Like all fans of clever tastelessness, Jay Mohr hoped that Action, his Fox series that debuted this season, would have legs. He even turned down offers for all feature-film work that might conflict with shoots for the show’s second season.
After only a few episodes, Fox decided America wasn’t ready for a sitcom that had as a running character a chef who peed in his cuisine. Or maybe it was America that made the call. Action, in either case, was canceled in December.
So the Saturday Night Live alum has spent much of the new century the way any idled Gen-Xer worth his testosterone might: sitting in front of a big-screen TV in his L.A. living room, living out jock fantasies through video games. On the day we talk, Knockout Kings from Sega is getting all Mohr’s attention. And some of the biggest names in boxing are giving him beatings about as ruthless as the one NBC’s Thursday night “Must-See TV” lineup used to give his show every week.
“Jake LaMotta is knocking the crap out of me,” Mohr tells me, in real-time play-by-play. “God, I’m hitting him with everything I’ve got….The guy’s face looks like bruised fruit….But I can’t slow him down! He’s knocking me all over the place….Oh, now he’s hitting me in the nuts!…Oh, no! He got me in the nuts again!…Damn! Mills Lane’s gotta step in and stop him! C’mon, Mills! He’s hitting me in the nuts, Mills!”
The digitized referee, however, ignores Mohr’s pleas for relief, just as real-world Fox executives did when the budding star asked them to move his show to a different night so it might have at least a puncher’s chance. Alas, his boxer is about to meet the same fate as his series.
“Oh, God, I’m down…seven, eight…I’m out…I’m knocked out,” Mohr moans. “Oh, I don’t like this. Jake took my title. I was going to take a nap and take the dog for a haircut. Not now. I’m coming for you, Jake! Oh, I’m going to be here another four hours.”
To judge by his past, once Mohr picks himself off the canvas, or at least the couch, it won’t take him long to be both working and working out his jock fantasies at the same time; Mohr’s showbiz career has been guided by sportscentricity.
His biggest big-screen moments, for example, came as the evil sports agent and Tom Cruise foil in Jerry Maguire. While with SNL, Mohr won an ESPY from ESPN for writing a skit that had Charles Barkley brutalizing Barney under the boards and gave an impersonation of a boneheaded Dick Vitale forecasting that Schindler’s List would win the Oscar over Kentucky, thanks to the clutch play of Ralph Fiennes—”He shoots, he rebounds, he’s a Nazi! It’s Schindler’s List in a buzzer beater!” Mohr’s most conspicuous melding of sports and entertainment comes in his role as Slam Man, the incredibly informed surrogate host of Jim Rome’s syndicated sports call-in show, The Jungle (heard locally on WTEM-AM).
“I’ve always been like an encyclopedia of sports, my whole life,” says the Jersey native and proud Rutgers dropout.
Mohr’s been doing stand-up since he was 15 years old, but this week he’ll be playing D.C. for the first time. His jock-ular side surfaces early and often during his routines. Despite living on the West Coast in a city that cares even less about sports than Washington does, Mohr is full of educated opinions—or, as he calls them on the radio, “takes”—about our teams.
“The thing that got me about the Redskins this year—what was with Stephen Davis?” Mohr says. “He ran like Michael Westbrook was chasing him. Last time anybody saw him, boy, he was taking a beating, in front of his team, in front of his city, in front of the country! Maybe that’s what got him running.”
He’s heard some things about the Wizards, too.
“You guys have the Clippers East,” he says. “Nothing ever goes right here, either. But now here comes Michael Jordan to be CEO and straighten everything out. But what was he trying to do? He fires the coach so he can bring in Rod Higgins, an assistant from the worst team in the NBA, Golden State. Then Higgins drops out and Michael brings in Darrell Walker, a coach from the worst team in the CBA! What’s that about? It’s great.
“I also thought it was great that Michael goes out to practice with the team and afterwards his players go to the press saying, ‘It was really motivating to have him out there with us.’ I watched ESPN, and Michael audibly sighed when a reporter read him those quotes. The players need him to get motivated? I think they need somebody to teach them, too. Can somebody finally show Juwan Howard the finer points of boxing out? I wish somebody could explain to me how Jason Kidd gets more rebounds per game than Juwan. What I really want is to see Michael go practice with his hockey team. At least they’re winning since he got here.”
And with his Jerry Maguire background, of course, Mohr has a take on David Falk.
“I cannot believe the NBA is going to allow an owner to have an agent,” he says. “Does anybody think that David Falk is now going to sit across the table from Michael Jordan in negotiations with one of his players? How’s that going to work with Juwan Howard or Rod Strickland? What bothers me even more than the fact that he can now steer players is that the agent will now be getting a share of the profits of the team. Agents are scum. I know that.” —Dave McKenna
Mohr appears Thursday through Sunday at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, (296-7003).