mu­ni­ty”.

Com­mu­ni­ty is a rich top­ic in the inter­view, espe­cial­ly the cross-pol­li­na­tion between LA and Austin. I think the crossover between Austin and LA is just so heavy,” Jack­son says, recall­ing fly­ing to Texas and bump­ing into Angeli­nos he wasn’t even aware had trav­eled to — or relo­cat­ed — here. So, sure, Jack­son knows quite a few peo­ple, but has he had a starstruck” moment, that inter­view or cov­er­age he couldn’t believe he land­ed?

One of the things that we did recent­ly was we did a cov­er sto­ry on Ush­er, and that was a fun one because that’s some­body who I grew up [know­ing] from my child­hood,” Jack­son recalls, and Ush­er is no small fish indeed, with the sto­ry back­ground hap­pen­ing right before the singer’s Super­Bowl per­for­mance. Whether it’s his edi­tor hat, or Jackson’s inquis­i­tive demeanor, we’re less than shocked to hear that he basi­cal­ly took it in stride. It’s like with jour­nal­ism,” he says, you just find ways to relate to people.”

Funny is great, funny is awesome...[but] what's your story?
Nate Jackson

When asked about his own upcom­ing projects, we seem to have found the top­ic that gets Jack­son to jump up from his chair (in his own mea­sured, stay­ing-in-the-actu­al-chair, kind of way). He’s got a book due out next year, Tear­ing Down the Orange Cur­tain, cov­er­ing the his­to­ry and evo­lu­tion of Orange Coun­ty punk music. The OC scene is leg­endary, and it’s impos­si­ble not to drop names all over the place when talk­ing about its his­tor­i­cal role: The Off­spring, Social Dis­tor­tion, Sub­lime, and No Doubt all came up in the area and went on to major suc­cess. On the way, they (among count­less oth­ers) shaped and re-shaped the punk scene across the world. It’s a top­ic obvi­ous­ly near to Jackson’s heart, and the staff of Com­e­dy Wham has already put the book on our respec­tive wish lists to devour on its release.

As the inter­view with the self-pro­claimed BBQist starts to wind to a close (din­ner time nears and meat awaits), Valerie probed a bit more for what (beyond com­e­dy and punk rock) gets Jackson’s engine going.

Fun­ny is great, fun­ny is awe­some,” Jack­son says, but what gets him the most buzz” is delv­ing more into the back­ground of a top­ic or genre: What’s the sto­ry behind you as a person…what you’re cre­at­ing or cul­ti­vat­ing?” It’s a method­ol­o­gy we can get behind, and may we also sug­gest lis­ten­ing to & read­ing some of our scrump­tious­ly plump archive of in-depth per­former inter­views?

Speak­ing of scrump­tious, the brisket talk ends with Valerie giv­ing her top BBQ picks in the city; it’s a rare occur­rence, and you’ll want to lis­ten to the inter­view to hear them. (Spoil­er, Franklin’s is men­tioned, but Jack­son — of course — has already trav­eled to that Mec­ca, so two stel­lar alter­na­tives were prof­fered.)

Flush with din­ner options, it’s time we part (for now) with Nate Jack­son. Of the many take­aways from the talk, a key con­cept seems to be put your­self out there”. It’s clear Jack­son loves what he does, meet­ing the peo­ple and telling the sto­ries of how it all comes togeth­er. While we bemoan the dis­ap­pear­ance of events like the Just for Laughs fes­ti­val, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that fans are out there, whether on the stage or in the offices of top-tier news­pa­pers. If you real­ly have [the gift of com­e­dy], then there’s ways for you to share it,” Jack­son advis­es.

When you do, don’t be sur­prised when Nate Jack­son reach­es out to learn how you made it happen.

Fol­low Nate Jack­son, Deputy Enter­tain­ment Edi­tor, LA Times:

Nate can be read:

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Nate Jackson