Laughs & Riffs – The A-Train Experience

Duval-based comic calls on comedians and musicians alike to get all aboard his entertainment express at Jax Comedy Club

If you are at all intimate with the stand-up scene in Jax, then you are most certainly familiar with Jacksonville’s own professional jokester, A-Train. He’s been performing here “all his life,” starting out as the “funny kid” and, now into adulthood, opening for many notable national acts such as D.L. Hughley, Elayne Boosler, and Rich Vos. If you cover the Jax yuk-yuk scene as I do, he is as much of a fixture in greenrooms as is neurosis. The always affable and down-to-earth comic also takes his act all over the country, where he frequently rubs elbows with some of the biggest stars in the laugh industry. When he’s not busy honing his own craft, the humble comedian spends a lot of his time setting the stage and offering advice for other up and coming comics. Now it is his turn to throw the party on his terms, shining a light on some of the stuff that he appreciates and would like to bring to your attention. A-Train has put together what has become a monthly show at the Comedy Club of Jax called–fittingly enough–A-Train Presents “A-Train Live: The Experience.” The “experience” features stand-up comedy from various stage acts, live music before and between acts, and a talk show-style segment hosted by A-T himself. A-Train says that so far it has been a success, drawing packed houses. The next edition can be seen on May 14th, with headliner Ali Siddiq, of Comedy Central, HBO, & BET fame. A-Train recently spoke with EU about what it’s like to be the main attraction.

You go by A-Train. Out of curiosity, what is your real name?

Adrian Smith. Funny thing is several years ago a friend’s daughter, when she was a baby, couldn’t say Mr. Adrian. She’d say Mr ATrain. It stuck.

What is this “Do it Again and See What Happens” bit all about?

It was a direct threat to delete anybody from my friend list who posted foolishness. And by foolishness I mean, bathroom pics and you have a pile of dirty clothes in the background or your sink is dirty, and you have stuff hanging across your shower rod. I’m deleting anybody who Likes their own post on FB. That’s like walking around talking to yourself. Do It Again And See What Happens!”

What was your first comedy experience like?

Seven minutes stage time opening at The Times-Union Center for what ended up being a sold out show with comedian Funnybone. I even got a standing ovation. When I got that standing ovation from the sold out Times-Union Center crowd, oh that did it for me. It was on then.

Who would you say is the most well known comedian with whom you’ve worked?

Man, I almost fainted when D.L. Hughley asked me to come and go to Houston with him and do some stage time. I couldn’t believe it! I was totally humbled by that, because I really honor the character and integrity this guy has built his career on.

Were any of them jerks to you?

Are you trying to end my career already? [laughing]. Believe it or not, no, not at all. Actually every one of them has been supportive. Rich Vos has a reputation for being a “tough guy” in comedy. We hit it off like old friends. People were shocked. I’m told that never happens.

How would you describe the A-Train Experience? What can people expect to see?

The ultimate night of entertainment. Our band has played the Jazz Festival several times. The comedians we’re bringing in are top notch: HBO, Showtime, ComicView, Last Comic Standing, etc. Post-show interviews. Most of all, we make our audience feel like family. This show is Comedian A-Train and FRIENDS. At 7pm the band sets the atmosphere. Very intimate. Guests get an hour of smooth and contemporary sounds while they dine. Then I’m up at 8pm and just like a Late Night Show, the band plays in between acts.

What gave you the idea to create The Experience?

I remember watching Johnny Carson as a kid, and he made me want to do Late Night. I liked everything about the set up. Then when I saw Arsenio Hall, I felt like I could really do it. So here I am with my version of a Late Night Show. Also, I wanted to introduce my life on the road to my world at home.

I’ve heard you openly thank God before, does this sometimes create tensions for you in a field of work that may be full of more atheists than just about any other profession?

No, not at all. My convictions are just that, mine. So it is with the next man. I don’t invade other people’s space with what I believe. I never make it an issue. I treat EVERYBODY like a valued human being. Then something pretty spectacular happens. People who believe differently or don’t believe in anything at all, talk to me about their life and their troubles. Amazing how that happens. I support, I encourage, I’m honest, but I don’t judge. They appreciate that too.

Do you notice a trend of alternative, perhaps more risque, comedians turning towards playing at non traditional venues such as Underbelly Jax?

Kevin Hart once said in an interview, “There are 37 doors. Choose one. The only reason people think there is only one way is because everybody is sitting around talking about the one door somebody went through and the person that went through it, instead of figuring out how to get through the other 36 doors.” If a person finds another way on another road, who am I to call that wrong?

I‘ve met your always classy and supportive wife a few times–how important has she been to your comedy path?

So many comedians or people in general don’t have supportive spouses when it comes to chasing, let’s face it, far-fetched dreams such as comedy and writing, at least financially speaking. None of this would be happening if it weren’t for Baby (My Wife). She has been a tremendous support to me on this journey. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be doing comedy at all. She writes for me as well and helps to manage me.

What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from performing stand-up?

He who has the mic has the responsibility. I propose to always be mindful that words have power.

If you could have anyone in the history of comedy, dead or alive, who would be your dream line-up for the A-Train Experience?

Oh man, let’s see, Pete Lee, D.L. Hughley, Robin Williams, and me as Host! Bruh, I’m excited just thinking about it! [laughing] Comedy Club of Jax

J.R. Brow :  5/8 & 5/9

Alex Ortiz : 5/15 & 5/16

Tom Simmons : 5/22 & 5/23

John Rathbone : 5/29 & 5/30

Show times for both nights:

Early shows – 8:04 pm

Late “Uncut” shows – 10:10 pm

Tickets: Early – $15.00   Late – $12.00

Special $8 front row ticket available online only.

About Richard David Smith III

writer, lab rat, and purveyor of fine energy drinks. pro Oxford comma.