Interview: Jake Sasseville (2012) Delusions of Grandeur
"We may have managed to discuss the taboo and make light of it at the same time."
It’s been a while since Jake Sasseville spoke with Working Author. At the time, he was still trailblazing through new late night entertainment with his show Late Night Republic. Since then, he’s embarked on a new entertainment endeavor, written a book about his journey and grown out his hair. And while it’s sad to see such a wonderful concept as Late Night Republic go, fans of Sasseville know that whatever he’s gotten himself into now will, if anything, be fresh and exciting.
“I've had my head just below the waves, like when you're swimming out for the big one,” Sasseville says, talking about his state of mind, “and I'm just about to get up on the surf board and sail. All is very well, happy to be back in New York City after being in Chicago for a while.” His positivity runs through him, like an electric current, and he’s as exuberant as ever – even his hair looks healthier. “I have two great hair dressers. And I take a lot of Biotin. It's good for the hair and the nails. If I'm completely honest, I've actually been also taking pre-natal vitamins for pregnant women. That has exploded the growth as well. It's the small stuff. I used to be balding, and am quite pleased that I'm turning it around.”
Regrettably, not everything in Sasseville’s life gelled as well as his hair. After a short run, he had to step away from his late night entertainment talk show Late Night Republic, which was a favorite of Working Author’s. “Appreciate that,” Sasseville says. “Oprah says that when something isn't aligned in one's world, then it throws off the whole thing. Some folks who worked with me on the show wanted me to be one thing in the grand scheme of Late Night Republic and I had a different approach. What I was looking for was much bigger than a late night talk show. I was looking for a vehicle where I could express the wholeness of who I am, not trying to fit into what others believed I should be.” Sasseville and his team tried different formats, but it was clear they didn’t work. “There's nothing more important, or humbling, to honor when something's just not working, and to step away from it. Leave it be for another day.”
Since then Sasseville spent time developing a teen talk show with Chicago Tribune. All seemed well until changes were introduced that didn’t please him, so he walked away from the property a few weeks before filming. “I live life as if I'm on a dare sometimes. It makes it rich, interesting. Sometimes it can be annoying to work with me because of that.” And yet, it’s that unpredictability that makes Sasseville so enjoyable to watch…and read.
Sasseville also wrote a book during that time, initially titled “It's Not That I'm Bipolar, It's that I'm Gay”. It was 250 pages and he completed it in 3 days, but he wasn’t happy with the title. “This book was much bigger,” he says. “The story was about my rise and fall as a slightly famous dude when I became the youngest host ever on late night TV on ABC. That was the story. Coming out in the title became an exercise for me to get comfortable with who I really was. It wasn't a proper title for the book because the book wasn't about being gay at all. The book is about the silver lining, the journey of a pre-famer. I wrote the book I've always wanted to read. A book about an interesting guy, doing nearly impossible things, and failing at it. And somehow, moving forward. It's a book about success from the inside of failure. It's about being vulnerable and real with who you are, not hiding; (instead) being raw, even if it's not flattering.”
“Our shortcomings are not un-lovable,” Sasseville adds. “Our flaws make us whole.” He settled on “Slightly Famous” as the title for the book.
Sasseville’s new show Delusions of Grandeur looks to continue the theme of “fame proximity”. Of the show, he says, “It's a journey of one young guy's rise to fame; we're just not sure how much of it is real. I wanted to do something bigger than Talk. I've never acted before, but I felt intuitively that if I made a show about my life, and surrounded myself with exceptional improvisers, and if we don't script it, and if we base the characters on the show on my real life, that we would create a fun show that no one's ever seen before. One of my executive producers commented after he saw the first episode that it appears the show is about a guy that just was released from a mental asylum, and he hasn't taken his meds for a few days.”
Sasseville claims that the show will be different for every viewer, manically exploring different issues, like immigration, Hollywood, religion and even quantum physics. “All through the lens of comedy,” he specifies. “You'll love it, or you'll hate it. Thank God I won't have anyone in between.” Unfortunately, ABC, the network that was going to air Delusions of Grandeur, fell in the latter camp. The night before the Associated Press was going to run an international story on the show, the lawyers of the Disney-owned network pulled the plug, ruining Sasseville’s plan to bring Delusions of Grandeur to ABC Family’s 100 million households.
However, if anyone is familiar with Sasseville – even a little – then they know he will never quit pursuing his goals. Rather than be laid low by ABC’s decision, he instead saw the situation as an opportunity for a worldwide distribution via Blip.tv. “I have a great relationship with the founders of Blip. I like how they treat their Producers of Content. I like their financial and business model. It was a way for it to have a good home, create an additional stream of revenue and do business with people I respect. Innovator types, y'know? The format is unaffected by the Blip.tv move. The shows have been edited in final form for weeks. I think audiences will see that the quality of the show on Blip.tv is a network quality show.”
And now, the wait is over. Today marks the premiere of Delusions of Grandeur, which will air on Blip.tv every Thursday at 6 p.m. EST. So what can audiences expect to see over the next eight weeks? “A level of mania not seen before on television,” Sasseville says, “a chance to see half a dozen breakout Chicago TV stars up close, a chance to come on a journey through the world of near impossibility...and the opportunity to see a show that was made totally of the moment. No scripts. All improv. Mental illness is still a taboo in society. We may have managed to discuss the taboo and make light of it at the same time. How fun.”
Watch Delusions of Grandeur every Thursday at 6 p.m. EST at blip.tv/delusionsofgrandeur.
Learn more about Jake Sasseville at www.cityofsass.com.