Where are they now?
Jason Planitzer of “The Jason Planitzer Show” is Still Around And Funnier Than Ever
By Matt Levy
The year is 1995. The place is a town in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA called Bethel Park (Yes, the place where some characters on the TV series This is Us are “from”). It’s 8:15 and you’re flipping channels. You land on the Bethel Park Cable Access television station. On camera is a 15-year-old kid named Jason Planitzer broadcasting his eponymous show The Jason Planitzer Show. You’re intrigued. The show is surprisingly funny for teenagers.
You start tuning in regularly. It seems like the young host is obsessed with David Letterman, but it becomes clear you’re not the only one watching. In the summer of 1995, almost all of Bethel Park is tuning in. Then TJPS abruptly disappears in 1999 and you forget about the show and its folksy charms.
Now, it’s 2020. You’re at home, quarantined. You suddenly get a jolt of nostalgia for the 90s and think, “Man, what happened to that funny kid from the cable access show?” You go online and find out he’s doing comedy but wish there was more info. How did that show come to be? What’s his life actually like these days? Well, Planitzer fan (Fanitzer, if you will), let’s start at the beginning.
Jason had a dream of a childhood. His backyard felt as big as a major league baseball field and he had a paper route where he delivered to everyone within a half mile radius of his house and made quality tips around holidays. He thought he had put the money in a savings bond and forgot about it until now. Now he wonders, “What happened to it!?”
Let’s revise. Planitzer thought he had a good upbringing except for his parents maybe cheating him out of that aforementioned savings bond? Truth be told, Jason’s parents have always been supportive and interested in whatever he did, from Little League to his high school theater career. Jason’s father, a salesman, and his mother, a special needs teacher, have been together for over 40 years. It should also be noted that Jason has a younger brother and sister. He wanted it to be known he’s, “the funniest.”
As a kid, the lifelong MLB fan Jason started an “All Bum Baseball League” with friends. They collected trading cards, saved the players like Ozzie Canseco with terrible stats and drafted them onto teams. They’d use a tape recorder and fill both sides of a 90-minute tape improvising ridiculous play by play for games in which players couldn’t pitch, hit or field and giant water balloons full of slime fell onto the field for no reason (this was Double Dare’s influence on the sport). Sometimes the players ran out of game balls and used hot dogs instead. Every inning was interrupted by a streaker.
Other than Letterman, Jason thinks his childhood creative streak was informed by early-90’s Saturday Night Live. At 12, he took his parents’ camcorder and would spend hours making sketches and short videos with his cousins. One time, Jason gave interviews playing every candidate in the 1992 Presidential Election, putting his own spin on what he’d seen Dana Carvey doing. He kept those tapes. Perhaps they led to the creation of his popular DIY talk show.
While The Jason Planitzer Show was in production, the star wasn’t a true class clown, but he cracked wise more than he paid attention in school. Like Letterman, it’s always been difficult for Jason to not say something if there’s an opportunity for a witty remark. Jason didn’t care if it was in the middle of a lesson. Anything for the bit.
After he left the show and Bethel Park behind, Planitzer went to college where he studied film theory and criticism. During that time, he waited tables and funny scenarios kept popping up. Once, while waiting on a couple, he asked a woman if she wanted a “heater” for her coffee. Maybe this is a regionalism, but in southwestern PA, when someone has a half-filled cup, that’s how they might ask for a splash of hot coffee to warm it up. The blushing lady giggled and accepted. It was then Jason noticed her John Cena-like male companion tensing up. Jason walked away and heard, “Hey, Skinny Kid!” He turned around and the John Cena-type was towering over him in a V-neck two sizes too small. He said, “I want to talk to your manager. NOW!”
Jason grabbed his manager and the Cena look-alike railed at them, “I don’t appreciate your employee making sexual innuendos to my wife!” Planitzer, with honest and absolute bewilderment a la Letterman said to Not John Cena, “I’m sorry, sir — I’m not sure what…?”
It was then Jason’s boss jumped in and defended his innocent waiter. Cena’s would-be body double cooled down a bit as soon as he understood the lingo. He asked for the check and saw the meal came out to $29.90. He leaves $30.00 and says “Keep the change.” The V-necker tipped a dime! Jason’s boss pulled him aside and told him not to worry before revealing that he was rolling on ecstasy. Through that whole encounter, his boss was experiencing euphoric highs! He disappeared into his office and Planitzer ate Not Cena’s untouched fries. Folks, this would have made for a perfect segment on The Jason Planitzer Show.
After he graduated, in the mid-2000’s, Jason got really into authentic regional barbecue and took trips to Kansas City, North and South Carolina, Austin and Lockhart, TX, and St. Louis in search of the best BBQ the States had to offer. In fact, he spent a week apprenticing for a respected pitmaster in Chapel Hill, NC. He wasn’t sure what his plan was, but in retrospect he thinks he wanted to see what doing something like that would be like for a living.
In 2008, Planitzer moved to Brooklyn and regained focus. That year, one of his friends moved to South Korea to teach English. Jason made the trip to NYC for his friend’s farewell weekend and met some of his friend’s friends from a theatre company. He was immediately taken with the founder of the theatre company and she’s his wife now!
Planitzer’s wife and favorite collaborator, Sarah Murphy, are a couple of erstwhile theatre nerds (He points out that he spells it theatRE to prove his commitment to thespianism) who live to make each other laugh at home in their Greenpoint railroad apartment. One of their favorite things to do is pause the television and take turns re-enacting bad commercial acting for 3–5 minutes doubling over in laughter.
After all of these years of making people laugh, Jason decided to start honing an act and performing stand up comedy. Onstage, he immediately separates himself from the pack of other comics because he’s older than he appears. Plus, he’s married, which gives him a different flavor at an open mic than 98% of his peers. It also makes him more relatable to general audiences as evidenced by his popular, long running Williamsburg show. Audience members may find Jason’s humor to be random, but he’s probably just referencing something from the 90s they don’t remember. Jason does pride himself on his varied tastes after all. He loves overzealous movie extras, Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Pauline Kael, R.E.M, Pavement, Nas, Mark Twain, xerox art, German expressionism and Deco architecture. His comedy, like his influences, is anything inspired by or inspiring nostalgia.
These days, while quaranting, Jason is taking his time to be as productive as possible. He’s planning on revisiting the web series he started writing a few years ago, a dark comedy about a Brooklyn driving instructor and a rogue NYPD officer, and he hopes to complete a writing packet of short sketches and topical jokes for submission as soon as we’re free to roam the streets again. Finally, he added, “If I can learn to discipline myself, I’d love to write a feature by the end of the year — it would be like a 2000s Will Ferrell sports comedy about competitive eating.”
In five years, Jason sees himself writing for a late night show, or at least writing for someone else who writes for a late night show. Or maybe finally writing an email to anyone involved with a late night show.
He certainly already has the experience with Bethel Park’s most popular 90s late night show. As self deprecating as he is, Jason is optimistic about his career. When I asked, “What’s the proudest moment of your career?” He smirked and said, “Ask me this one again in 2025.”
One last thing! Planitzer wanted to add, “A lot of people would say Megadeth’s best album is Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? I have no opinion on the matter.”