Jesus Trejo’s first comedy special was named months before sheltering-in-place became commonplace and the title even more appropriate. Stay At Home Son the one-hour Showtime stand-up special premiering on May 29, 2020 is a milestone for the 33-year-old comedian and for his parents who have inspired much of his career and chunks of his material.
“I just wish I would have put a little comma right before the ‘Son’…It really would have been a big home run there,” jokes Trejo who was sheltering-in-place at home with his parents in Los Angeles.
Trejo’s backstory and content differ from his peers, making this debut special with an emphasis on reverse parenting, a refreshing shift. An only child and first generation Mexican-American, Trejo spends much of his time juggling the demands of stand-up and caring for his parents. As is the case for many stand-ups, the parental support network wasn’t always onboard with his career choice, but this week, Stay At Home Son should help him make his case for comedy.
“I think initially…they were as supportive as much as they could have been,” says Trejo about his parents. “They come from Mexico. I’m born here. So the generational gap and also cultural gaps—makes it hard for my parents to understand what it is that I was trying to set out to do. And I think with time, I’ve been able to give them examples of what it is that I’m doing and what I’m doing to get closer to my dream. And you know, they’ve been able to see me go from open mic comic to now having my first hour special. So that journey I think has been very fulfilling because it’s like, my parents have instilled this work ethic in me that I’ve carried with me my whole life, and I’ve used that work ethic,” says the comedian and first generation college graduate.
“I can find success without a suit and tie,” explains Trejo who believes that the stand-up stage, not an office cubicle, is where he was meant to land even if he does have a marketing degree. He talks of career “checkpoints” and marking milestones and analyzing obstacles, sounding more like a manager than a headliner as he compares the comedy world to the academia.
“Now with a special, that’s basically my doctorate, if you will, of research and field work and trying, you know, material and what works and shaping what my thesis statement is…I could definitely see the parallels between the academic world and the comedy one.”
That parental work ethic may have helped him plug away in a competitive business, but the couple behind it also inadvertently handed him material that has ignited his appeal to audiences. What is it about his comedy that seems to equally resonate with baby boomers and their millennial offspring?
“We’re all the same,” notes the comedian whose references to parental bickering and sneaky senior behavior offer relatable parallel stories for parents of young children. Sometimes caregiving is caregiving and for those in charge, there’s a steady stream of common topics Trejo hits.
“I think I tapped into a very universal idea and notion of family where, you know, when somebody gets older, they turn into kids and…I’m now parenting my parents…But it’s no different than my peers and friends who I grew up with who now have kids…I see the stuff that they go through and it’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m going through the exact same thing.’”
Trejo hopes that fans will appreciate his quirky optimistic lens and take away from Stay At Home Son the fact that family is “a big deal”— not wrapped in perfection, but full of love and hope.
Parenting parents isn’t always funny, and Trejo is well aware. The subject of AARP Studios feature-length documentary Care to Laugh, he has put in the hours of stage time for a young comic with talent to shine and the hours of family time to help navigate his mother’s recovery from neurosurgery for a brain tumor and his father’s battle with stage 2 colon cancer. Mowing lawns by day to keep his dad’s landscaping business going and telling tales at night to keep his dream alive, Trejo saw no other options.
“It takes a village to help someone age gracefully,” says Trejo in the documentary. Perhaps it is that belief that keeps the thread of sensitivity woven into his comedy even when he notes that the language can occasionally get a “little strong.” When you’re on the same page, a few expletives are hardly noticed.
“My parents led by example, and they did the best they could. And I think they did a great job. They sacrificed so much for me to have, you know, this great upbringing and education and make sure that I wasn’t like in need of anything…they did the best they could and it also took a village to raise me. But, you know, sometimes we kind of forget when somebody is faced with like health issues or aging…Not that I could ever repay my parents’ sacrifice and what they’ve done for me, but it’s like, ‘Hey, I want to be there for you two much like you were for me…’”
While comedy wasn’t what the Trejos initially had in mind for their son, Stay At Home Son proves Jesus Trejo has the chops to navigate the waters of stand-up. And for parents who wonder if their kids are really listening to them—assume so, there might be a comedy special in your family’s future.
Source: Forbes Business