Brett Goldstein keeps his stand-up hand in at Jam in the Van

Brett Goldstein of Ted Lasso fame has been popping up at a few Los Angeles comedy nights in recent months. The star has a background in stand-up comedy, and Subjectify managed to catch his set at a Jam in the Van line up this weekend. Read our review of the event below.

Jam in the Van — a solar-powered mobile recording studio which has, over the past decade, brought over a thousand musical and comedy acts to remote places all around the United States — hosted an outdoor event this past Friday, at their new West LA location, headlined by local comics Scout & Avery, with sets from Phoebe Walsh, RB Butcher, Michael Carbonero, The Jasons, and, as mentioned, Brett Goldstein.

For most of my adult life, I lived in an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne, as you may know, is home to one of the greatest comedy festivals in the world, but despite that, it’s a place where my chances of randomly catching a well-known performer — let alone a current favorite celebrity — in an intimate venue six minutes drive from my house on a regular weekday were roughly on par with my chances of seeing a squirrel reading a newspaper.

Since I moved to Los Angeles in December of 2019, I’ve seen no less than two squirrels holding — if not reading — copies of the LA Times, but thanks to the COVID situation, I hadn’t yet had the chance to go to any live events, intimate or otherwise. I’m so glad that this was my first venture into the comedy scene here.

I’m not going to lie; Brett Goldstein is the entire reason I knew about this show at all. He’s the reason you’re reading this article and he’s the reason I bought tickets. It was a relatively last-minute decision — I only found out about the show the day before, via another Subjectify writer who is a huge fan, but isn’t an LA local. I figured I was probably shit out of luck, but somehow managed to grab a couple of tickets just in time.

I first learned of Brett Goldstein’s existence in the same way a lot of people did — through his Emmy-winning portrayal of Roy Kent on the hit Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso. But after finding out that he landed the role of Roy due to being first hired as a writer for what I think can reasonably be called one of the funniest but also most honest shows on TV right now (famously, he grew attached to Roy during the writing period and nervously put himself on tape right as the Ted Lasso season 1 writers room wrapped up, asking the EPs to just ignore his audition if they hated it) and then discovering that he comes from stand-up comedy? There was no way I wasn’t going to seek out more of him.

In recent months, I’ve listened to several episodes of his weekly podcast Films To Be Buried With — in which he tells his guest that they’ve died (his very first guest was fellow British comedian James Acaster, recent guests include Barry Jenkins, Nia DaCosta, Maisie Williams, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Ben Barnes) and then takes them through the history of their life via the medium of film — and tracked down videos of his stand-up online, of which there are woefully few. Every single thing has only endeared him to me further.

His short set of new material at Jam in the Van only solidified that, and it makes me really happy to know that despite his onscreen success and extremely busy schedule (he’s currently writing season 3 of Ted Lasso, which begins filming in London in January; he’s co-created a new Apple TV+ show, Shrinking, alongside Jason Segel and Bill Lawrence; and season 2 of his AMC anthology series Soulmates is presumably still in the works) Goldstein still seems to be keen to pursue a live stand-up career, or at least keep his hand in.

When Bill Lawrence offered Goldstein the job as a Ted Lasso writer, he had to cancel a small run of shows in the UK in order to take it, and he actually hesitated to do so — sorry to those 40 people who had tickets, he likes to say in interviews and such. Obviously he made the right decision, but the idea that a full set of new material might be on the horizon when Goldstein gets a minute to himself is very exciting. I’m pretty sure more than 40 people will be attending, the next time he books a headline gig.

There’s just something deeply loveable about Brett Goldstein. He’s charming, he’s handsome, he’s got a little twinkle in his eye that makes you suspect that he’s up to something, but that it’s the kind of something that you’re going to enjoy. Goldstein has regularly been found, by past reviewers, to have the ability to talk about topics that feel off-limits (even for a comedian!) in a way that would seem louche and crass and controversial from anyone else, but from him, just comes across as thoughtful, confessional, disarming and even sweet. They’re right.

To put it bluntly, there aren’t many people in this world who could repeat the questionable phrase “a little pot of cum” several times on stage without making the whole room uncomfortable, but as it turns out, Brett Goldstein is one of them.

(No, I won’t elaborate on the context of that one. Yes, it was both hilarious and respectful of women, two descriptors which also apply to his set in general.)

Other highlights included his thoughts on a topic somewhat thematically common to Ted Lasso — the struggle of male intimacy, and how men can be terrible at being open with each other. He went on to describe how he realized that he had a couple of friends he didn’t really know that well personally, so deliberately tried to open up with one of them only to discover that the guy was actually a nightmare. Evidently, they aren’t friends anymore. He was quite focused on the general failings of his gender (“Men… is… bad…” was an ongoing thesis statement) but a bit about how he started going to therapy recently and how differently that information is received by people he’s spoken to in the US compared to the UK was also of interest.

As anyone familiar with his body of work would tell you, Brett Goldstein is a masterful storyteller, both on the page and on his podcast. Reviews of his stand-up — he’s taken four hour-long solo shows to the Edinburgh Fringe in the last decade, but he’s never done a taped special, and the frustration I feel reading those old reviews and wanting to hear those stories is immense — also paint him as a comedian who does spoken word story-shows, always weaving a proper narrative tale, while making it properly hilarious.

This article isn’t intended as a traditional critique by any means — I’m not analysing his work in progress, I’m just telling you about my night out — but I can say that his particular style is personal, conversational, and riveting. Sitting in the crowd, especially one as intimate as this one, it’s easy to feel a bit like you’re overhearing the funniest stranger in the bar, with all the correct opinions, recounting their best stories to a group of friends. Even when the subject matter occasionally veers into darker territory, it’s truly a joy to listen to.

I bought tickets to Jam in the Van because I liked Brett Goldstein; I left the show knowing that I was right to have had such a high opinion of him as an artist and as a human being.

Also on the ticket was fellow Ted Lasso writer and actor Phoebe Walsh (you’ll know her as Jane, Coach Beard’s chaotic on-again-off-again girlfriend, and her writing credits include season 1’s phenomenal “All Apologies,” — which, by the way, is the episode that Goldstein submitted to the Television Academy for consideration as Best Supporting Actor — as well as season 2’s “Headspace”) whose artful slow-burn comedic style made me seek out more of her work as soon as the night was over.

The rest of the line up was just as much fun — from Michael Carbonero’s occasionally dark magic act, to RB Butcher’s sharp observational humor, to such catchy songs from The Jasons as well as hosts Scout and Avery that I was obnoxiously singing them the whole walk home, I left the night positively buzzing.

To be honest, I don’t think I really realized how much I’d missed being part of an audience until I found myself back in one. There’s an energy in a crowd, especially when the people on stage cultivate the kind of space where you know you’re welcome, and it’s no less wonderful every time. It’s that same kind of euphoria you feel at a concert when everyone sings the chorus; the act of communal laughter is unifying.

As soon as the night began and I, along with my 200-or-so new friends, found myself singing along with Jam in the Van hosts Scout and Avery as they paid tribute to a newly free Britney Spears, I realized that for many of us, this is what’s been missing for the past twenty or so months of what can only be described as an incredibly slow apocalypse. Not being out in public, exactly; but experiencing something good together as a group.

Comedy isn’t curing Coronavirus, and I won’t try to claim that it’s saving the world. But it can, and always has, served a vital and cathartic duty, making the world a little better, a little brighter, even in the most incremental of doses. The sheer visceral reaction that laughing together instills in us is something that can’t be faked. You either laugh or you don’t, but when you do, it’s a shared endorphin rush. Stress relief, en masse.

So after almost two years of living in a strange, liminal state of suspended animation, where nothing has seemed entirely real, a couple of hours of honest comedy is somehow exactly what I needed. I can’t wait to get back out and do it again.

Header image from a prior appearance of Brett Goldstein at Jam in the Van, via Instagram.