As we sit down in a booth at the American Bar and Grill in the hours when coffee mixes with that well-loved bar smell, Jason wants to know who else is in this edition of the magazine. “I’m trying to figure out where I fit in this thing. I feel like I’m wedged in between Mother Theresa and the guy who invented the Whoopee Cushion,” he says.
Jason’s a funny guy. And he’s an artist, too. Oh, and a musician. But back to the funny stuff first.
“I watched a lot of Saturday Night Live growing up, a lot of stand-up comedians, and I thought what they did looked enjoyable. Somebody was like, ‘Hey, you should try and do that. You’re kinda funny,’” Jason recalls.
So he started hopping the train to New York City to attend improv classes sponsored by The Second City, Chicago’s famed comedy club. “I was working my bar job at the Chameleon, would finish up there, go home, shower, lay down for about fourty-five minutes, and then drive to New Jersey and hop the train into the city. Sometimes I had to work as soon as I got home from the classes. The days were pretty crazy. A lot of Red Bulls.” (Or legal crack as Jason calls them.)
This eventually took him out to the Windy City where he passed through the ranks of auditions and did some stage shows. His comedy arises from his insecurities. It’s a defense mechanism— or a Jedi mind trick as he puts it—rooted in childhood. Comedy even helped him avoid school work as he grew up all around Lancaster.
Jason renacts a story regarding the Gettysburg Address… “When it was my turn to get up, I was nervous and was like… ‘What is it? Four scores and seven beers ago?’” says Jason. The teacher sensed his nervousness, appreciated the laugh, and gave him a pass on having to memorize the famous speech.
It was during the younger years of his life that Jason developed an interest in drawing. “Apparently I drew a Snoopy in my crib. Yet to this day, have I seen this fine Snoopy drawing. I do remember wanting to draw something once and I asked for tracing paper. My mom said, ‘You don’t need tracing paper to draw.’”
Here, Jason gives his mom some sort of robotic almost Orwellian voice as he recounts the tale, which I’m sure is nowhere close to how she actually sounds. Hi, Mrs. Berlet! (Dear reader, Mrs. Berlet and I do not know each other.)
“My mom’s very creative. I was at that age where I wasn’t rebellious yet and I listened to everything my parents said,” says Jason, who eventually took finality and truth in art one step further. His medium of choice became the Sharpie marker. So, when he moved away from his childhood proclivity to create stone-headed self portraits, he began creating on whatever was available with the most permanent of inks. Jason always carried a Sharpie and he started sketching on paper coffee cups in cafés in Chicago and NYC. Sometimes he’d leave messages on the cups or small prizes inside such as gummy bears, superballs, or parachute men. He gained a bit of a following.
“It got to the point in Chicago where I’d walk into places and they’d whisper, ‘There’s that guy.’ It kinda gave me a complex until I realized they were talking about all these cartoon images that I would draw,” says Jason, who now works on take out containers at ABG when he feels inspired. “I’ve always been drawing or painting or puttin’ popsicle sticks and glue together building that fantastic birdhouse, ya know?”
Now he enjoys sitting down to draw with his young daughters and claims that they teach him a lot about art. “Kids just draw and they don’t let anything stop them… I learn from them because they allow me not to be so stuck in my ways, because they’re not. That’s what’s great about young minds. They’re not filled with years and years of anxiety and fear.”
He went to school at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, but admits he spent most of his school money on records at BBC and Web of Sound. (Gotta be ‘old skool’ to remember those spots.)
“I’ve been singing and writing music in a band for 30 years. It’s amazing to think that you can do something for 30 years with someone who you are not married to,” says Jason, who is sporting a hat with the band’s name, Brom Bones, across the front. He thinks the band has kept him around because he’s funny. Aside from headlining drummer Dustin Huffman’s garage, Brom Bones—and their cult following of poppunk devotees—can sometimes be seen at ABG or at one of many benefit shows around southeast PA. There’s a new album in the works, too.
“I like to think I am putting my all into everything that I am doing and it’s doing what it’s meant to do in a positive way,” says Jason.