Jordan Temple has a lot to be excited about. The twenty-something comedian is celebrating a birthday, an appearance on Hot 97, and the fourth sold out run of “Hidden Fences,” an original, satirical play based on a gaffe from last years awards season where three different people combined “Hidden Figures” and “Fences.” He has been doing comedy for only four years, but has an impressive resume that includes writing for MTV’s “Decoded” and opening for Eric Andre. “Im like the Nas of comedy” he says, revealing a bright, chipped tooth smile that he says signifies his Queens-bred upbringing.
Temple grew up in the Ravenswood housing projects, “a stop over from Queensbridge.” And even attempted a career in making heads nod, before making them laugh. ”
“I used to rap, but I wanted to be on stage in a different way. It was cathartic. I used to go to open mics to rap, I had a song and my boys had their own group and I would do my feature verse. Don’t get me wrong, it was struggle city, just like comedy open mics, but I loved comedy more. I wanted to be on stage in that capacity.”
Classic Black Dude: What made you get on stage for comedy?
Jordan Temple: My mom is a theater person, with a masters in Applied Theater, so teaching people the lessons from theater. She always had me around theater and she sent me an email for the Brothers Hines and I went to check them out and talked to them and they told me about the diversity program, then I got a scholarship essay. Then I got into stand up after a meet and greet. I started going to open mics after meeting Neruda Williams and Drew Dowdey, two crazy niggas also from New York.
CBD: Which comics were you looking at in the beginning?
JT: Clark Jones, Will Miles, Kenny DeForest, nah Im bullshitting (laughs). I dont know, mmm Hannibal, Eric Andre, Im kinda all over the place.
CBD: If you’re middling, who would host and who would headline?
JT: To open, I would have my roommate Paul Julmeus, hes very strange and was in Hidden Fences who got the fuck out of Miami. And then probably Eric Andre to headline or if Donald Glover would be down that would be dope.
CBD: Lets talk Hidden fences, give me the whole arc of how that happened.
JT: Hidden Fences, based on a viral mistake. I woke up one morning reading people tweets about the mistake. Sometimes Im writing jokes and feel empty. So I literally slept on it. When I woke up, I said Im going to write “Hidden Fences” the play. I had never written a play. I just wanted to do something that was ridiculous. I felt frustrated, because I was super close to some writing jobs. I had quit a day job because i thought i was getting a real writing job. I was in the fourth day and I was super close. My rep called me and said “we have an opportunity for or you to talk to the showrunner.” They sent me the updated script and my manager got me a mock interview. But I couldn’t do that AND the temp job. So it was one or the other. Part of the game. I felt like taking that risk, there were some things I wasn’t doing for myself. I was legit struggling, it was hard for me to like, live. I had the idea partly out of desperation. I needed to get through not only artistic hurdles, but emotional hurdles. The two are intertwined because when you dont have money, its hard to fell good about yourself. Fuck what anybody says. Its hard to leave the house or anything.
CBD: How do you decide to say Ill quit the thing that’ll pay me money, how do you walk away from it?
JT: When I made this play it was be being like “this has to do well” There was no possibility that this wont do well. I put people in it who are smart and funny. This is going to get traction, I thought. People often say “do it for the love” and I did this because i knew it would be profitable. Once I stepped away and looked at the big picture, I just knew I had no choice but to do it.
CBD: How long did it take to write?
JT: 2.5 weeks. The original draft took about a week then sent it out to people to give me feedback. I had my girlfriend Liz, who has a playwriting background to help me with structure and punch-up. She’s White, but, we have very similar upbringings. Still, the most difficult thing about being in an interracial relation is hearing her talk about her struggle (laughs).
CBD: Do you find it difficult to get genuine feedback in such a competitive business? Especially amongst young Black performers?
JT: I trust peoples judgement. Most of my friends know my temperament and they know how I am. Most of it is letting go of my ego. A part of the ego Black men have is a defense mechanism. Seeing what we go through gives us a need to survive and people not believing you’ll do anything with your life. Its easy and harder to tone it down when its someone who looks like me. If a brother or sister gives their two cents, I’m a lot more receptive. Especially If its a classic black dude suggesting it…PLUG!
JT: Oh word? Thats classic!
CBD: What gave you the confidence to even pursue an artistic field instead of getting a good ass job?
JT: I was done after my first high school, I went to 5. I was one of three Black people. Seeing my mom at my shows means a lot, and my dad drove up from DC, which also meant a lot to me.
CBD: What was casting like?
JT: I hit people up facebook. But I looked for people who needs more love and deserved a shot. Mamadou N’diaye, and Shalewa Sharpe, Karolena Theresa, and Julian Williams, and my man Holden McNeely from Murderfist. I watched him perform and hes just so knowledgeable, and Gary Richardson and James III. Just people who I thought needed more love and would do well. Raw talent. My mom actually casted Thalia Robinson. I told her “I need more Black women” and I didnt want anybody to be in drag, and my mom saw her in a performance and said “how about her?”
CBD: When you hear classic black dude, what do you think of?
JT: The character is like, hes got a cane sword, but also a water flower on his lapel. Hes a clown and a violent man. He protects himself, but can make you laugh. At the same damn time. He listens to Future, but cries to Solange. Turns his pain into art. Classic as hell.