Hangin’ with Jason Gray
Ah, I could sit and chat with Jason for hours. He’s the kind of guy you just want to hang out with all the time. Such a great and humorous dude who dared enough to dream big. When all of his applications to dental school were denied, he felt his future path crumble before him. His comedic partner in crime, Matt Meese, suggested to him to jump in on this crazy adventure with BYUtv with their project Studio C.
Back then, they had almost zero dollars for their pilot. But they went for it and with an incredibly supportive audience made an awesome series that brought the likes of Conan O’Brien and J.J. Abrams knocking down their doors. Despite their incredible success, Jason has continued to be humble and approachable. He is gracious with everyone. Hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed chatting with him.
Who Is Jason Gray and What Is His Background
Jason Gray was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. He has five brothers and no sisters, which depending on perspective can be considered a blessing or a curse. In high school he made a short sketch video called “Sean Connery’s 7 Tips to Dating for Fools” and has been hooked on comedy ever since.
He met his wife through his roommate back in college when she was dating his roommate, although it hasn’t affected their friendship, as they are still friends with his old roommate! Jason now has three children with his wife and is rather obsessed with Batman.
Jason’s love of acting started by making funny sketch-type videos with friends and showing them to church groups. When “The Dark Knight” came out, he wrote and starred in a parody of it called “The Dateman.” He played the Joker and was bent on spoiling the Dateman’s social life by sabotaging his dates. He has said he “had such a blast making the film that I wanted to keep pursuing sketch comedy.”
For most of his life he grew up thinking and wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps into dentistry. He graduated with a biology degree and had even applied to dental school. As he went into acting, a career in dentistry grew farther and farther away.
How Did Jason Get Into Acting and Comedy?
Jason first fell in love with comedy when he saw Jim Carrey star in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” as a child. He has said that he “walked out of the theatre telling everyone that he wanted to do that someday.” However, he spent most of his young life pursuing dentistry and following in his father’s footsteps. It wasn’t until his cousin first put the idea of acting in his head that he decided to pursue it. Other people in his life had also suggested the idea, so he decided to take the leap and try it out.
When Did Studio C Come About?
After Jason had made” The Dateman,” he noticed auditions were being held at BYU for Divine Comedy. He wasn’t expecting the turnout when he arrived at the audition and nearly gave up and went home. However, he ended up staying and auditioning anyway. When Jason first started at Divine Comedy, he got through to the last round but unfortunately didn’t make it. However, he then spent the following year working on his sketches and then Divine Comedy became his big break into the industry.
Fast forward a few years, and Matt Meese approached Jason and asked him if he was interested in doing the show for BYUtv. Jason immediately agreed, and that’s the moment his dreams of becoming a dentist were completely in the past. Now Jason can’t imagine his life any other way and although he would like to continue acting and doing comedy, his ultimate goal is to star in a Christopher Nolan movie.
What Else Does He Do?
Jason Gray is also well known for his impressions and has mastered many over the years, including Darth Sidious from the “Star Wars” movies and Snape from the Harry Potter franchise. Jason enjoys taking on the mannerisms of characters and will spend hours perfecting his impressions by watching each actor in many different films and sketches.
Jason is a devout Latter-day Saint and encourages all religions to enjoy the kind of comedy he produces. He say, “Our comedy is very inclusive. You do not have to be LDS to understand or appreciate our humor. This allows Church members to share it, without having to explain ‘inside jokes’ that are only funny to [Latter-day Saint] culture. Clean comedy is for everyone, and we want Catholics, Buddhists, atheists, and whoever else to enjoy our show.”
Fun Additional Information about Jason Gray
Home state: Idaho
LDS mission: Argentina
Hogwarts House: Slytherin
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite sports: Tennis, basketball, ladder golf
Biggest fear: Spiders
Favorite school subject: Video Tech
Least favorite school subject: Math
Favorite sketch: AMC’s Breaking Bad Parody: For Kids!
Jason Gray Podcast Transcription
Jason: Hold this to your face.
Charan: Oh, man. I just thought this is pretty great.
Charan: And all of that is going to go on the podcast, by the way, because we are rolling on this.
Jason: Yeah, great.
Charan: We’re rolling on this.
Jason: Comedic gold.
Charan: It’s better than Studio C. That’s what that was. What’s going on, guys? This is Charan Prabhakar with the Lemonade Stand podcast. I’m here with my good buddy, Jason Gray, who so gracefully decided to join us on this epic adventure that we’re having. But yeah, Jason, thanks so much, man. I really appreciate you taking the time. I’m going to give a little intro about you and how we even met-
Jason: Okay. Yes.
Charan: … if that’s okay. So, Jason and I met actually, because a few years ago… now, we just barely remember. It was a few years ago, we made a pilot together called “Let’s Get Epic!,” which is a kids’ show. And we’re very excited because that show is actually going to be launching finally on VidAngel. But I was told about you from a lot of good people. Because we had written this pilot. We were going to watch it in VidAngel, and we were trying to cast.
Charan: And we’re like, “Who can we get to play our Bobby character?” And he was this guy that was like antagonizing the other leads, but he was a sporting lead himself. And we’re like, “We just need someone…” and I frankly didn’t know anybody. And I think it was one of the Harmon Brothers or someone that was suggesting that we get you, and you were in Studio C. And of course, I knew what Studio C was. I had some dear friends on it.
Charan: But I hadn’t really watched a ton of stuff. Oh, no, you know who it was? Garrett Batty. Garrett Batty was the one that was like, “We got to get Jason Gray on this.”
Jason: I love Garrett.
Charan: Yeah. And so, he was sending me some stuff that you had done as far as Studio C goes. And I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. This guy is hilarious.” I got nervous, because I’m like, “How are we going to be able to keep up with his comedy?”
Jason: Oh, please.
Charan: But no, but it was the best. And so, we got to work with you. And it was super fun.
Jason: It was very fun.
Charan: I remember having a great time. And it’s just been really cool after that project to see where your career has gone and to revisit Studio C and see some of the fun stuff that you’ve done. But yeah, thanks, man. Thanks so much for joining me on the Lemonade Stand podcast. I appreciate it.
Jason: Thank you, Charan. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Charan: Yeah. Well, so a big part of this show is all about learning about people’s lemonade stand story. So, their beginnings, their first entering into business as maybe having your own lemonade stand when you were a kid or something like that. But did you ever do anything like that as a kid that was a creative endeavor for you?
Jason: Yeah. I definitely did creative things. That’s funny, I actually just started a lemonade stand this last summer with my daughter.
Charan: No. You did?
Jason: The first day, I was like, “Keep expectations low.” Because one of the reasons I didn’t do a lemonade stand was because growing up, my neighbor did one. And he said he got a huge fever… or not a fever, sunburn. He’s like, “I made 25 cents.” And I was like, “I’m not doing that.” But my daughter must be a lot cuter or better salesman than my friend because people were lining up, left and right.
Charan: Are you kidding me?
Jason: She made 12 or 13 bucks in an hour. And I was like, “Man.” I mean-
Charan: That’s minimum wage.
Jason: Yeah, exactly. She did quite well for herself. I mean, I think the key is the younger you can start with those things, the better.
Charan: Yeah, I think so. Did you do one when you were a kid, or no?
Jason Gray Talks About His First Business
Jason: So, I had my friend. I remember I sat next to him as he tried to peddle his lemonade. And then, I just was like, “No, that’s not for me.” But I did have a lawn mowing business growing up-
Charan: Oh, you did? Wow.
Jason: … where I had 10 or 15 people in the neighborhood that mow their lawns once or twice a week.
Charan: Oh, man. How old were you when that happened?
Jason: I was 12 to 14 when I did that. I mean, it was a lot better than McDonald’s or other places, because I felt like I could set my own hours. And I was still making a decent amount of money for a 12-year-old. It was a cool little business.
Charan: Yeah, I know. That’s awesome. Where did you grow up? Where you here?
Jason: Boise, Idaho.
Charan: Boise, Idaho.
Charan: Where the grass grows tall.
Jason: That’s right.
Charan: And so, that’s amazing, man. And so, you did that for a couple years?
Jason Gray Talks About Getting Into Acting
Charan: Now, even back then, did you ever think, “I want to be an actor,” or “I want to be creative like that”?
Jason: No. I mean, I remember, like what got me into acting was I love Jim Carrey. He was definitely a comedic icon of mine. My older cousin and I would watch all his movies. And we just do a personations and stuff of him. And then, when I watched “The Grinch,” I was like 14 or 15 when that movie came out. And I remember just being like… I wasn’t like, “I want to do that.” It’s like, “I have to do that.”
Jason: I just loved that performance, that character so much, that I was like, “I don’t know what that means when I say I have to do that, but I’m going to figure out a way to be the Grinch.”
Charan: Yeah. Have you been the Grinch before for Studio C?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. Actually, at third season at Studio C, I think I pitched at the first season. But our makeup and stuff, we were so low-budget that they couldn’t pull it off. So, by the third season, we had a legit makeup team and stuff. And yeah, I encourage you, guys, if you watch Studio C, to check it out, because the makeup job is so good. I remember looking in the mirror and just crying because I’m like, “I look just like Jim Carrey.”
Charan: That’s amazing.
Jason: It came full circle for me, which is a really cool experience.
Charan: That is so awesome. And I mean, I think it’s beautiful when things like that come together. So, our mutual friend, Brady Bluhm, who was in “Let’s Get Epic!,” I remember the day that we told you, because you were like so shocked. But he was the blind kid in D”umb and Dumber.” And I remember you were like, “Wait, are you serious?”
Jason: I was like, “This man is a god. What is he doing here?”
Charan: “What is he doing on this low-budget pilot?” Well, it turns out when you’re having fun, I guess money doesn’t matter.
Jason: That’s right.
Jason: Amen to that.
Charan: So, let’s rewind back a little bit. At what point did you say, okay, after you decided, “Okay, I want to be the Grinch.” At what point did you say, “All right. How do I make that a reality”?
Jason: Yeah. My first idea was to like… because we had in the church I went to growing up, they’d have these Christmas parties every year. And I’d always have Santa Claus come. So, I was like, “Maybe I could hijack it. I’ll come as the Grinch. I’ll put green makeup all over me.” And I was working on the impression and stuff. But then, my dad, who was the leader of that congregation was like, “Don’t you dare do that.” So, he shut that dream down.
Jason: But then I ended up doing it for a high school. We had a video tech class, my senior or junior year of high school. And so, I did a Grinch parody, like how the Grinch stole my high school’s mascot or something silly like that. And then we just showed it for my class and stuff.
Charan: Yeah. How was it received?
Jason: It was really good. I mean, I think people… obviously, a super low budget and filmed with a VHS camcorder and-
Charan: Of course. We got to go VCR to VCR editing right there.
Jason: Yeah. It was bad. But I think people were like… the amount of energy and the impersonation, things like that, it gave me enough. I got enough positive feedback where I was like, “I want to keep doing this. This is fun. I like the feeling of this. It’s fun.”
Charan: Yeah. And it’s great because it’s like that was what was motivating you, right? It was fun. And it was a good feeling where you’re like, “I got to keep going.” That’s awesome. So, you came to BYU, I’m assuming?
Jason: Yeah. I started at BYU–Idaho, actually. And then, switched after I got home from LDS mission in 2007.
Charan: That’s awesome. And so, you started at BYU. And then, did you do any of the comedy sketches there? How did you get roped into all of these stunts?
Jason: Yeah. I remember seeing a flyer just as I was walking to… because I was a biology major. I was going to be a dentist, and I saw a flyer on campus. It was like, “Do you think you’re funny?” And there was a question mark. And there’s all these people that I didn’t know around this blank picture. And I was like, “Wow, yeah.” And it’s like, “Try out for the sketch group, Divine Comedy.” That was the sketch group on campus, and I hadn’t seen it.
Jason: I had transferred schools, so I didn’t know that it was a big deal. So, I showed up at auditions thinking there’d be 10 people there. And it was a gym or an auditorium filled with 300 people.
Charan: All trying out?
Jason: Well, there was 100 people trying out, but there was all their friends and stuff supporting them. I didn’t bring a single friend because I thought it would just be in a small little classroom. So, I remember almost walking away immediately because I was so intimidated like, “This is not what I thought this would be.” But fortunately, I stuck it out in the audition.
Charan: Wow. What was your audition piece? Do you remember?
Jason: So, it took me two years. The first year I went up there, and “The Dark Knight” had just come out, so I did this Joker. It was the Joker on a date with Batman. And so, it was this weird bromance thing. And I did the both impersonation-
Charan: Can you give us a little sample of what it was like?
Jason: Oh, I remember one of the lines where the Batman was like, “Well, where’s this relationship going?” And Joker was like, “Why do you want to get so serious?” Like cheesy, but the bar was pretty low.
Charan: No, it was good. Yeah.
Jason: And so, I didn’t make it the first year. And I remember I was confused because I was like, “Man, people seemed to respond really well to it.” But one of the feedback I got was, “You’re great at impersonations, but I don’t know if you yourself are funny.” Because it’s like, “You can do other people, but is Jason Gray funny?” And so, the next year, I came back, didn’t do any impersonations, and it was just myself.
Charan: Yeah. And that apparently won them over?
Jason: Yeah, it worked. I remember it was way more intimidating to be yourself because it’s just like I felt like I could hide behind an impersonation because it’s this other person, it’s not me, so I felt way more vulnerable. But apparently did good enough to get me in the troupe, which I’m really grateful for.
Charan: That’s awesome. Actually, I can relate to that because when I was a… I haven’t done any of the sketch comedy stuff that BYU did. But I’ve done a lot of comedy in TV shows and movies, and things like that. And I would always like, in the beginning, fall back to the Indian accent. I had to, because I’m like, “It’s a guaranteed winner. It’ll be fun. It’ll be great.” And so, there’s so many different characters I’ve created with that Indian accent.
Charan: But it was a little bit of a cheap shot for me because it’s like I knew I could win with that a little bit. But my other friends were like, “Dude, you’re funny without it. You don’t need to have the accent.” But deep down, I’m like, “No, I need it. Trust me, I need it so bad.” But yeah. Recently, I’ve done other things where American accent and stuff, and it’s a different kind of humor but it still lands. And so, that was a cool lesson for me to be like, “Oh, wait. Maybe Charan can be funny.” I am wondering if it’s something similar to what you went through.
Jason: Yeah, for sure. Because I think it’s a safety net for me. The impersonation is like, “Well, everyone knows that Chris Farley or Jim Carrey is funny. So, I’ll just be them for 10 seconds and get a quick laugh.” But there is something when it’s like when you’ve created it and it comes from your own humor, it’s more meaningful, I guess.
Charan: Yeah. It’s more meaningful. It’s more authentic.
Charan: Right. And I actually find that some of the best comedy comes from a place of authenticity.
Charan: Right? Okay. So, you were in Divine Comedy. How many years were you involved with them?
Jason: I did that for three and a half years, which was funny, because I should have only done it for two, because I was already a junior in college when I tried out. But I was enjoying it so much that I purposely didn’t graduate. I was taking six credits. By the end, BYU is like, “You have to graduate. There are people knocking at the door trying to get in.” I’m like, “All right.” So, I finally finished. But yeah. So, I did it for three and a half years, which was really fun.
Charan: Oh, that’s amazing. And that’s all in front of a live audience, right?
Jason Gray Talks About Studio C
Charan: Yeah. I remember going to those shows and just so many people. So that’s awesome. Now, at some point, you guys all transitioned from doing that to doing Studio C. So, how did that come about?
Jason: Yeah. So, Matt Meese, who was the president or leader of the sketch group, I mean, he was just really honest. He’s like, “Guys, I don’t want to have to go get a real job. I don’t want to be like…” he was a psychologist or a psychology major. So, he’s like, “I’m going to pitch this to BYU.” I know in the past, they’ve tried to pitch our sketch show to BYUtv, but it just hasn’t lined up right because they only did very more serious spiritual shows. They didn’t do comedy at all on the network.
Jason: But we just hit the perfect timing where they were actively looking for something family-friendly and clean. And so, Matt was like, “Hey, just come to one of our shows. Because if you see the scripts or whatever just on paper, you might not get it. So just come to our show. Experience it live with 300 BYU students.” So they finally came. We convinced them the very last show of the semester.
Jason: And they were like, “All right, here’s 50 bucks. Go film a pilot.” I don’t think they had a ton of faith in it but enough to greenlit a pilot or a capture.
Charan: One pilot. Yeah. So, you guys did a sketch show or something? Is that what happened?
Jason: Yeah. It’s never aired on TV. I’m not joking when I say they gave us 50 bucks. It was so low-budget. The backdrop was like they didn’t know what to do with the show. So, there was like a wagon wheel and just a bunch of props from old church movies in the background where they just threw there. And they’re like, “This is a sketch show. This has nothing to do with what we’re doing.”
Jason: But fortunately, the thing that saved us was we invited our love group, our audience at college, to come to the pilot. So, even though everything looked pretty janky and low-budget, and it was the first time for us performing for the cameras, the audience was so good that I felt it carried us. And it was enough to convince him like, “Hey, let’s give this a season. Let’s give this a shot.”
Charan: Yeah. That’s amazing, man. I mean, all along the way, it was all about those emotional connections we had with the audience. And that was what was like, “Okay. Yeah, we can see there’s a demand here.” So, you guys did that. And did it get popular on BYUtv? Or was it through YouTube that it became popular? Can you remember?
Jason: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think the show would exist past a year if it wasn’t for YouTube. And it was funny because it was just an afterthought that BYUtv was like, “Oh, let’s throw these up on YouTube. It might be more of a… it’s a wider audience there, obviously.”
Charan: I love that that’s an afterthought.
Jason: Yeah. Right. And that was the thing that like… but I remember the first sketch that hit 10,000 views on YouTube. We were giving each other high fives like, “Yeah. That’s three times what we’re used to,” or whatever. We were super, super excited. And then, season by season, we got a bigger, bigger audience. But I mean, YouTube was definitely a huge blessing for us.
Charan: No, that’s amazing, man. I mean, the thing was, I remember hearing about it more and more. And at first, I was like, “Wait, what is Studio C?” And we watched it. “Oh, wait. Matt Meese,” because I knew Matt from forever ago, right? And so, it was really cool to see how much it succeeded. And not only how much it succeeded, but what a demand for that content there was. That was what was so cool about it.
Charan: It’s like, “Wow, here’s something really family-friendly, and families are really digging it up.” So that’s props to you. But what’s cool as well was you guys were approached by some pretty big people because of it like Conan O’Brien, is that right? Were you part of that or?
Jason: Yeah. Tell me, has Mel or Matt shared the Conan O’Brien story?
Charan: You know what? I want to hear it from you. I really do.
Jason: Well then, so theirs probably is better because they were there. But I’ll tell the story. So, we’re in LA. We’re pitching to Lionsgate about potentially doing a Studio C-type movie. Anyways, I get this text. A group of us decided to go out to a different restaurant than the other group because they wanted to get pizza, and we didn’t want pizza. Anyways, we get this text that says, “We just met Conan O’Brien.” And I was like, “Ha-ha.”
Charan: That’s funny.
Jason: I was like, “No, stop.” And they’re like, “No, real. For reals, we saw Conan. He stopped us actually and asked for a picture.” I’m like, “Shut up.” I was like, “This isn’t funny anymore.” And then, they send a picture with Conan right with us, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” I was so mad that I didn’t go and get pizza because I would have been right there.
Charan: Ever since then, you always get pizza-
Jason: Right, no matter what.
Charan: Lesson of the day.
Jason: Yeah, where’s Conan? Where’s Conan?
Charan: Where’s Conan? Yeah.
Jason: But it was interesting because they said like, Conan, they were just eating pizza. Conan walks in the restaurant. He’s like, “Hey, you guys Studio C? My kids really like your show.” And the manager said, he was about to come in and be like, he thought we were bothering Conan. But he’s like, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Conan bother one of my patrons.” So, I was like, “I guess I’ll let this play out.” And so, then, he asked for a picture. And then, Conan paid for… they didn’t know this, but he paid for their meal.
Charan: No way.
Jason: It’s just super classy, an awesome guy.
Charan: Oh, that’s amazing. Yeah. And then, you guys got a message from J.J. Abrams as well?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. Because his kids, the “Scott Sterling,” the soccer ball sketch. So, it’s been interesting. Every cool connection we’ve made, it’s been through their kids. It’s like, “Dad, check this out.” And so, I think that’s been a cool thing.
Charan: And I think it goes to show how powerful social media can be and also how powerful good positive content can be. And there’s such a demand for it, right? I mean, so much so that these bigwigs that were like J.J. Abrams making like huge, huge, big budget movies, would stop everything to send you guys an email and being like, “Honestly, thanks so much guys for your work.” And it’s awesome. And for someone like Conan O’Brien to stop everything, and be like… and I know he invited Matt to be in the show as well.
Jason: Yeah, Matt and Stacey got to be on the show six months later and he really… because I’m sure most people at the network were probably like… because Conan insisted on having Matt on the station, on the show. He went out of his way because he knew it would help our show. So, I’m sure they were like, “No, we could get someone a lot more well-known.” But Conan really wanted to help us out, and that was just so cool of him.
Jason Gray Talks About JK! Studios
Charan: That’s so great. Yeah, I love that. That’s awesome. So, you guys have had a great run on Studio C, eight or nine seasons, I believe, right? And then, the biggest shift of all time happened. It was like people thought it was an earthquake but it wasn’t. It was just the entire cast of Studio C decided, “You know what? We’re going to try something new.” So, tell me about that.
Jason: Yeah. It was like all at once… I mean, it had been nine seasons. So, that’s a long time to be on a show. Like most shows, even really great shows don’t last that long. So, I think a lot of people were itching for a change. And then, I think once the idea came about or the opportunity to go work on something together, not just like a few of us leave where it’s like, “Hey, we can actually maybe make something work with all of us working together still.”
Jason: It was just an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up. And so, yeah. Matt gave the analogy like, “Burn the ships.” Sometimes, you have to go for it all in to give it a chance.”
Charan: Yeah. And I remember, I was talking to you during the time when it was happening, and it was a scary thing. But you’re going for it, right? So, you went for that. And how is JK! Studios going right now? I mean, I know it’s been tough because of COVID, and I’m sure that’s probably changed a lot of dynamics within the show, right?
Jason: Yeah. I mean, I think that the first year, we had some really great opportunities. We worked with some really awesome companies, jane.com and ClickFunnels. And they sponsored these shows, which was amazing. And these gave us the money and the ability to make these web series, which was fun. Because we had done sketch for so long, it was so cool to be able to make characters with arcs and stuff, and not just quick jokes. But actually, try a longer format of comedy.
Jason: And NBC reached out to us, and we were able to go on this variety comedy competition show with Kenan Thompson as the judge and Jeff Foxworthy, and Chrissy Teigen, which was really cool. And we ended up making it to the semi-finals on there. And so, we were able to do a ton of great things, and there was a ton of momentum. And then, COVID has definitely hurt a lot of that momentum. With sponsorships, people just don’t have the money and stuff to divvy out to the arts like they used to.
Jason: But I’m really looking forward to 2021. There’s some great things on the table. And I think, yeah, it’s definitely looking positive.
Charan: Can you talk about some of those things?
Jason: Yeah. So, for people who follow JK! Studios, probably our most successful show was “Freelancers,” which is about five friends that make these low-budget local commercials. They’re just trying to stay afloat as a production company. And so, it’s like their journey. They all live in this ramshackle house together. And it was funny, when we were filming it, it didn’t have heat, heating. And so, everyone got almost pneumonia at the exact same time.
Jason: You could see our breath the whole time we were filming. I mean, I guess no one had to act like they were… I mean, in character, because we were miserable and cold. But we powered through, and we filmed. I think there’s eight episodes, and they’re about 15 minutes each. And it was really cool. So, anyways, the plan is to do a crowdfunding theme so we can make that a season two.
Charan: Oh, that’s awesome. How is the first season doing? Did you guys get some good followers?
Jason: Yeah, we got some great following. The first million-hit episode or piece of content that JK! Studios did was the pilot episode for “Freelancers,” which was a huge landmark for us. And we went on tour last fall. And by far, the most asked question when we interacted with the audience after was people were like, “When’s there going to be a season two of ‘Freelancers’ and stuff?” So, we’re looking forward to that.
Charan: Yeah, that’s amazing, man. Well, props to you. Because it’s scary when you had something like Studio C. That was your safety net and like, “We’re going to try something new. Let’s try something that’s our own.” Because Studio C was owned by BYU. Whereas, JK! Studios is all you guys, right?
Jason: Right. Yeah, we have health insurance, a 401(k). Things that probably no sketch comedian on Earth… maybe the SNL guys. But it’s like, “There’s 20 of these jobs in the entire United States, and we had half of them.” It’s so interesting.
Charan: Oh, that’s amazing, man. Well, I guess, shifting topics because your career is going great, and I’m excited to see what happens for you in the future. And hopefully, we get to work together.
Jason Gray Talks About Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Charan: Which I’m very excited about, because yeah, we are getting ready to launch “Let’s Get Epic!,” which will be awesome. So, one of the things when we talk about entrepreneurs or creators, and whatnot, every story of try and pass its struggles, right? Their downtimes. And especially when you’re a creator like us, when acting is so fickle, it’s so uncertain, you have no idea what the next day is going to be. In some ways, I feel like we were prepared for COVID because we’re like, “Well, what else is new? Uncertainty? Yeah, we get it.”
Charan: And so, it’s almost like we’ve been prepared for this life for a while. But do you have any specific instances in your life, it could be career-wise, it can be personal, whatever you’d like to share, where I don’t know, like it was just a heavy struggle? Or it was something that you fell down in your dumps or something where you’re like, “I might turn this lemon experience to a lemonade experience”? Anything come to mind?
Jason: Yeah. I mean, a couple of things, probably career-wise. I mean, I thought for sure I was going to be a dentist. I grew up, like my dad is a dentist. My grandpa is a dentist. My older brother is a dentist. Everyone is a dentist. It was like the Gray family thing to do was to be a dentist. And my wife, when I proposed to her, she thought she was marrying a dentist. Like everyone, my in-laws, they’re like, “Yeah, my daughter is marrying a dentist. That’s great.”
Jason: But then, it was interesting because the year I applied to dental school, it’s like, the record amount of dental applicants, it was the most competitive it’s ever been for dentistry. And I thought I did good enough. My grades were good enough, but I didn’t get a single offer to attend any dental schools. And I applied to 20-something. I remember just being so devastated because I was like, “What am I going to do?” I’m a biology major. There’s nothing else to do besides teach high school biology with this major.
Jason: I’ve set myself up horribly to not get into dental school. And just about around that time is when Matt was like, “Hey, do you want to try this Studio C thing?” When I was doing dental school, I was like, “Well, there’s no way I’m going to turn down dental school to go do a pilot for BYUtv.” But because I didn’t get on to dental school and I was… just a lot of feelings of depression and confused and just being confused what to do with my life, I was able to… Studio C was a great distraction.
Jason: So, I just was like, “Well, let’s give this 110% this first season. And it probably won’t go anywhere, but let’s just have the most fun I’ve ever had. Because after this, I’ll probably have to go out and get a real job.” So, I just dug in. And I really do think that really, the experience of failing dental school helped me that first season to just go for it and not have… actually, it was weird because I didn’t feel that much pressure.
Jason: Because my expectations were so low, I could just be myself and have a lot of fun with it.
Charan: Yeah, that is so interesting, man. It’s like when you let go of the vision that you previously had and that vision, the expectation, was gone, it was almost like you could be free to be yourself in a sense. And be like, “All right, I don’t care. Whatever happens, happens. Let’s just go for this and see what happens.” Which is interesting, because I’ve also found that same thing. It’s like successes come when you just let go of those expectations.
Charan: You surrender them, right? I like to think of it as like you surrender those expectations to God — some people say the universe, whatever it is that you happen to believe — that if you can surrender those expectations and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is I’m going to go for it. I’m going to have fun. And hopefully, other people can have fun along the way and support me in this.” So that’s cool that you were able to make that switch.
Jason: Yeah. Yeah. It just happened like the stars aligned so well for that to happen. So, I just feel very, very blessed.
Charan: Well, and I’m glad that you did, because I know you would have made a fantastic dentist. I know that because it’s the great family tradition, right? But I also think you would not have been able to impact the billions of people that have laughed through your comedy over the years. So I appreciate you not getting yourself so down in the dumps that you don’t see the silver lining, which is a very, very positive silver lining.
Jason: Yeah. And I think over the years, it’s funny, my dad at first was like, “What are you doing?” Especially after that, I was like, “Hey, I’m going to do this for another year.” And he’s like, “What are you doing?” But then, I invited them to come down to a show. So, my dad and my mom came down. And they had no idea what TV production involves. And so, they were like, “I thought it was like one of you filming behind cellphones. There’s 80 people working on this show.”
Jason: And then, he was like, “This is legit.” And then, as he saw it grow on YouTube and on BYUtv, he was like, “Oh.” And he finally did say… I can’t remember, it was third or fourth season, he’s like, “I’m really glad you decided not to be a dentist. I feel like you’ve been able to do things you wouldn’t have been able to do.”
Charan: Oh, my gosh. You and I share a very similar paths in that sense because… not that I was going to be a dentist, but my dad had many goals for me, doctors or something like that, because they make a lot of money and everything. But same type of thing when I’m like, “I want to be an actor.” And he was just looking at me like, “Are you out of your mind?” But now, it’s so interesting how supportive he is. And he’s like, “Hey, what’s your next role? What’s going on?”
Jason: Yeah. My dad’s become one of the most… like he’s out there whenever there’s a new sketch or whatever. He’s posting about it on his Facebook trying to get… like emailing it to all his friends. When he was a dentist, he used to share the new sketches to his patients, and they couldn’t go anywhere. So, he had this little laptop that he’d forced people to watch the show. And I’m sure half of them were like, “Why are you doing this?”
Charan: Yeah, why are we doing this?
Jason: But he’s just been such a great fan. It’s been cool.
Charan: Oh, that’s so awesome. Well, that’s great, man. And I’m so glad that you’ve been able to do what you’ve been able to do. The future still looks a little uncertain, even though some positive things is going on. What’s in the future for you?
Jason: For me, actually, this is pretty new. Just last week, it was announced that I am going to go back on Studio C-
Jason: … full-time for the next year. And it was a back-and-forth decision. It was hard. But a lot of the things that I’m really looking forward to that I wasn’t able to do earlier is like I’ll get to be a producer on the show.
Charan: Oh, no way.
Jason: And be in charge of casting and things like that. Responsibilities that I didn’t have before that I think are going to be really exciting for me, and yeah.
Charan: Well, and now, I know who I need to audition.
Jason: Yeah, that’s right.
Charan: That’s a funny thing to do. That’s awesome, man. Well, congratulations. I didn’t know that you have such a bigger role on this next season.
Jason: It should be fun. And yeah, it’s going to be an adventure working with all new cast members. I’ll definitely miss the people I was so comfortable with. But I think as an actor, it’s important, too, to step out of your comfort zones and find new opportunities to grow and advance.
Charan: Yeah. Yeah, it’s interesting. I just worked on this feature film with some actors that a lot of them are friends of mine. I did know them, but I’ve never worked with them before. So, it was fun to see what it would be like working with friends. And I knew that they were talented, and they can do a good job. And we had a blast. We had an amazing, amazing time. And I remember thinking, “That’s why I love doing this business, because not just creating awesome content, but to do with your friends, unbelievable experience.”
Jason Gray Talks About Finding Joy in Uncertainty
Charan: Right? So, let me ask you, Jason. What brings you joy in life right now?
Jason: Oh, right now? I mean, there’s a lot of things. One of the things that definitely has brought joy in this time of uncertainty and turmoil, and stuff, my wife and I, we had our third child, our son, four months ago. So, right in the middle of COVID. And I didn’t even know the week before, they weren’t even letting husbands in the delivery room. So, I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to experience that. And this is my wife and I’s last kid.
Jason: So, I was like, “I’m going to miss out on the birth of my last child.” And she was doing a C-section, which is even more traumatic than a normal birth, but it worked out where the cases went down enough that they opened back up the hospital, and I was able to be there. But it’s just been so… because I haven’t been able to spend as many times on outside projects and filming and stuff, I spent a lot more time at home working on things and just getting to experience so much more time with my kids.
Jason: And really, getting to watch them grow in a way like I’ve never had before. And taking them to school and being Mr. Mom a little bit, which it’s just been a cool experience and something that I didn’t anticipate enjoying as much when this whole thing started.
Charan: It’s interesting because you are now more present to these things that not that you weren’t present before, but you get to be more present to really meaningful moments, right? And I’m not married, I don’t have any children. But I have a sister who just had her… well, she had a baby boy last year. So, I’m an uncle. And I’d like to think that I made that decision to be an uncle. That I am like, “You know what?
Jason: Good for you.
Charan: It’s time. It’s time.” I feel like I’m old enough.
Jason: Ready to take it on?
Charan: Yeah, I’m ready to take it on. But oh my gosh, just seeing life through his eyes, is unbelievably amazing. It’s so fun, and he’s so smart. And his personality, he just turned a year old in November 1st. So, he’s still very, very young. But he’s learning to crawl. He’s looking around. He plays peekaboo with me, which is hilarious, because he hides and he looks back at me, and just having that connection with him.
Charan: I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so priceless. This is so priceless. And you could not trade this for the world.” And I don’t know. I’m so grateful. So, in a small sense, I feel like I can relate to what you go through with your own kids, taking-
Jason: Yeah. I mean, and I’ve had that with just nieces and nephews too, and it’s just amazing to be… these opportunities. It’s interesting because so many people get to go through them that we take them for granted and stuff, or we think they aren’t that special. It’s just part of life. But I remember, so last year, I was in LA working on this comedy show with these huge stars like Kenan Thompson and stuff and Jeff Foxworthy, but I missed my daughter’s first steps.
Jason: And I remember just sitting in the hotel room being so bummed because I was like, “Even though this is…” Like I’m really cool getting to do something that not a lot of people get to do, and I’m really blessed to be here because I felt like… but I would rather be at home with my daughter, watching her take her first step. So, it put things in perspective, I guess.
Charan: It really does. I remember this… man, I forgot what talk show he was on. But Denzel Washington, who I respect very much as an actor, he was on the show. And he was just saying, he’s like, “Look, acting is not life. That’s a job. It’s a career and stuff.” But he’s like, he said the same things like, “I watched my baby boy get born. And I was holding him in my arms, and I’m like, that’s life.” And everyone was like clapping and cheering because it made complete sense.
Jason Gray’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: And it was so true. That is the moment where this influx of love comes in. And you realize, “Wow, this is really what life is all about.” In many ways, I feel like COVID has been divisive, but it’s also brought us together. I’ve seen so many people become a lot more compassionate, which is awesome. So, okay. Final question. Final question. If you were to rewind time and go back, and talk to that young Jason Gray, that one that’s determined to be that dentist, what would you say to that Jason Gray?
Jason: Well, we talked about it earlier. You mentioned it. But I think just being authentic, you don’t have to do what other people want you to do. That doesn’t mean like, just go out and be crazy and disregard all common sense. But I do think, just do what makes you happy, and do what you love. And then, find a way to make it work. Maybe you won’t be a millionaire, but I guarantee you, I don’t make nearly as much as a dentist does. But I’m way happier because I’m doing what I love doing.
Jason: And I feel like it gets to the arts, especially I feel right now with COVID and stuff, that’s what’s keeping a lot of people sane, is watching, binging on Netflix and things. People are starting to really appreciate actors and writers, and directors, and stuff, because we’re providing content. That’s really helping people get through times. And I remember when my daughter was super sick at the hospital, the show that got me through was “The Office.”
Jason: I binged that show all the way through two times because it was just an escape that I needed so bad. And maybe for most people, acting, or maybe the arts aren’t your thing. But whatever you are passionate about, find a way to just make it work. And I wish I would have, in high school and stuff, taken more opportunities to be in plays, or do things to learn the craft earlier instead of trying to force myself to want to do something I didn’t really want to do, or convince myself that that’s what I wanted to do.
Charan: That is such a powerful lesson, man. That’s such a powerful lesson. And I feel like I’ve really learned that lesson over and over, and over again throughout my life. But sometimes, when I’m like… I’m a spiritual guy. And sometimes, when I’m praying and I’m asking, I’m like, “What am I supposed to be doing in life and everything?” It always goes back to like, “Are you having fun? Are you being authentic?” I’m like, “I don’t think I am.
Charan: And every time I go back to like, “Oh, this was fun. This was authentic,” I end up succeeding. It’s the weirdest thing. But yeah, when you start realizing that life didn’t have to be about a checklist, it didn’t have to be about expectations that someone else set for you but that you can create your own path and create opportunities for yourself, you become a more joyous person. And the world is all the more better for it because you get to impact other people, and they can be better themselves.
Jason: I love that.
Charan: Yeah. That’s awesome, man. Well, Jason, seriously, thank you so much, man. I really appreciate you taking the time and come joining me on the Lemonade Stand podcast. Do you have any final words or anything you’d like to say to the audience before we wrap up?
Jason: Just one quick thought I was thinking as you were wrapping up. So, I named my son Heath because I love Heath Ledger. He’s one of my favorite actors of all time. But just going when you were talking about checklists, one of my favorite quotes, and I’ll probably butcher it a bit. Heath Ledger said, “When you’re asking people how they’re doing and a lot of people say, ‘Oh, I got married, or we got a new house,’ there’s a checklist of things that are supposed to indicate our happiness.”
Jason: But he’s like, “But how are you doing? Not what’s happened in your life, but how are you doing as a person?” And I think it’s just important for people to remember that life is not a checklist. It’s about finding what you’re passionate about.
Charan: Yeah, exactly. That’s beautiful. It’s a great way to wrap up, man. But thank you. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. And thanks, guys, for listening.
Jason: Thanks, guys.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to Lemonade Stand podcast and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews. And if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much, and have a great day.