To the average YouTube user, comedian and life advisor JP Sears’ videos might come across as 75 percent comedy and 25 percent coaching. The red-locked, flower-wearing guru and satirist has accrued a faithful following from his Ultra Spiritual Life series, a tongue-in-cheek take on the current uptick of new age beliefs (and some baloney).
But to Sears, who appears at The Wilbur in Boston tonight (November 28), the whole process a bit more complicated than that.
“They’re typically 100 percent comedy and 100 percent life coaching within the same video,” Sears says. “In the videos I use the language of comedy to convey concepts intended to coach people towards better lives. They’re two parts of the same whole.”
Flip through his YouTube channel and you’ll find scores of his Ultra Spiritual Life episodes discussing (read: poking fun at) veganism, gluten-free fads, aromatherapy, and meditation. There’s enough here to write a book, literally — How To Be Ultra Spiritual: 12 1/2 Steps to Spiritual Superiority dropped earlier this year.
But tucked in between those playful jabs is something much softer. When the hippie headband comes off, the time for kidding is over.
“I’m Ugly. What Should I do?” one video title reads, in which Sears offers a heartfelt and well-thought-out 11-and-a-half minute response to a subscriber. Another deals with humanity’s constant yet inadvertent tendency to self-sabotage, adjacent to some thoughts on the psychology of sarcasm.
“Most of these trends are ones that I follow myself — except for veganism, yet my fiancé is vegan so that’s close enough — and I know I’m coming from a place of levity to hopefully help people not take themselves too seriously,” Sears explains.
Truly, there are two sides to the yoga mat here, and Sears brings both to The Wilbur.
Not quite a standup tour, nor a “get your life back!” seminar, Sears’ current series of live shows err more towards comedic motivational speaking, offering fans the chance to connect with Sears in an ad-lib environment. Not only is Sears’ live performance much longer than what he usually posts to social media (an hour vs. around 10 minutes), but it’s also largely unscripted, which means you can hurl whatever ~spiritual~ inquiry or legit concern you’d like at him.
“Obviously a live show requires a lot more green juice, yoga, and yelling at the people around me,” he says. “In addition to that, I love being on stage connecting with crowds and interacting with the audience. While videos are mostly scripted, what I love about live shows the most is being spontaneous with the audience. With live shows there’s of course material prepared, but also space to take advantage of interacting with the audience, which is a real treat because I can’t do that via videos!”
The list of Sears’ spiritual nuggets goes on: “Reclassify all the ways you’re irresponsible under the new heading ‘I’m a free spirit,’” “having the maximum amount of minimalism is the key to being a good minimalist,” “to be a health expert in the new age, all you need to know how to do is mindlessly recommend using coconut oil for everything.” Where there’s pretension, Sears can be found pointing a bullshit detector at it, but most importantly, he just wants people to stop taking themselves so damn seriously.
“My wish would be they walk away with a smile on their face, some laughs, some sincere insights on how they can live a more fulfilling life,” Sears adds. “And hopefully the impression that I’m significantly more handsome in person than I am on video.”