109: Jason Stuart – Shut Up I’m Talking

Hollywood Actor and Comedian Inside Story

Speaker 1: Welcome to the authors who lead podcast. This podcast is dedicated to you. People who want to be inspired by authors leaders and the messages they share. This is such an important podcast to us because we help uncover what goes on behind the scenes. When authors are writing their book, we talk about the process. We talk about where they get big ideas and you can listen in on those conversations. We can't wait for you to join us. So let's get started. I'm excited

Speaker 2: About today's guest Jason Stewart. He's the author of shut up. I'm talking and not only that, but a comedian and an actor with 150 credits to his name. You might've seen him on kindergarten cop Vegas, vacation and TV shows like murder. She wrote, and the Duke Harry show more recently, he was starting the film birth of a nation. He talks about all this inside of his book and on the show, I can't wait for you to listen in. Everyone else will throw on us here. The host of authors who lead. I'm so excited today to have an incredible actor. Somebody who actually have admired from afar for awhile, Jason Stewart, just here he is the author of shut up. I'm talking as an amazing book. We're gonna talk a little about that book, that journey and his journey here. Jason, welcome to the show. Thanks for so much for having me on.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So w the very first thing that I want to say is I think there was an intersection in our life that neither of us knew about. I worked on the set of married with children for three seasons. I was a studio page. And so I traveled around to all these shows, late eighties, early nineties, when sit-com was King. So whether it be who's the boss, Nightcore Nightcore with my first gig, and I traveled around and I, I think I was like, maybe you were a warmup. Maybe you were stand up on one of the shows. I do remember somehow your face when I thought your first, like, I know this person.

Speaker 2: I think people get mixed up. Sometimes that happens a lot. Right? And so maybe you were on one of those sitcoms that I worked on, you know, that's possible, maybe know it's passing in the green room or something, but I do remember your face. What's really interesting is your book shut up. I'm talking really kind of paint the loan picture of the life of an actor or working actor. So many people don't understand how it all happens. And I'm lucky to coach a bunch of creatives, actors, writers, and comedians. Well it's for them during these times. So they can continue to create. It's really difficult to show up and create these times. So I just got on a call with them and they're amazing group of people. But one of the things that I learned is that everyone's story starts with a moment that was unexpected. It was perfectly exactly what it should be an unexpected in the Mo the moment for me in your book, where that happened was that, that chance meeting at the drug store at the coffee table with Shelley winters, the dive in right there, because it's not what a story starts, but it's worth it. The momentum started to pick up this idea of chance meetings. My friend, Jerry Juul, who's an actress and comedian, Oh, I forgot. Ran

Speaker 3: Into the producer of a Deadwood. And that's how she got her part in that she was in a drug store and that happened, but it's still the chance meetings and all that stuff. Really our Hollywood fable, I think because I used to go there all the time looking to meet people. So it was about doing the footwork, not expecting someone to come to me because I did the work and I showed up a lot. I would look to meet people. I didn't know. I was so young. I was 18 or 19 years old, and I didn't know what to do. And I'd heard that Schwab's is where actors hung out. So I thought that that's, they're going to go. That's where I'm going to go. I think the idea of someone waving a wand over your head picking, you're the one, unless you're breathtakingly good looking and you spend all your time working out and creating a gorgeous body, and you're selling yourself as that kind of a product is a sex symbol. You know, it's, it's hard to, for people to find you or you, or is there something about you that physically looks unusual? It would fit into a certain kind of role that they do all the time.

Speaker 3: You know, somebody stopped and going. I want that girl, you know, and then she freeze and go and her hands would gone. She had this weird look on her face, and that was, that's what I used to think that somebody would find me. I used to think that God had, you know, chose me because of all the pain that I went through as a kid. And, you know, you meet someone and they'll go, Oh my God, you know, they're like 15, and this is what God chose me to do. And I know it's all about, you'll see them on star search and American idol and all these shows, and this is what I meant to do. And it's just not true. Nobody's meant to do anything. It's a choice. And it's a craft. And it's something that you fall in love with. Like, I wanted to be a really big star when I was a kid, like everybody else on all those shows.

Speaker 3: And when that didn't happen, I fell in love with the work. And that's where my passion comes from. People always say, Oh, you're a hustler and big network. You're great at doing all this. I don't hustle. And I don't network. What I do is I look for things that I love people that I respect. And I look for people that I want to be a part of what they're doing and show them what I've done and see if they can, you know, if they think that I'm going to add something to the table and that's where I really try to do.

Speaker 2: Right. And I think what you said is you put in the work you showed up, you knew that's where things were happening, where people would be. I just interviewed an author, Carol Kline, who wrote a book with gay Hendricks called conscious luck. And it's really about the belief that you have. Everything goes by that. You are lucky, it's an inputting into practice. Like you have to take action. And as you said, in order for these things to take place, they are the chance that the right place at the right time are orchestrated by your belief that this is going to happen. And I'm going to put in the work I'm going to show up here so that when that time comes, you can say, winter will come, but you know, it will, if you keep showing up. And I really appreciate that. The things that struck me was the way in which your story evolved is it really took to your family being, having to flee during the Holocaust and making their way to America.

Speaker 3: That chapter's called, gotta move, got to get out. And the chapter about going to Schwab's is called Shelly. When it's changed my name, I love to say the chapter. I love the titles and getting the rights.

Speaker 2: Oh, they're so great. They could be their own. You really could remove each of those things, their own book. I, when I was reading it, I was like, there's so much probably about each of these conversations. That could be their own thing. So let's talk about that. Let's talk about that first, the first chapter you just mentioned, help them understand that, how you think that might have impacted your life. Moving forward as a young man, a young gay man who was really

Speaker 3: Well being a child of a Holocaust survivor, my father was not in the death camps that he was in the interment camps, the same ones that they've created in this country, you know, for people of color. And so I have a deep simpatico and a deep understanding of what it's like to be treated differently. You know, when I hear, when I talk about it, it just, emotions comes up in me and just completely takes over me. It never rarely does not in my father. I lived in a small town called Stanislav in Poland. And he, his father was a big mafia, which means a man of importance. And they ran a business that made metal parts. I don't know what, therefore, because I'm an actor community, but I don't think it exists anymore what they did. And they, and they also ran a little store and they lived above it.

Speaker 3: Then have this big house above it. Things were very different than they had a nanny and housekeeper and everything. And then one day you hear that the Nazis are coming in and they're going to your whole house. You know, your house is going to be stolen and your money's getting stolen. You're going to, they're going to take everything away from you. And my grandmother, Clara had this intuition and she knew that it was time to leave. And that's sort of crazy. Do you know what I mean? And she would know that they were both. My grandparents, both Jack and Clara were from very big families, 10, 12 children each. So their whole town was still with family and they thought she was crazy for doing that. And one day they planted it. She had two small children, my, my dad and my uncle Mike. And they went to the train station with one suitcase, you know, and as they were getting on the, on the plane, I'm sorry, the plane got on the train. My grandmother went to hug my grandfather and she pulled him on. And the next day the whole town would decimate it. It's just hard to comprehend.

Speaker 2: It is. It's really hard to comprehend. And the reason that that chapter in particular struck me was the intuition moment.

Speaker 3: How would she have known people? People ask that all the time and you know, my dad wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here. You, you know, when you're growing up, when you're a child of a Holocaust survivor, you know, you learn, my father lived in basements and addicts and barn ghettos for years. And the Polish German, the German American camp and all these places that were, he was locked in. He always used to say, why are you crying? What are you so upset about? You don't, you have everything? I had nothing. I didn't have a piece of bread to eat. And I said, dad, I'm eight. I don't know what you're talking about. You know? And I would spend my whole childhood, you know, with my grandparents speaking in Yiddish. Cause they didn't want me to hear what they were saying. And I didn't learn the language, which I regret.

Speaker 3: And I resented them so much. And I really wish I could have understood, but they were very angry. They were very angry and they had all this post traumatic stress. And I did not, I was not capable of understanding it. And they were not capable of communicating that. And as the years went on, there was more forgiveness. There was a lot of judgment too on them, on me being gay. Actually speaking those words, you know, it was the eighties. It was a different time. And my grandparents didn't understand. And I didn't understand that as the years went on, it evolved Lord. There was more forgiveness and understanding. It's still both. My grandparents died when I was young, my twenties and thirties. I don't remember the year. Oh no, it was all, both. My parents, grandparents died when I was in my thirties. I remember because I was, it's a funny, I remember cause I was attacked by my uncle and I remember the shirt that I was wearing.

Speaker 3: And I remember that I had done a show with George Clooney called sunset beat. I had a recurring role and I wore that shirt in the show. That's how I remember then. So it's probably early nineties is when they were both. I think my grandmother died. The lady is my grandpa. Anyway, it doesn't matter. But they had this friend named and she would talk like, this is just Polish picture cheeks. And she'd say, Oh my God. You know? And she was so beautiful flower dresses. And she was always so up. You would never know how she came to America. She stood in the line with all her family and everybody there was shocked in a line in the lineup. And when her mother was shot, who was next to her, she fell to the ground and she lied among the dead bodies for hours and hours on end until everyone had gone to then she, she ran away.

Speaker 3: It's just amazing stories like that, of people who survived. So that's what I come from. My grandmother, my grandfather onto the train, her hair turned white overnight. That night she was so frightened. They didn't know where they were going. They didn't know how they would meet anybody. They had a suitcase that was it with a few things. And two young children. My grandfather was, I think, 11 or 12 there. My uncle was four, five. I mean the whole town was decimated. Everybody was killed. The only relative my grandfather had that alive with my great uncle, Dave, who was in the military and he had married a non Jewish woman. And for years they barely spoke so crazy after all of that, you know, there was always this riff between them and everybody, you know, got very angry and everybody had post traumatic stress. And I didn't understand, I didn't understand the implications of that and why my father used to say, you can't trust anybody. And I was thinking to myself, these people are crazy. How can I trust them? Know ethnic and yelling and screaming. You know, it took me years to figure out you don't have to yell and scream to get attention. You know, you don't have to be the one, you know, having the last word, you can listen a little or you can choose to walk away.

Speaker 2: So this, this, this history of yours, if so much, seems to have informed your ability to withstand things like a business that isn't isn't, pollyannic, isn't it doesn't, it's not for the meek,

Speaker 3: Mostly anything that's most businesses that are, you know, if you want to be a lawyer, you want to be a doctor. You want to be something, anything, any profession that requires a lot of craft and learning, but you know, you watch Grey's anatomy. I would say, why is everybody's so mean to each other? Why are they all, some need to the new people coming in? Because to me, when people yell and scream at or tough on you, that's when I don't do well. You know, that's where I have to really, really keep my shit together. I gotta keep my shit. And that's when you know, yelling and screaming does not give you your best work. I don't think

Speaker 2: No. I, you know, that's interesting because way away in the eighties, when I first got to LA, I had gone there to go to school at UCLA. But my heart was to be

Speaker 3: The thing about acting though, was I had never taken me. Yeah.

Speaker 2: So I applied to UCLA and theater and they're like, the application was basically blank, which is, you know, what's your experience? What musicals have you been in? What dance classes? And I put basically nothing. I think I, I did the Shakespeare play. The Tempest was the only thing I had ever done

Speaker 3: Repeating itself. I did one Shakespearian play Corey Elena's, which is a more obscure one. I did it at the theater in Los Angeles. I forgot the name of it, but it was associated at the time with Shakespeare. And I have, I was a spear carrier basically. And I had my one line when saw, you says the poetry, his eyes and his ears to pray, you get out. And I still remember it isn't that crazy. I couldn't learn Shakespeare now to save my life.

Speaker 2: It is so complex. I was, was really found it fascinating. And Tiffany Haddish is book where she talks about that. She got into Shakespeare in high school. I was like, I can't wait to see Tiffany Haddish. She's a friend of mine. Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3: He's a dear friend of mine. We started out together at the laugh factory. I know I've known her since she was 20 years old or 20. I don't know, somewhere around there. 18, 19, 20, 21. And a lovely, lovely gal, smart, talented, just an extraordinary gal. Who's still shows up for friends when she can.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's great. And her story again, this there's a deep sense of commitment that goes beyond self, because I think though the traumas of our families that we bring with us, the things that we experience in our own lives, they either crush us maybe.

Speaker 3: Well, we all do. You can't get out of, you know, without creating crash. You cannot, it's not possible. Right? I don't believe it's possible. I believe that, you know, the remnants of the business are on you and you just have to be able to get up, you know, over and over and over again. You have to be able to get up and do that. Get up, start up, dust yourself off and start all over again.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And in your book, you describe those moments, you know, as coming out as gay. I remember the one moment that struck me is when you finally decided to look up the encyclopedia Britannica or wherever it was,

Speaker 3: What the word homosexual man. Oh my God. I forgot about that. And it said mentally in that book, that was 10 years of therapy,

Speaker 2: Right? It's I think, you know, it seems so easy and I don't want to belittle it. The people they don't just to come out, coming out with, there was a consequence to your own psyche, trying to figure out why am I so different? Why can I just be like other people

Speaker 3: I told you that I was married to a woman for 15 years is a beautiful friend. She's a dear friend of mine, lesbian. This is what, this is what being in the closet is. You're in the closet. You're standing in the shoes. You're behind the leather jacket. There's hat boxes and shit. And away. Somebody opens the door, shines a light in your face, take something and slams the door shot. And that's how you make all your decisions. So for people who were in the closet now in 2020, you were now not really capable of making decisions of how to handle your life in my opinion, because you can't see things clearly I've been deep in the closet. I've been happen in half hour and I've been completely out. So I've done all the experiences and believe me being who you are is more important than anything.

Speaker 3: You, she will lose things. If you will also gain something and to live that way, no matter where this interview goes and who is in the world, the only reason I say don't come out is when you can be physically harm. If someone can harm you in the country that you're living, that's real. But here in the United States, there really is no reason. I mean, my mother stopped speaking to me for literally nine months and we hadn't, there was a story about it in the book I won't get into. It's a longer story, but my mom now lives next door to me. Then the apartment downstairs, I'm upstairs, she's downstairs and one over and I take care of her. I see her every day and the forgiveness is there and I've never been closer to her. So things do change as they say it does get better sometimes.

Speaker 2: Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, what's really amazing is the chapter you also referenced here was Shelly winters changed my name. I thought that was a great chapter because as you know,

Speaker 3: Oh, we didn't have it in the book. And it just came up in conversation. It was one that was not in the book.

Speaker 2: It was to be pivotal because I think it showed that the intuition that the knowing behind the knowing, like the deer you're doing right, you're taking action. But there was something about that moment that was magical for me.

Speaker 3: It was this wonderful as you say, but it really isn't like that in the book. It is. And maybe I'm creating a whole nother it's about, I would sit there in my one room bachelor apartment and I would write letters to people and say, hello, I'm a character actor. I've done this USA student film. I was an extra on one day at a time. That's how I got my union card. And I would love to have a character actor. I want a general meeting. And I remember Pam Dickson gave me a big honcho at ABC. Gave me a general meeting, was my first one ever. I remember what I was wearing. I had my blue shirt with all the pockets and the things on the side and the buttons. And I wore a pair of pressed jeans and nice shoes. And I remember my hair was part of down the middle of the layered.

Speaker 3: And I went in and I met her. And around five years ago, she called me and offered me a part of a prison laundry guide to film called KLM. It was a very small part. And by the time the movie got done, nothing, but that's what happens. You know, it wasn't a big part. It was with a lot of interesting actors and it was a nice experience, but I got to work and I got to make money, but it wasn't anything career changing. And that took up a hundred years for someone to actually call and offer me something. And at the same time, I was incredibly grateful that that part came along and that I was able to work that day and practice my craft in front of a camera. You know, because that's what it's about. It's more than five years ago, cause it was before birth of nation.

Speaker 3: So that that's what happens. You know, everything is a building block. If you expect to send select yesterday, I'll tell you yesterday. I sent a letter to every casting director that I had an email to talking about how I was feeling about what's going on in the world and what I really want. And I really want to work with talented people. And most of the time, these casting directors don't have time to watch everybody's demo reel. So I sent two really great demo. Reels of my work probably takes someone seven minutes to watch. And hopefully during this downtime during lock time, someone will watch it and offer me apart or at least call me in, you know, and that's my hope. And uh, you know, but I, and I'm still doing the foot work to change the course of my career so people can see the work. It's always about the work for me.

Speaker 2: I appreciate you saying that. And that's one of the, when I first I knew nothing about acting. I was definitely a, since I hadn't been anything, except for that Shakespeare play, I had no training. I didn't know what I was doing. I went to some commercial workshop, you know, six weeks of this workshop. And the instructor was basically saying, look, this is the career. If you're here for some other things, if you're here for, for some, you know, your big break, you're in the wrong place, but if you want to be a working actor, if you want to show up and do the work, there's plenty of work. We're not, we're not, we don't need more of the same people. We need you. We need you very unique looking people because the world revolves around that. There's only a few of these famous actors, you know? And I looked very young. I looked 15 when I was 19. So I got to audition for a lot of small parts that were, you know, because they didn't have to pay the waivers or they didn't need a social worker that really wasn't there.

Speaker 3: My first part on one day at a time, I sent him my picture to all the families cast director, because I love that show. And the casting director called me and said, we want you to come in and be an extra on this show called mod. You're going to play a usher there. The girls are going to a game show. You're going to be an usher and bring them to their seat as an Oh my God. And I was going to get them. I called him. I said, I'm 17. I'm going to need, you know, a I'd gone to a seminar. So I said, I'm 17. I'm going to need to have a, a teacher on the set. And they said, Oh, we can't do that for someone who's doing a small, silent bit. So when you turn 18, you call us. I call them the day after I turned 18, because I didn't want to be too pushy. And later they called me for art on one day at a time. And I got my union.

Speaker 2: That's amazing. Yeah, that's definitely, that's an, that's the part you have to learn is you just put in the work and you know, I, I was very interested. I didn't have the tenacity that you had around this, and that's the thing I want you to

Speaker 3: Exactly. My dad that comes to my dad. My dad was a Russian Polish man who came to this country without a pot to piss in. As he said, he started out as a tie cutter or a janitor in a factory, like a lot of immigrants and became a tie cutter in New York, learned to cut ties very fast. And they hired him in California. He was a big Mocket his business. And he became a self made millionaire, you know, later going into real estate. After that was over, he learned to cut ties. He went in for being a tie cutter to a tag manager, managing departments of being vice presidents, only part of the country, the company. And that's, that's what I, that. So my dad taught me more by what he did to keep showing up. Now, let me also say this. There's a lot of people that don't like it, that I will set up and send something to them directly, or that I worked so hard to show up.

Speaker 3: If I believe in something, there's some people that just want you to just wait and be chosen, you know? But in the eighties, when I was a gay kid, people would look at me and just go, Oh my God. And they'd say to my face, everybody, who's listening. Just put your hand up in front of your face. I would say, put your hand. That's what it felt like when I walked into an office, I didn't have this voice. I didn't have this confidence. I didn't have this tenacity, you know, of spirit. And I was scared most of the time I was scared. And they just would say that there was a big famous casting director and it was Joyce sells there and she was sitting at a desk and I walked in and then she looked up and she went to old and I was auditioning for a pilot of the Archie comics to play Jughead. And she just, and I walked into the closet and left and I, and she said, Jason, come out of the closet.

Speaker 3: And I think she was a lesbian, I don't know for sure at all. But she seemed very tough, you know, and had that sort of exterior, not to perpetuate stereotypes, but she just seemed, I don't know, sometimes, you know, each other and never met with her again. I don't think I ever got to see her again. People just didn't give me a chance. And I think at that time I didn't get it. You know, there was no information about being gay. So I didn't really get that. They didn't want, because I was gay because I wasn't willing to admit that I was gay. So the discussion was going on in my head, not with any other human person, again, making crazy decisions of how I run my life. And didn't realize that I had a family at the time and I had a sort of crazy kind of Marlo Thomas, that girl kind of personality, you know, I was goofy and crazy and funny and talk really fast.

Speaker 3: And I didn't really know who I, who I was didn't exist. My friend, Jim J Bullock, who was on too close for comfort was the last funny guy who was in the closet and on a sitcom playing, you know, like a straight guy, supposedly Charles Nelson. And then I thought that's where I should be. That's where I should be. Because those people were allowed to work during the eighties. Those, that characters sort of died off because it seemed ridiculous, but we knew what gay people were. And that evolvement of us playing were gay characters came by the nineties, but there was that 10 year span of really not having a place to exist. And people would tell me that I was too light. My loafers, or my slip was showing those are all those expressions. And there was a couple people like Jackie Burch, a lovely woman who just sent me an email the other day, a casting director casting some of the biggest movies in Hollywood, you know, just a brilliant casting director and was casting a movie.

Speaker 3: She worked with Michael [inaudible] and helped me get kindergarten cop and helped me get so many biggest vacation and other films that I got. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gotten it. And those are films that helped me pay my health insurance. A couple, not a couple of number of times because enough money, but there are people like that that just sort of put their arm around me and help me. And no matter what, there were small parts, nothing to write home about, but I was making a living and working and working and working and trying to get someplace. And I just, I didn't have the same, like when I got, when I did, uh, I think the big, my first big, big thing was star search in the 85, 86 season, I had met a manager still don't remember how all this happened and that a manager who took me on and they had everybody was talking.

Speaker 3: I was so funny and so crazy that I would be the next star search winter is I think the show was somewhat manipulated. I can't say it for real, but there was a lot of things that happened that made me think that all these shows are somewhat manipulated because in a lot of it comes from racism and sexism and racism and all homophobia, xenophobia, all this kind of stuff. And it's not that people do it purposely it's that they're taught that they're taught. That's what other people want. They're taught with what is attracted to other people and what is considered beauty? What is considered anything? So I was on that show and I did two shows. I lost one, one that I lost to Martin Lawrence and I stamped my foot walked off. And that was my first big thing of, uh, of a thing.

Speaker 3: And then I became the traffic school comedian, and then I got a kindergarten cop. And then I, my big, big break I'd say happened. It was a series of things that happened was a guest star, a TV sitcom, starring David weigh-ins, who I'd worked with at the comedy store. I auditioned the same night he did after him or before him. I don't remember. And I remember I was so nervous that she passed me as a showcasing regular, which means you get no money. And if somebody wants to see you, if they call up somebody, that business wants to see you. And I remember I used to drive him home because he didn't have a car. So in 2000, I think it was that's 2000. And I started pursuing my career in probably 1976. I started mailing pictures of resumes off, started studying in 1974. I mean, it was crazy.

Speaker 3: I got a call from my agent saying that they wanted me to play dr. Thomas on my wife and kids. And she was a shrink again. And I said, why do I come into audition? They said, there's no audition. You have the part. I was shocked. And I still think I would not have gotten that part of my audition because it was written very cleanly and very bitchy. And when I read it over, I decided to play it very like he was the nicest kid in the road, just wanted to help and the show and my part recurred. And I did four episodes and it changed my standing in the sitcom world. And then I had done drew Carey show, the norm McDonald show will and grace, all these sitcoms, George Lopez. And I did a lot of them during that, that time. And it really changed me.

Speaker 3: And I became not just a comedian, but a guy that could do sitcoms. And that's what happens. Nobody believes you can do anything unless you're breathtaking. The gorgeous, as I said, or you look like somebody who would play the killer, you have that stereotypical look, you know, you're that kind of thing. And that's how my career got it is I kept showing up over and over and over again. And you know, I got knocked down a lot, but I just love what I was doing. And I couldn't see myself doing something else. It was my dream. And I still feel that way. And as I go into my older years, being a man of a certain age, I still have the passion. You know, when I got birth of the nation five years ago, now it was in 2015. And the film came out in 2016 and the theaters and in 2017 are streaming and online and it was playing a white heterosexual Christian plantation on 1831 completely changed my career.

Speaker 3: People finally said, Oh my God, yes, he can play someone. That's not gay. He can play someone. That's not him. No, I had done that hearts and things where I played straight people and independent films or guesting on things. People still just couldn't see it. I mean, my friend, Adam Balanoff who produced, produced the closer and major crimes, I met him at a neighbor's house. Luke Yankee was a wonderful writer and actor and his mom was Atlantic Hecker who won the Oscar for butterflies for free. And he lived next door in my apartment building. He, uh, invited me to a Christmas party and I met Adam Balanoff and Adam was a straight guy with a wife and kid and he, and I just hit it off. And it's funny and Jewish and from New York and interesting and just a great guy. And I called him and said, Hey, is there anything I can audition for on the closer?

Speaker 3: And I would call him, you know, nothing came out. One part, there was a part of this manager of a storage facility. And it was a white guy who was supposedly a heavy, sad, and just sort of, you know, I guess, middle of the road kind of guy, but part that I don't never got. And I went in and read and everybody looked like, you know, the classic straight guy in his forties. And I, uh, did it totally look like this. And I decided to play this kind of guy that came from New York. And I made up this whole idea that he came from New York and he said, this job and he's lonely. And he's, you know, and I made up all this stuff and they love me. And I got the part and that changed the trajectory of my career. Again, started know, get started in our drama and plays somebody that was a humorous person and a dramatic thing.

Speaker 3: And I had done it several times before on charm and house in Providence. Some of his show murder murder one, I think, but it didn't, they weren't great parts. This was a great part. That's when talent meets opportunity is when you show up. And when I did birth of the nation, they Parker chose me. I mean, it was just shocking because I didn't want to audition for it. I thought I'm not going to have a cast. And he is like white heterosexual, Christian plantation owner, 1831 temporary. And you know, I was just, I was completely blown away. And the whole experience changed me as a unit, as an artist, to be a part of such an inquiry. It's everything I wanted is to have eight scenes. I didn't get cut out of anything. My name was on the screen. I had front card billing. I was treated as if I were part of a family of actors.

Speaker 3: It was a story about black abolitionists, Nat Turner. I got to be a part of something about the first person to fight the white plantation owners. It spoke to me in my history as a Jewish man and as a gay man and fighting back, and I got to work with army hammer Miller, check your Hayley, Roger Dan, your Smith and Natalie King. How to get away with murder and all these incredible as the late Esther Scott, who became a good friend of mine, all these people, these wonderful, wonderful actors who were just so gifted and the story where people went into theater and in Sundance, they clapped for 10 minutes. You can see it online premiere at Sundance, we wanted the audience award and the grand jury award. And if people want to watch the film, they can see it. It's on Amazon right there. It's on HBO. It's on Amazon and it's brilliant. Brilliant. So

Speaker 2: I can't wait to watch it. I was very excited about when it came out, I was living in Shanghai at the time, but the thing that's really here, I hope people are listening. Creators writers, people who decide to do this showing up consistently is half. If not all of the battle to begin with, if you don't show up, you'll never get better. You'll never shift. You'll never grow, grow through the tough times. How do you keep pushing? Like how do you, I know you love it.

Speaker 3: Hi. How are you? I'm just, I'm a masochist, I guess. I don't know. I always, there was a film called defending your life and you can see your whole life flash in front of you before you died and get to go to the next place. And Albert Brooks is narrow street. And I remember thinking, God, if I saw my own life, I go, Oh no, that's not that, Oh God, that's scary. Oh, well, that's funny. I think if I saw it, I would never have done this. We've mentioned scared, but I just felt that this is where I belong. And I think if you don't care about the work, there's so many people that just want to be famous. And I guess you can I take talk, you know, these videos and people falling down a flight of stairs or someone's screaming at somebody or the Kardashians certainly have changed our business and taken over it partially.

Speaker 3: But I don't think that these reality people, I don't think they, I think they've become separated. Now. They used to reality. People used to move in to a film and television and theater in terms of our work. And they would go back and forth. Then I don't think that happens anymore because I think most people who are young and new that they don't do the work. They don't take class. I know people that they go to class, they can't wait. You know, being couple years, I was in class probably 25 years of my career, half of my career, you know, since I was a baby boy going to class since I was 14 years old studying. And until like two years ago, it was the last time I was in class, I think was with Larry moss' masterclass. I still get coached by people when I bought missions. It's something that I think is important that I don't get. I still do that. I still seek support and help. I don't think I know everything. I just don't. You know, when I need help, I ask for it.

Speaker 2: If you were going to give a message to other creatives out there, authors, writers, actors,

Speaker 3: What would the advice be? Or could you get this book shut up? I'm talking for CCB publishing. Here's my book will tell you a lot about, you know, I think if you're really, Oh, that's for me, then you'll do it. But it also separates the men from the boys, as they say, the advice is, is fine. A lot of people say, Oh, I want to be in show business. And, uh, Barbara Streisand, there was a famous story. And I think I'm paraphrasing. It's in my book, somebody, a friend of Barbara's comes over and says, Barbara, I'd love you to meet my niece. She wants to be an actress and viruses, of course, I'd be happy to. She meets her. And the gal says to Barbara, Barbara, do you think that I should be an actress? And Barbara says no. And she says, well, what do you mean why?

Speaker 3: She said, because if you don't need it or want it, it's not a need or a want. Then, you know, if you have to ask, if you have to ask that question, should I do this? Then it's not for you. And I think a lot of people will see what's on stage or which on screen. And they'll say, Oh, I want it. I want to be part of that. What they don't really get is that's what you see in the front. There's thousands of other jobs in this industry. So if you love the entertainment industry, there are other jobs. There's writers, producers, directors, casting directors, agents, managers, script, these script supervisors, extra, you know, director of photography, the guy that goes to class, you know, the props, decorating clothes, you know, there's so many jobs in our business to do. And sometimes you just want to be a part of it. So if your talent is not acting, your talent could be, you know, set decorator or another thing. So a lot of people create their own content. I just created my own content again. For the second time I created a series that I'm doing called smothered a year ago. It's about these two guys who have been in a relationship for 30 years, who hate each other and can't afford to get divorced.

Speaker 3: And we have two people, very interested in pitching it to the networks. It took a year and a half from the beginning of starting this. And so somebody to take us seriously, you know, we have seven episodes, which we're trying to get on Amazon prime on the, put your own stuff on, but because the pandemic is everything's behind. So we make, put it on YouTube. We haven't decided yet, but we'll find out in the next week or so, whether someone's going to be pitching us. So we'll see what happens. So that's what I mean, be a content creator too. You can produce your own products. I heard another series that people can watch now on Amazon called mentor. And it's about this guy. We all play ourselves. I was very influenced by the Louis C K Louis C K show Louie and someone to tell my own story.

Speaker 3: My father had just passed and I was, didn't know where I was. I'd lost my way a bit. And I met this guy, this young, middle Eastern straight guy who wanted me to mentor this Jewish guy. And the whole story was about him wanting to mentor me, but really happens is, you know, I'm sorry. The whole story is about me, him wanting him wanting to mentor me to mentor him, but it came about me. The story came that he mentored me. I wish I could say that better. It's really great. We're gonna link up for sure. In the show notes of the Amazon specials, as well as the shut up I'm talking, it's a great credible story of resilience and the business and who you are. Jason, thank you so much for being a guest here. I hope to have you back again because I really do want to tell them about the whole moment where Shelley winters gave me your name and how she was like, that's a terrible name for a cute boy, but you know what? Read the book, read the book, find it out. All you have to do is go to my website, which is Jason stewart.com Stu. And yeah, that's it. Awesome. Thank you so much. Take care everybody.

Speaker 1: Thank you for listening again, to another episode of authors who lead, we appreciate you being here and we hope you will subscribe. So you get this delivered to your device every week. And if you haven't left us a review, please do so. It really helps. And if you have a book in your heart, you've been wanting to write a book. Please go to authors who lead.com and join us on this journey of becoming a published author.

Jason Stuart is an actor, comedian, and author of the book, Shut Up, I’m Talking! which chronicles Jason’s life and career as an actor and comedian. It’s the funny, poignant story of a gay Jewish boy whose life changed after seeing Funny Girl at a second-run movie theatre in Hollywood. 

Born in the Bronx and raised in Los Angeles, Jason Stuart has been working professionally as an actor and comedian for thirty years, ultimately making a name for himself when a personal decision – to finally publicly acknowledge his identity as a gay man – gave him some prominence in an era when many performers remained closeted.  

Nearly 25 years later, Jason admits that being gay is only a small part of his identity, and he has transcended any sort of label through his increasingly impressive range of dramatic work far removed from his success as a stand-up comedian. 

What We Discuss with Jason Stuart:

  • The impact on his life being a child of a holocaust survivor
  • Coming out of the closet
  • The knowing behind the knowing
  • Showing up consistently

[06:22] The Impact on His Life as a Young Gay Man

Being a child of a Holocaust survivor, Jason has always had this deep understanding of what it’s like to be treated differently. When he hears or talks about it, emotion comes up and just completely takes over him. 

Jason’s father lived in a small town in Poland and he ran a business. They lived comfortably in a big house, having a nanny and housekeeper. But everything changed when the Nazis came, went over their house, and stole everything. The day before the whole town got decimated, his grandmother had this intuition it was time to leave so they got on the train and left. 

With his dad being locked in the internment camp, he spent his whole childhood with his grandparents who talked Yiddish because they didn’t want them to hear what they were saying. Both his parents and grandparents died in his 30s. Jason didn’t understand the implications of that and why his father used to say you can’t trust anybody but the Jews. He thought these people are crazy, especially that everybody had PTSD.

It took him years to figure out you don’t have to yell and scream to get attention. You can listen a little, or you can choose to walk away.

[17:06] Coming Out of the Closet

For people who are in the closet now in 2020, you are now not really capable of making decisions on how to handle your life because you can’t see things clearly.

Being who you are, is more important than anything. You will lose things and you will also gain something if you live that way. 

The only reason you don’t come out is when you can be physically harmed. If someone can physically harm you in the country that you’re living, that’s real. But here in the United States, there really is no reason. 

[19:34] Just Show Up! 

Everything is a building block. But you just need to put in the work. Jason had no training. He went to some commercial workshop and quickly learned that you have to do the work. And one of his greatest influences was his father, a Russian Polish man who immigrated to the U.S. with nothing and worked all his way up to become a self-made millionaire.

If you believe in something, there are some people that want you to just wait and you’d be chosen. 

But as a gay kid back in the 80s, Jason didn’t have the voice. He didn’t have the confidence, the tenacity, and the spirit. He was scared most of the time. 

People just didn’t give him a chance. There was not much information about being gay. It was a 10-year span of really not having a place to exist. But a few people helped him get through in Hollywood. He felt these shows were somehow manipulated because a lot of it was around racism and sexism and all homophobia and xenophobia.

It’s when talent meets opportunity is when you show up.

The most important takeaway is that Jason showed up each time because he got knocked down a lot. But he loves what he does so he couldn’t see himself doing someone else’s dream.

Episode Resources:

Shut Up, I’m Talking! by Jason Stuart

Smothered on Amazon Prime (starring Jason Stuart and Mitch Hara)



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