Sam Jay Tackles Racism and Empathy In New Special ‘Salute Me Or Shoot Me’

Sam Jay’s signature spin on comedy is about breaking barriers and saying what we’re all probably thinking deep down inside.

That approach has been present in her writing for shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “That Damn Michael Che,” as well as her own series “Bust Down” and HBO late-night show “Pause With Sam Jay.” It flows effortlessly from Jay’s character Mo in her first feature film, “You People,” co-starring Jonah Hill.

And it’s exactly the vibe for her upcoming stand-up special, “Salute Me or Shoot Me,” which airs on HBO and Max on Sept. 23, where gender roles, race and policing language are a few of the polarizing topics Jay hits on. From sharing stories of being high while watching white people dance off-beat in a park to talking about being able to “let go” of certain racial issues, Jay serves up a freewheeling comedic experience.

And if you don’t like it, you can, as she says, simply suck it. 

How did you prepare for this special compared to previous ones? Were there topics you had in mind that you hadn’t tackled before?

It presented itself to me through the process of touring and working the hour. I had all these jokes, and I was trying to just figure out the theme of the conversation that I was trying to have. I wanted this special to have a driving force. My last special, I had good jokes but there wasn’t this overall narrative. I wanted to grow as an artist. The theme just started to be empathy, the more I was running around and doing bits. I started to gather all the bits that fit that narrative of the many different ways that we can show empathy and the many different ways that we don’t.

Was there anything you were anxious to discuss? Or are you past that at this point?

Well, it’s a little bit of both right? I’m a little bit past it because people are always gonna have something to say. That’s a fact. In this special, I made a greater effort to show my work, to really walk you through the thought process and try to leave less holes in the joke. I tried to just make sure all the jokes were whole. … I just hope it opens up conversations, opens up another way to talk about or think about some of this stuff, especially with the race stuff and especially other minorities. 

Why do you enjoy covering these topics in your comedy?

Honestly, it’s because it’s what my favorite comedians did — Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, George Carlin. I don’t think all comedy has to have some political comment to it. Some stuff is just fun and fucking silly, and that’s awesome too. I was always attracted to the more heavy stuff. 

Would you like to stick to comedy or venture into other genres?

The more I get to be a creative, the more open I am to all types of creativity. I think comedy will always be a part of what I do because I love it. I can’t imagine not doing stand-up. 

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