After seven years of doing stand-up, Memphis comedian Ambrose Jones might be on the verge of his big break. Jones is competing on the new season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, which launches on July 22nd, and if he wins, he'll land a talent deal with NBC.
Though originally from Chicago, Jones began his comedy career in Memphis, working nights while performing at open mics around the city. Locals can catch Jones performing at Chuckles Comedy House.
Flyer: How did you get started in comedy?
Jones: I stayed up the street from a comedy club — Comedy, TN in Bartlett. One day, I went in there and asked the owners what they had for me. He was like, "We have headliners Thursday through Saturday. Wednesday we have open mic." Then the following [Wednesday], I just went up there and tried my luck.
So, how'd it go?
It didn't go [well]. He called me up on stage, and I was too scared to go up. I sat there and watched the rest of the show. The next Wednesday, I came back, and he called my name. I finally went up. That fear held me down.
When did you decide you wanted to try out for Last Comic Standing?
In January, I sent my clip in. Most people don't know, but I tried out in Nashville in 2010 — didn't get picked. I drove all the way down there, stood in line for, like, eight hours. This year, I sent a clip in, and the lady who was [screening] the clips was from Little Rock. She liked my clip, and she told me to come to Nashville to audition. I passed the first round, and they flew me out to New York for the second round at New York Comedy Club. I passed that round, and that was it. She was like, "You're on the show."
How was the experience of Last Comic Standing for you?
It felt so good for the host to be calling [my] name on national TV: "Ambrose Jones, all the way from Memphis, Tennessee." Everybody supported me.
How would you describe your comedy style?
It comes from my personal experiences. I take what's going on with me, what bothers me, and put it out in the world. My negative turns into a positive by making someone laugh. If you can laugh at my pain, then that's good.
How does the Memphis comedy scene compare to scenes in other cities?
Memphis is better than a lot of places, because we have a lot of open mics here. You can get up on stage three or four nights a week here. People are very supportive. They just want you to be good at whatever you're doing. You can't be short, because you've got to be good for them to really like you. So it makes you strong to be able to go to other places and perform and display your talents.
What challenges have you faced so far?
Working a job. That was my biggest [challenge]. I recorded a show last year in March. I flew out to Oakland, did this show Nephew Tommy's [50 Comics Deep Competition]. They filmed it, but somebody was supposed to pick it up. Nobody picked it up. So when I came back home, I didn't go back to my job. I've had many jobs. I've worked pretty much everywhere in Memphis: KFC, Taco Bell, UPS, FedEx. I've got a 10-year manufacturing background here in Memphis.
You have a quote on your website: "Success is not a destination; it is a journey." How have you applied that to your career so far?
No matter what accomplishment I make, I don't look at it like that's the end. It's only part of your journey. You've got to keep going.