No one could have been more excited to see a comedy show on a Friday night than me. Especially a comedy show by Jubal Flagg, MOViN 92.5’s popular morning show co-host of “Brooke and Jubal in the Morning.”
I’ve been listening to the show for years. I feel like I’ve gotten to know Brooke, Jubal and Jose through hilarious Second Date Updates and Jubal’s Phone Taps. I was so excited when I heard Jubal was presenting a new comedy show at the Kirkland Performance Center. I reserved the tickets for myself and my mom, who is also a big fan of the show, and rushed home from work ready to have an evening to remember.
Oh, it was an evening to remember — one I’d rather forget.
I knew the show, “Burn it Down: More Than Stand-Up. It’s Standing Up,” was going to be a different kind of comedy show from the beginning. The phrase, “Burn it Down,” is his personal mantra. Throughout his life, he experienced horrific physical, mental and emotional abuse from his parents and previous girlfriends. To become a better person and live a better life, he needed to deal with his past and then “burn it down.”
“Sometimes, in order to make something better, you have to completely destroy it … ‘Burn it Down’ is the story of me learning to stop surviving and start living,” he said in a pre-recorded short video presented at the beginning of the show.
This was the format: Jubal stands at the mic and tells jokes. The stage goes black and a phrase in orange flames appears on the screen. The stage lights again with Jubal sitting on a pillow-strewn couch where he “burns down” the jokes by explaining the background of his abuse — abuse that includes mental and emotional manipulation and rape.
Stand up, sit down and repeat.
It’s an interesting concept, I’ll give him that. Comedians don’t often reveal too much about their past and how it’s influenced them in such an overtly honest manner.
That’s where it ends. It was an interesting idea with a poor execution.
Here’s an example:
Jubal talks about relationships. Jumping from first dates and how men suppress the urge to fart to avoid disgusting their date, to being too lazy to drive two miles off the freeway for food, to dealing with the horrors of a hangry girlfriend, and to slacking off in long-term relationships. The audience roared and even I had to chuckle because, well, I am a hangry girlfriend.
Then, the stage goes black. Flaming orange letters light up on the screen, “I Lied to You.” Stage lights come back on and Jubal is on the couch.
“I told you that I’m too lazy to maintain a relationship. That’s actually not true. I’m incredibly hard working at my job and my relationships until they start to hurt. That’s when I get lazy. I’m not lazy on accident. I get lazy on purpose,” he said.
As a kid, he said whenever he felt like he was being abused he got lazy because he couldn’t fight. Due to abuse and codependency, he lied to his romantic partners and they, in turn, lied to him. And, ultimately, both would get tired of being someone they weren’t, leading to distrust and resentment. When he would be abused in his relationships, he would become apathetic.
Then, it shifts again. Jubal goes on to talk about how he trusted these women to be strong and different from his mother, who he described as weak as she did nothing to stop his father’s abuse. He said when he got the call that his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he ran out and ate tacos.
“Most people would travel across the country to be at their mother’s side. Not me. I got tacos. I always felt guilty about that until I realized where it came from. I trusted her and she allowed me to be hurt. My avoidance was a way of lashing out and showing her, ‘you know what? I don’t care about you, either.’”
He said he no longer feels guilty over not reaching out to his dying mother because his abusive father stood in the way of them having a relationship, so it’s not his fault.
And that was the whole night. A brief stand-up stint followed by overly-personal accounts of abuse and how he takes the blame for how he let some things affect him but then deflect blame for things he’s done.
I look to my mother sitting next to me. She’s sobbing. She experienced a near-identical abusive life to what Jubal described. Bringing up abusive event after abusive event with, what I assume is with the intent to demonstrate healing and possibly provide help in some way, caused an inverse reaction.
I looked around the dim room and saw several people with their heads hung low. I’m sure other people, other than my mother, experienced abuse. I know for her, and even myself, hearing about someone else’s past trauma doesn’t help. It keeps reopening wounds, and not in a constructive way.
This wasn’t really a comedy show. No one goes to a show to be reminded of past trauma and then have it be mocked. No one goes to a show to feel worse coming out of it.
I felt used and manipulated into being Jubal’s unsuspecting therapist for the evening. It was the night Jubal Flagg sat on my couch.