Sam Jay is giving us something to laugh about in her new Netflix special 3 in the Morning.

By Alamin Yohannes
August 02, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
Sam Jay
Credit: Marcus Price/NETFLIX

Sam Jay is unpacking more than luggage in her new comedy special 3 in the Morning.

The comedian and Saturday Night Live writer is giving people something to laugh about while stuck indoors with a Netflix comedy special. With a mix of commentary about the realities of being American to bringing audiences into her relationship, 3 in the Morning is a great way for people to get to know Jay.

Watch an exclusive clip below to give you a taste of the comedic fire she’s blessing us with when the special drops August 4. In the clip, Jay talks about one hell of a trip she went on at the British Museum.

“I call it 3 in the Morning because I felt like that’s when the special got made,” Jay tells EW. Whether it was staying up writing at night or riffing with other comedians in New York, the jokes got figured out and finessed at night. “It just felt like that where all the sweat equity was,” Jay shares. “That’s kind of an hour for creatives where we’re up when the world is asleep and we’re plotting the thing.

We spoke to Sam Jay about working on 3 in the Morning, representation, SNL, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did putting together this special compare to your Comedy Line-up set? Can you share how you developed and refined the show over time?

SAM JAY: The [set] is only 15 minutes, so it's a lot easier to put all that together in a lot of ways. I also felt like I could do it just working out in New York. I could just go up in New York and refine the jokes to get them to a place where I would be ready to rock that 15 out. I probably spent around 5 months of getting up in New York and playing around with the jokes, so I could hone in on the jokes I wanted to use.

Whereas the special just felt bigger all-around. I felt like I needed to really take it out, so I went across the country and went overseas with the material. I wanted it to come off as experience and not lacking. I wanted it tested in front of as many different types of audiences as I could. It was gonna be an hour release and a global release. I just feel you watch a lot of people's first specials and they're great, but then you see that second special when they finally got to tour around the world – just like writers. You read early [James] Baldwin, and then you read Baldwin after he's all over Europe for a while. It's like those experiences add to the richness of the tapestry of the work, and I wanted it to be as full as it could be.

How do you feel about this special being out in the world?

Nerve-wracking. It's nerve-wracking because you just don't know how it's going to be received, how people are going to take the shit you're saying. It's also super exciting because I built this thing to share, and I'm getting to share it. It's a mix of anxiousness and excitement.

Sam Jay
Credit: Marcus Price/NETFLIX

There's a part in the special where you make a point about people who survive something not coming out of the ordeal the same. It's a potentially dark idea, and other parts examine some current harsh realities. How do you turn difficult, complex subject matter into humor?

Oh, because I honestly just find this shit funny. These are things pop into my head, and they make me laugh, that's such a messed-up thought, but it's such a funny feeling to have towards something. I find the human condition and how we relate to things funny. How we react to stuff, the way we process things. I just find it interesting and funny. So, I don't feel like I need to make this dark thing hilarious, but it's more about needing to say my truth about it until I get it a place where people can receive it. The joke starts pretty heavy-handedly, and when I'm first working on it I'm just saying some messed up shit, the audience wants to laugh, but they don't know what's okay because it just sounds like 'baby, you're really sad.' Then I keep working on it, and then I find the jovial beats in it. I take the stuff that's going on in my head that makes me laugh and figure out how to put it in words.

In the special, you discuss representation and plainly state how much it matters. What does it mean to you that you and your peers in entertainment from marginalized communities are giving people a place to be seen?

It's dope to know that there's a possibility that young, Black, masculine-of-center girls can turn on the TV, see me doing stand-up on that level, and feel like there are options. There's a place where they are their genuine self and know there is space for them in this world.

I don't know what that would have done for me had I seen something like that at a more impressionable age than when I was like later into my 20s. As far as what I would have thought was possible for myself, so I think that can help the next generation kind of get a head start on some shit that we kind of had to start behind on.

We don't have enough when it comes to content from communities of color, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups, but are you encouraged by shows like A Black Lady Sketch Show and Michael Che's new HBO Max show?

I definitely think that it's starting to happen more and be more prevalent in this industry. We're seeing different types of shows and different types of blackness being represented, more of Asian culture being represented. It's happening, but it always feels too slow.

SNL has always been political, but it's also been known for having a fairly narrow/white POV. You've had a hand in many sketches (Black Jeopardy, Them Trumps, among others) that have helped breathe new life into the show by talking about race and social issues in our current era. Have you felt a shift in how SNL has approached these topics in the years since you started?

I think [SNL] is changing at the pace that the times are changing. I believe there are times where some of the stuff was stuck in the old guard, but I think overall network TV was kind of stuck in the old guard. SNL tries to be at the forefront of pushing things to the next level in that space. Are they f---ing HBO-ing it? No, but they're not HBO. There's diversity on the writing staff. There's Bowen Yang, me, and James Anderson, who has been there forever. You have Sudi [Green] – you have all of these writers from all these different backgrounds. In the three years I've been there, I have definitely seen the world expand in a very positive way.

How would you describe the difference between the sketches you write on SNL and your own stand-up comedy style?

SNL is casting and writing for multiple people. When I'm writing stand up, I'm just writing to me and my perspective, and that's it. I'm not thinking about how someone else is going to say something or how things will come out of someone else's mouth. You have to consider all that when you're writing a sketch. The other thing is it's a different plate of food, really. It's on NBC, it has to be more palatable for all types of people, it has to be clean, following all the rules of the network. There's a lot of coloring in the lines. When I'm on stage, I can just color wherever I want.

What's something — a sketch/joke/even just a reference — you've been dying to get on the show that you know just will not make it on?

I want to do something about Black hoteps. I don't know what that looks like yet, but it's funny to me.

Jay's special 3 in the Morning is out August 4 on Netflix.

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