Jess Hilarious (née Jessica Robin Moore) is here for the mess, and we love her for it. The Baltimore native has risen quickly to the top of the comedy world -- a male-dominated sphere with her jokes, roasts and outlandish entertainment commentary. Just a few years ago, she was studying mortuary science. Now, the Wild 'n Out comedian appears in HBO’s Def Comedy Jam reboot, All Def Comedy.
Ahead of the series premiere, I chatted with Jess who is currently touring the country and performing her stand-up routines. Comedy has always been a significant part of the 25-year-old's life. “It was just something effortless for me because I've always been a humorous person --just socially humorous, “ she explained. “It started at family reunions and just general conversation with my family, friends, and boyfriend. One day I was just sitting, and I was like let me just start making videos. They went viral. I saw a response from that [and] my following was growing. I started doing stand-up. I jumped into it, and it was good. It hasn't even been that long. I’ve only been doing stand-up for like 18 months. The comedy all-together, like two and half years."
With her hands in improv, stand-up and her Instagram segment, Jess with the Mess -- the comedy phenom feels most at home on the stage. “Honestly, I like stand-up better, “ she reflected, “I'm not a big fan of improv. I'm not a big fan of acting on the spot. I can on the spot roast somebody like on the Wild 'n Out shows and that type of stuff. But unless it's a person that I have to roast, it's not going down.
Jess' knack for roasting is what has helped propel her to the center of social media comedy. With spats with the likes of Azealia Banks, Hazel E and a major controversy surrounding an innocent photo with her son, Jess has remained unphased by it all. “I don’t regret anything. Not ever,” she said adamantly. “The problems I choose, I choose them wisely. I don't regret anything that I've done. I don't regret picking on anybody. It's a difference between bullying and roasting and if you need to be roasted you gonna get roasted. That's just how it is. That's just who I am. That's how I was brought up. I have an older brother -- all he did was crack on me. He made me real tough and got me together for the world. He just prepared me to be quick on my feet for when somebody comes at me. It's all fun and games until people get serious. Then when they get serious, I still be playing.”
The spot-on impressionist has obtained a massive following that topples over 2.5 million on Instagram alone by being engaging and talking directly to her fans. “I just talk about my everyday life,” she explained. “You know, relatable situations that people go through every day. I find a way to make it funny. It's gonna make you laugh not only because it's funny, but because you can relate to it. So that's what makes me likable. That's how I keep my audience’s attention -- that's how I build my set. That's how I build my material.”
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Staying relatable earned the self-proclaimed Princess of Comedy an invitation to HBO’s All Def Comedy. “They called,” she remembered. “They just called me. They reached out and said, ‘We want you to be a part of it.” I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I didn't have to audition. I just went, and they liked what they saw, and then they called me like, ‘What's up girl, you trying to get on?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, of course, I'm down.’ And that was it.”
Despite the invitation, Jess did feel like a bit of a novice once she arrived at the All Def Comedy set for her segment, especially since she was surrounded by comedic legends. Still, that didn’t stop her from getting on the stage and doing her thing. “I can adapt even when nervous,” she laughed. “I was the only female. Everybody had already known each other. Everybody was a seasoned comic. These people were not straight from the internet. They’ve been doing this. They have years and years under their belts. Then here I am. I'm like, ‘It's time to show them what you got. Be the same person you are online, just stand out. Give them what they are looking for. You're Jess Hilarious. Be Jess Hilarious.’ After I talked to myself I went out there; I did my thing. At the end of the day, I am Jess Hilarious, and that's exactly what those people were chanting when I came out. People already knew me. I didn't even invite anybody. They already knew me. So my audience --they make me feel so good, those are my friends.”
Being a Black woman in the comedy world certainly hasn’t hindered Jess’ progress nor has she felt she’s needed to temper herself down. “At heart, I am a boy anyway,” she joked. “There aren't any hardships, that I have encountered yet, that made me think, ‘Oh my God, I'm being attacked.’ I'm already prepared for things like that anyway because as a woman, we already don't just get things handed to us. It's already so hard. It's so much harder for us anyway. “
All Def Comedy is just one stop in what looks like it will be a very long career for Jess Hilarious. You can expect to see much more of her in the near future. “I will be in theaters within the next two years,” she said excitedly. “I start filming in the beginning of December for my first movie, and then my second is being filmed in Spring. Also, Much Moore TV, my very own show will be out soon. As far as touring and stand-up, I'm still on tour. I have no end date for my tour yet because there are so many places to go, so many stages to hit, so many fans to meet. So many people that haven't heard me yet. I will be on tour until I feel like I can sit down for a little minute, but you know it's a fun time for me. I'm never going to disappear from the internet. You can just find Jess everywhere.”
All Def Comedy airs Friday nights on HBO.
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami