Jay Mohr on Alyssa Milano, raising kids and napping in Las Vegas

Jay Mohr is anxious to put the Alyssa Milano controversy behind him as he prepares to play the South Point this weekend.

So, I wanted to start with a question about the fallout over your Alyssa Milano post-baby-weight joke at the NASCAR awards … That’s actually not even correct. I didn’t even know she had post-baby weight. She weighed about 104 pounds. It was a complete farce. It was like calling Einstein a dummy. Like Teddy Roosevelt a coward. And somebody in the media picked it up and ran with it. The joke about her weight was a joke, and the joke was that she’s so tiny. So I don’t know how everything escalated from there.

I mean, it’s just … It was international news. And now suddenly I’m … whatever. You know, no good … You’re not gonna … When something like that happens, no matter the apology, no matter the clarification, you’re not winning anyone back. There are just people out there who think I have a problem with women that have post-baby weight, and it’s not the case. It’s the story that was fabricated. I made the apology, my apology said she’s the size of a thimble, I thought it was obvious the lunacy of what I was saying, and then she’s on talk shows, talking about it, and I was just … It’s just an absolutely ridiculous situation.

I spent my entire life fighting for women. I named my last special Funny for a Girl, because I hate the double standard for female comics in comedy. And you can’t say things like that in an apology letter, because it makes you look like you’re trying to make yourself look good, so it’s just one of those horrible situations.

I just feel like the fire’s gone out, and if we address it, we’re just reminding people that they should not like me.

Well, my question was, as a stand-up comedian, when things like this happen, does it make you gun-shy the next time you go out on stage, or as a comedian, do you accept these kinds of things as part of the job? You have to accept it as part of the job if it happens to you, and then you do also get gun-shy. Any reference to women in my podcast has been removed, because people will isolate that and use it as proof that I’m against women. When it was on ABC News and Good Morning America and TMZ and Extra, they use the Alyssa Milano thing, and then they tied it to the one joke I told about Danica Patrick at the NASCAR Awards, like it was a pattern of me bashing women. Danica was one of 18 drivers in the room, and they all got roasted, and no one said, “You should have seen what he said about Kyle Busch!” We destroyed Jeff Gordon that night. You know, it’s just … you make the story where there is no story. It’s just, as a married guy, when guys ask me, like, “How’d she look?” like, you know, sexually, I don’t know … I get very uncomfortable, so I make a joke. And the joke was, “She had a giant gut.” And it’s absurd. She’s very small. She has no gut. She has no weight. And then it just became international. Really? The Daily Mail in England? New York Times? LA Times? Us Weekly? It was just … wow! It was just absurd, and then you apologize and the apology gets accepted, and then a week later it just keeps going, and here we are, still going.

It’s been completely dead for a while. That’s why my response is more heated than normal and not as calculated and calm. It’s really died down. It would be the same as if Brad Pitt was there. “How’d he look?” “Well, you know, he’s ugly. Just disgusting, just a pig.” It’s absurd. And “fat shaming” was something I’d never heard of before. And then I was the poster boy for it, which is just absolutely absurd.

You took over for Jim Rome with Jay Mohr Sports when he moved to CBS. Was it intimidating stepping into his spot? No, I loved it, because I’d guest-hosted his show about 40 times. So I really felt like I was almost overly prepared to do it. I started without knowing how to do it. And then when I did test shows for Fox Sports, they taught me about the corporate clock, they taught me about teasing the next segment, not getting lost on tangents, so I felt like a quarterback who had been on the bench for a few years, studying for a while. I was really, really ready to get in there and get going.

You’re given a choice: You can only do sports or stand-up the rest of your career. Which do you choose and why? I would do stand-up, because it’s what I am. I was born a stand-up comic; I wasn’t born a sports talk radio host. So staying true to my DNA and genetic code, I would have to choose stand-up comedy. I think it would be an easy choice, because I have gone 42 years without ever doing sports talk radio, but when I was 16 years old, that was the first time I’d done stand-up comedy. I’ve never stopped doing it since, so anytime I was on a show or movie, I would always do stand-up on the weekends. I have to do it. It’s who I am. But sports talk, it’s a great gig. I only work 15 hours a week. I pick my kid up at preschool every day at 12:30. It’s amazing. But if I had to choose, gun to my head, I would have to pick stand-up comedy, because it would be a life of regret if I was on my deathbed having to put stand-up comedy aside.

You became a dad again in 2011. Does having children change the way you approach stand-up comedy? It gives you a lot more material. I don’t know if the approach changes. I think the approach stays the same. You think of something funny and then you find a group of strangers to share it with. I think that code never gets reformulated. But what’s great about having kids is they do the most beautiful, insane, frightening, idiotic, and hilarious things all at once, and then you can go out onstage in front of people and share it with them. And if you’re a good enough comic, someone who doesn’t have kids, they can still get on board just because it’s a funny story.

You’ve been in so many shows and movies over the years. You’ve done stand-up for decades. You have a sports talk radio show. Does it bug you just a little that people still refer to you as “that guy from Jerry Maguire”? No, not at all! As long as they refer to me at all, I don’t care which movie they choose. It’s all good by me. It shows you how big a movie that was, that people still identify me with that one role. No one ever realizes that that was the first role I had ever done.

When did you first realize that you had a gift for impersonations? I don’t know if I would call it a gift, because it got me kicked out of a lot of classes. I knew I had knack—I’ll call it a knack, that’s fair—I would say in grammar school, imitating other kids and imitating teachers, and then when I was 8 I saw the movie Stripes, and I remember I came home, and all my friends were all in my buddy’s garage, and I just sort of like … I had to explain to them, “there’s this incredible world of film out there that we’re all missing!” And it was R rated, and I got to see it, and I broke down all the scenes for them, and I acted out the funny parts, doing impressions of, like, Bill Murray and John Candy and everybody.

Are there any celebrities that you’ve tried to impersonate and just couldn’t get right? Yeah, there’s a bunch, and it makes me crazy. With me, I can’t ever learn an impression or practice an impression. I can either do it the second I try it or it’s never gonna happen. I’ve always wanted to be able to do Alan Alda. I saw a guy do Alan Alda once at a club. Just seeing a guy do Alan Alda perfectly just blew my mind. And so Alda is one. I’ve been trying to do Matthew McConaughey for a long time, but it’s hit or miss. And as you know, stand-up comedy is definitely not a hit or miss business. You gotta be able to hit it every time. If you do an impression and it stinks, you get booed off the stage.

Is there any particular comic talent that has been the biggest influence on you, or was it a combination of entertainers? Definitely a combination. At first it was quantity, seeing all comics all the time as much as I could, just seeing everybody in the world that does it, and just soaking it up like a sponge. The first one that really was a game-changer for me was Dennis Miller of The Off-White Album, because he had so many references that you knew 40 percent of the crowd, it went over their heads. But that 60 percent that got it, it made their night. And that was important for me to realize, you don’t have to smash 100 percent of the people every time. You can take a little time out for yourself and cater to those die-hard fans. When I do a Harvey Keitel impression, most of the time half of the room has no idea what I’m doing. But the people that love Reservoir Dogs, like they’re like, “Oh thank God! He did Harvey Keitel!” You know what I mean?

And then of course the obsession that I will always have with George Carlin and his use of words and his phrasing and the way he puts things together and the simplicity and the complexity. It’s almost like a musician putting together a classic song. Carlin remains the one that, when I listen to him on the way to shows, I’m just in awe.

It sounds like you are a movie buff. Huge!

Are there any particular movies you wish you could have been in? All of them! I mean, When I see Behind the Candelabra, I go, “Wow, I could have done Matt Damon’s role.” Obviously I couldn’t have, because Matt’s an A-list star, but more so I think of roles that have not been done that I wish I could play. I wish I could play George Carlin. I wish I could play Chet Baker.

Are there any particular projects you want to do? There’s some that we’re working on, my wife and I, that I won’t say, because I don’t want anyone to steal them. But again, to play Carlin and Baker, I think that would be great. It would be great to do something on Broadway. That would be exhilarating and great to live in Manhattan and do eight shows a week, and be close to my folks. But if you look at my IMDB page, I’ve had a lot of at-bats. I mean, there’s a lot of people that feel like, “You know if only I had the chance. If only I’d been given the opportunities.” I’ve been given a lot of opportunities. I have no complaints whatsoever.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in Las Vegas? Sleep! Oh my gosh. I have a 2-year-old at home, so when I get a weekend in Vegas, me and my wife … We’re the only people who go to Vegas and drink soft drinks, watch Law & Order and go to bed by 9 o’clock.

Is that really true? Oh, absolutely true! You know, we don’t party, we don’t gamble. I’ll play a little blackjack on my way to the casino, but then I really just want to go to bed. It’s so rare. I was up at 4 today. My baby gets up so early. I can’t figure it out, and so when I’m on the road, just to sleep till 9, it’s like, “Oh my gosh! This is heaven! And then I can take a nap at 1? This is insane. I’m a rock star! I’m napping!”

Jay Mohr January 24-26, 7:30 p.m., $35-$45. South Point, 797-8005.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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