Sarah Jones will be the first to inform you that she doesn’t consider herself a comedian. And if an abbreviated version of her solo theater piece “Surface Transit” wasn’t presented at this year’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. — where it won best one-person show kudos — she might not have been spotlighted in the present company.
In “Surface Transit,” which was inspired by New York’s “almost impossible mix of cultures, races, languages and religions,” Jones’ characters run the gamut from rapper to homophobic Italian cop to white supremacist.
Like one of her heroes — Lily Tomlin — Jones finds the line between humor and pathos almost transparent. “There’s comedy in even the most grave subjects,” says Jones, “because it’s the stuff of life.”
The same principles applied to another solo show that Jones wrote and performed at the Intl. Conference on Women’s Rights in June.
“This organization, through Gloria Steinham (Equality Now), commissioned me to write about abuses all over the world — not the funniest fodder in the world,” says Jones. “For example, I portrayed this woman from India who’s at a U.N. conference to talk about marital rape, but she still throws jokes in there. I had to inject humor otherwise it would have been a weepfest.”
Jones’ uncanny ability to inhabit characters of all ethnic stripes and persuasions has not gone unnoticed. She’ll be seen in Spike Lee’s upcoming film, “Bamboozled,” opposite Damon Wayans.
“It’s amazing,” says Jones, “people have been coming out of the woodwork, and saying, ‘I’ve been watching you.'”