By Christine Roach
Nate Jackson is a comedian on the rise. His comedy, talent and determination have landed him more than 10 TV credits, a national Jeep commercial and more than 60,000 followers on his social media channels. Jackson’s loud, energetic and goofy personality on stage even led him to be a competitor on a season of Nick Cannon’s Wild ’n Out on MTV.
But breaking through to Hollywood wasn’t easy. Jackson has been performing as a comedian on stage for more than 12 years since his time at Eastern Washington University, with a hefty set of challenges and roadblocks on his way to success.
One of those challenges: a series of unfortunate events while attempting to get on Wild ’n Out for four years, including no callbacks, missed auditions and a missed opportunity with Cannon himself.
Jackson performed before Cannon’s show in Seattle, and Cannon liked what he saw.
“Nick said, ‘I’m going to put you on the show,’ and gave me his business card,” Jackson said. “Another year went by and none of the numbers on Nick’s business card worked.”
Even though it seemed like a missed opportunity, Jackson finally had his chance to audition in 2016 after years of trying to get on the show, despite not making contact with Cannon.
“They said we would get a call at midnight to see if we made it,” Jackson said. “Midnight came and went, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, I didn’t make it.’ At about 12:15, my phone rang and it was Nile [the producer] and he said, ‘We’ll see you tomorrow morning.’ I was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait, I need you to say it so I can play it back in my head. I need you to say it.’ He’s like, ‘You’re on the show,’ and I just lost it.”
Jackson’s work was far from over. Wild ’n Out is a televised comedy competition, in which teams of comedians compete in improv games.
“I showed up every day before everyone else got there, and I busted my ass and I worked at night on the games trying to put stuff in my pocket, so when we played the games I would be prepared,” he said.
His preparation paid off. Jackson was featured in five episodes of Wild ’n Out and taped a stand-up special for MTV 2.
“There were a few moments [on the show] that were very surreal. It was just like, I have arrived. I have stepped into the greatness that’s always been waiting for me,” he said. “That’s how I felt versus feeling like I had an opportunity I didn’t deserve.”
Jackson’s passion for comedy wasn’t discovered until 2005 when he was dared by his friend to participate in the EWU comedy competition.
“Every day we used to sit in the PUB and talk smack, and I got dared one day to do stand-up by John Fowler, who had been doing stand-up in Seattle at comedy clubs,” he said. “I didn’t know that at the time.”
Though Jackson lost to Fowler, the competition sparked an interest in comedy that Jackson continued throughout his college career. He began to perform at comedy clubs in Spokane and started to be booked in other cities, such as Yakima.
“[Comedy] came to me at a time in my life where I was like, ‘What in the hell am I about to be? What am I going to do? Is there something I love? I don’t know if there’s something that I love,’” he said.
With two years of comedy under his belt and graduation looming, Jackson decided to reach out to a professional comedian for advice, who would later become his colleague and friend – Rodney Perry. Jackson sent him an email with footage of his skits, asking if he should move to Los Angeles to pursue comedy.
“I don’t know if he watched the clip or not, but he said, ‘If you think stand-up is something you can actually pursue, then you need to move to LA,’” Jackson said. “I was just like, OK!”
After walking across the stage at graduation in 2006, Jackson headed straight for California to follow his dream. But his dream didn’t come easy. LA was cutthroat compared to the comedy clubs he was used to in the Spokane and Tacoma area.
“LA was a wake-up call,” he said. “In Washington, there might be one comic who’s done television standing in the room somewhere. Once I got to LA, I found out very fast that I was a tadpole in the ocean.”
Jackson went to Hollywood Improv on one of his first nights in LA with the hope of showing some of his material on stage.
“I went to meet Big Spike [the club promoter] and gave him a DVD I shot, and said ‘Hey, here’s my DVD, I want to see if I can get up on stage,’” Jackson said. “And he’s like, ‘You want to get on my stage?’ He took my DVD and said, ‘I’m never going to watch this. Unless somebody tells me you’re good, you might as well hang out because you’re not going up until I say so.’”
Jackson leaned against the wall with other comics, particularly ones that he recognized. Looking on both sides of him, Jackson saw comedians who he knew were talented but weren’t getting time on stage. Despite that, Jackson stuck with it, coming down to the comedy club every Monday night. Roughly nine months later, Jackson finally had his chance on stage.
“I go up on stage, and he gives me – after all that time I spent coming down – three minutes,” Jackson said. “Mind you, I’ve already got 45 minutes in Washington, but I’m thankful for it because the level of funny and professionalism of the LA comics had was such that I felt out of 45 minutes of material, about 8-12 minutes of it was worthy of saying in LA.”
Jackson kept going to comedy clubs Sunday through Thursday, trying to make a name for himself. After nearly 10 years in comedy, Jackson started to catch a break.
In 2010, he won the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition and was first runner-up at the 2008 Seattle International Comedy Competition. In 2012, he received his first TV credit, and after that, the floodgates opened. He became recognized as a talent in LA.
In addition to Wild ’n Out, Jackson is currently traveling the country performing comedy shows at colleges and clubs, including some near his hometown of Lacey, Washington. His Super Funny Comedy Show has been running for more than five years, bringing different comedic lineups to Tacoma.
Jackson stays determined with the hope of being relevant in different entertainment fields, including stand-up, movies, television, radio and the Internet.
“I’ll know I’ve made it when I can’t walk through the airport,” he said. “For that to happen, that means I will have been in several genres and a couple of different markets.”