In the last few years, though, Young-White has shown that he’s not just a one-trick-Twitter-joke-writing pony. He’s been a correspondent for The Daily Show and done standup on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, He also scored writing gigs on Big Mouth and the cancelled too soon American Vandal.
But 2021 has kind of been his year.
After starring in Dating & New York, nabbing a recurring role in Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building, signing on to work with Issa Rae for two separate projects, and playing opposite Joaquin Phoenix in C’mon C’mon, he can now be found on Amazon Prime’s Fairfax. In the animated comedy all about hypebeast culture, Young-White voices Truman, an amateur filmmaker and young Casanova.
In a Zoom conversation with The A.V. Club, the busy and booked Young-White chatted about his impressive list of quarantine hobbies, his inability to keep a grown-up calendar, and that time he quit his terrible pizzeria job right in the middle of a shift.
Jaboukie Young-White: We went to Wisconsin Dells. What made it great [is] I don’t think I had been in a pool. I think that’s what made it so cool. The idea of a waterpark was just really appealing to me. I think I was, like 11 or 12, somewhere around that age. I remember doing that and it felt really exciting.
2. What’s something that’s considered a basic part of your current career that you struggled to learn?
JYW: Oh, man. Having a calendar. I kind of honestly just let things bounce around in my head and I remember things that way. And I really rely on a sense of anxiety to remember things. I should be more organized, but I’m like, It’s fine. It’s just vibes.
AVC: So it’s just anxiety and vibes?
JYW: Yes! Listen, that will drive you and lead you. Anxiety and vibes have gotten me this far. I find that what actually fucks me up is that stuff I’m tranquil about and that sounds like a peaceful experience. That’s the shit that I forget. But some shit that’s stressful? I’m not forgetting that. I’ll sweat right up until that moment that I have to do that thing. I can’t forget it.
AVC: I feel like it’s a Leo thing. We just always look really capable—even when we’re stressed out.
JYW: Yes! I have a problem where, especially when I’m out with people, I guess I carry myself pretty confidently. So I will walk in the wrong direction for like two blocks and be like, “Oh, I thought y’all knew where we were going.” And everyone will be like “No, you are leading the group.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay. Wow.”
JYW: I kind of was doing a mad dash, speed run of twentysomething hobbies. Plants. I did some carpentry. I built this. [Gestures to the wooden artwork behind him.] And then through Fairfax, I really got into sound production and I was doing acoustic treatment. I became a dog parent. I was really cycling through everything.
4. What restaurant do you not live near, but make a point to hit every time you’re in the right town?
JYW: Okay, Cafe Gratitude in L.A. And I’m not even vegan like that. The food is just so good. And Mally’s Deli & Grocery in Bushwick [Brooklyn]. Their [água de] jamaica… it’s so good. And their tacos are so good. It’s like my comfort food in New York.
JYW: Teleportation for items. That would collapse the economy just because there’ll be so many shipping jobs that would just be gone. I guess maybe we could have teleportation centers. But we definitely got to get universal basic income before that, because that’s like 3 million jobs just disappeared.
JYW: I would say Andy Samberg. I got to work with him at the Spirit Awards. And it was the perfect example of someone absolutely nailing the expectation that you would have of them. Like just falling 100% within that [expectation], it was great. He was funny. He was really nice. He was genuinely like—it was if you look at a picture of Andy Samberg, and imagined what he’s like—it was exactly that. It was just that golden retriever energy. It really shined. It really came through.
AVC: You also worked on C’mon C’mon with Joaquin Phoenix, how was that?
JYW: He was someone that subverted the expectation of him. He was, shockingly, just a cool guy. This was post-Joker, so the image of him floating in the zeitgeist right now is so chaotic and unhinged. And then I meet him and he’s just like, “Man, I really love that Brazilian place in town. We should go there.” Just having a really genial conversation with the guy who’s famed for playing the Joker was like celeb whiplash for a second.
JYW: I worked at this pizza place. Yo, being hungry and making food is Sisyphean. It should actually be illegal. Like that was the most torturous. I’m making pepperoni pizzas and my stomach is just like on full 808 rumble mode. It was terrible.
I actually quit in the middle of a shift one day. I was making a pizza and I just went to the manager and I was like, “Dude, this is not for me.” And he was like, “Okay, do you want to work the register?” And I was like, “No, I mean, this job. Like, I just can’t do this job.” And he’s like, “Boy, get the fuck… do you think this job is for any of us? You think you’re fucking special? Like, you think that we’re so excited to be here?” But I was just like, “I can’t,” and I just walked out.
JYW: Whoa. You know what? This is more of a found family situation, which is very gay of me. But I would say growing up I always felt this way but Teen Titans. I really love their vibe and their dynamic and like, I also would love to have superpowers.
AVC: Literally choosing a found family is so queer.
9. What is the first piece of art or the earliest piece of media that inspired you to go into your field?
JYW: I think the earliest comedic thing I can remember watching is [Jamaican comedian] Oliver Samuels. The Jamaican Tyler Perry. Love Oliver. To this day I’m like, “I have to write something where I can get Oliver a role. I have to.”
That was some of my first experiences watching comedy. The distortion and clipping on [those old sketch videos] was crazy. Like I was a kid and picking up on the patois was already kind of difficult on top of that. I just remember the vibe of [Samuels’ comedy] and thinking that it was so crazy that you can say something and get a room to scream [with laughter]. I was so attracted to that from a young age. It was comedy but it was also live performance. I think that’s where I really fell in love with it.
JYW: Honestly, I think my brother Javaughn is funnier than I am. He really, really, really cracks me up.
AVC: Is he younger than you?
JYW: He’s younger than me, yeah.
AVC: It seems like with younger siblings, the only reason they’re funny is because we teach them. We have laid the foundation.
JYW: Right? That is very, very, very true. That is very true. I think the way [my brother and I are] funny is reflective of how we were growing up. I was always the quiet and sneaky, subversive one. I was always like, “I’m gonna play along like I’m going along with this, but I’m secretly trying to undermine what’s going on right now.” And Javaughn was always someone who’s like, “I’m simply just not doing this.”
AVC: That’s such a good dynamic.
JYW: Are you the oldest?
AVC: Yep. The oldest daughter in a Jamaican immigrant family.
JYW: Wow, thank you for your service. I appreciate all your hard work. Support our troops. I see you and I support you.
It’s like when you’re the oldest all eyes are on you and it’s hard to just get away with [things]. But then as the younger ones come, [your parents] get more lax, so they get away with more. And you’re like “Look at everything I’ve sacrificed for you! Look at the world you inhabit that I created!”
JYW: Whoa. You know with the Saweetie Meal and the Megan Thee Stallion Meal, I really have to think about this. Okay, if I was going to have a deli sandwich, boom, it would be [Jamaican] hard dough bread.
AVC: Yes, obviously.
JYW: Obviously hard dough bread. It would be jerk turkey. Let’s put some avocado spread on there for good measure. Along with some tomatoes. Actually, scratch the tomatoes. Wait. Scratch all of that. Okay, it’s gonna be hard dough bread, jerk turkey with sweet thinly sliced plantain. And some sort of aioli. Some… sort of… aioli. Okay, I’m working on the aioli right now, but I will get back to you.