Hustler’s Paradise: Comedian and Fashion Brand Owner Jay Rich Reflects on Hustling During the Pandemic

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By JR Valrey

Hustling has been in the blood of Bay Area entrepreneurs for generations, and that set of traits especially has to be utilized, for survival, during the pandemic. With the Bay being the farthest away from the major trend-setting, political and financial power centers of the US, like NYC, DC, the Bay Area is at the western-most point of the United States, and has always been seen as a bastion of radical politics, eclectic thinking, and also independent business especially in the genres of music and fashion. 

Jay Rich is one of the most well known comedians from the area, but since the shelter in place mandate was implemented in March, which closed all of the comedy clubs in California, he has shifted his attention to marketing his fashion line, Eighty EightyNine, which has bore fruit. I respect businessmen who can pivot from one business to another depending on opportunity and demand. A pandemic can’t keep this comedian/businessman away from the money, here’s his story.  

JR Valrey: How has the pandemic affected the local comedy world? How has the pandemic affected your comedic creativity?

Jay Rich: The pandemic basically shut down any possibility of live performances here in California. We still have action in other states like Atlanta, Arizona, and parts of Nevada, plus online performances such as zoom which I don’t like that much, but I am able to sell my comedy special online on an app called Patreon. 

My creativity is just fine because my style of comedy comes from my life, and that’s what I mostly write about anyways. So long as I’m living and can have material.

JR Valrey: What have you been doing since you haven’t been able to do your stand-up routines?

Jay Rich: Exercising my other creative ideas like poetry sketch writing, and my new clothing line which is called Eighty EightyNine collection, it just launched. 

JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about all of the skits that you have been releasing? Is that new for you?

Jay Rich: No I’ve been doing skits, because of the shut down I’m able to do more. I just try-out skits that I think are funny to me. Some people like them, some don’t, but the ones that do is all that matters. I’m not for everybody. 

JR Valrey: Have you done any zoom comedy shows? Are you the type of comedian that needs to vibe off of the crowd? How has zoom affected comedy over the last year?

Jay Rich: I don’t like zoom. I do it when friends ask me to do so, but I don’t like to. I’ve had fun doing them, but it’s nothing like a live crowd. I need that energy. The energy of the crowd makes me wanna go harder and harder. 

JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about your new clothing line that just dropped? 

Jay Rich: Well I started the Eighty EightyNine collection in 2016. It got put on the shelf, because I started getting booked more, and traveling with my comedy, like I said earlier. When the pandemic shut it all down, it gave me time to reinvent and push, and it’s been really moving. I call my clothing line Eighty-EightyNine, because it represents to me, humble beginnings; from nothing to something, the turn for the better.  My first release is the Eighty-EightyNine Hella Hustle Hoodies, because to live in the bay, and through the pandemic you better have hella hustle. 

JR Valrey: What made you start a new business?

Jay Rich: I’m always looking for ways to win.. I just remembered I had the fashion line on the shelf. I had time, so I went to work, especially with the barbershops shut down.

JR Valrey: Is being a barber an essential worker under these pandemic guidelines? How has cutting hair been in the pandemic?

Jay Rich: No even though we should be. Barbers don’t have paid time off. Some sneak and cut anyways, some are just trying to ride the wave, and think of new and other ways to hustle. 

JR Valrey: How can people keep up with you as a comedian? How do they keep up with you as a fashion brand? How do they contact you as a barber?

Jay Rich: find me on any social media at JAYRich510 and follow my clothing line @eightyeightynine.


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