'3 in the Morning' Is Sam Jay's Introduction to the World

The comedian and 'Saturday Night Live' writer makes a bold entrance to the global stage in her first Netflix special.
Ashwin Rodrigues
Brooklyn, US
Sam Jay '3 In the Morning'
Screenshot via Netflix

Sam Jay's first Netflix special, 3 in the Morning, is the result of roughly two years of performing and sharpening material, she told VICE. Opening with Jay sitting in a barber's chair as a barber touches up her fade, the special then queues up a simple jazz instrumental. You can hear Jay's set start before she even reaches the stage, and before you realize it, she's on stage, mid-joke. There's no emcee or comic announcing that Sam Jay is coming, a choice she made intentionally.


"A lot of people do not know my standup at all," Jay said. "I'm about to shake a lot of people's hands and I didn't want to come out like, 'You should already know who I am.' Because that's not how I feel."

As her first hour-long Netflix recording, the special is a moment to explain who she is and how she thinks. 3 in the Morning has a smooth and intimate feel, in both the camerawork and the special's content. She reflects on dating men before she realized she was gay, typical relationship issues and traveling with her girlfriend, and being at the stage in one's life where you go to the museum for entertainment, but you do mushrooms first. There are also bits in the special that will prompt the viewer to laugh, and then instinctually check Twitter to see if Jay has entered the discourse for that joke. Without spoiling the special, one example invokes #MeToo and the image of fighting Aziz Ansari.

3 in the Morning is a hilarious and truly irreverent piece of comedy, one that feels more truthful and less contrarian for the sake of it.

"If you watch that special, every side can co-opt something," Jay said, laughing. "There's probably something I said that a Hotep would co-opt, as much as it might be something some crazy Trump person takes, as much as it might be something a queer person takes."


But that doesn't stop Jay from taking some big swings.

"I can't control [if people co-opt her jokes,] but if I don't say things based on that, then I wouldn't say a bunch of shit." she said.

Jay, an Atlanta-born comedian who came up in Boston, said the comedians she liked were always "fucking with your head a little bit," pointing to George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, and Katt Williams. And while her material will definitely fuck with your head, she insists the subject matter came to her organically.

"I knew they were things I wanted to talk about. It wasn't like, 'I need to get an angle on #MeToo'" she said. "This is stuff that we're talking about. When I'm up at comedy clubs, the Cellar, and the Stand, me and a bunch of comics are arguing about the news of the day. These are the types of the arguments we're having."

People who are familiar with Sam Jay solely through her work as a writer on Saturday Night Live might be shocked at the subject matter across 3 in the Morning. But there's a clear reason for any difference in her work between these two mediums.

"When you're speaking into a microphone, on stage, by yourself, you're speaking for yourself," she said. "When I'm writing sketches, at the end of the day, that's my job. I'm speaking for NBC. I'm speaking for SNL as a brand, I'm speaking for Lorne Michaels as a man. So if they have rules about how they want to be spoken about, they get to do that."


In 3 in the Morning, there are no such rules. Jay describes the art of stand-up as being vulnerable and telling the truth, even if it's not a widely held opinion. She said that things are happening at a higher rate than people are able to think about them, but to self-censor material because of forecasted backlash, is to be "at the whim of the mob." That's not to say she believes in clinging to her takes.

"Life keeps happening. and you will grow," Jay said. "If you're not growing and changing, what the fuck are you here doing?"

3 in the Morning is streaming on Netflix now.