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Hickory’s Jon Reep returned to the Unifour last weekend to perform before a sellout crowd at the J.E. Broyhill Center. The 2007 Last Comic Standing took time to check in with Outlook readers
How did you become interested in comedy?
As a kid, I was the class clown. My dad has always been funny. I inherited it from him. In high school, he got “witttiest,” then me and then my brother. I loved to watch funny things on TV. While other kids watched cartoons, I watched Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges. I was 7, 8 or 9. As I got older, I realized that was one thing that made other kids like me. I could make them laugh.
Did you perform comedy routines in high school?
No. When I was in school, I considered myself an athlete. I ran track until report cards came out. Mom made me quit because of bad grades. I played football
my senior year — three offensive positions and three defensive positions.
You have a bachelor of arts degree in theater, mass communications and public and personal communication. Did you perform on stage in any area community theatre productions or productions at school?
I barely got into N.C. State. I graduated from Fred T. Foard in 1990 and went to Catawba Valley Community College for two years. I could skip classes there. A friend said, “Hey, N.C. State offers a Lifelong Learning program [Non-Degree Studies]. You take two academic courses plus P.E. Anybody in the world can go to State. If you do well in that program and want to be a student, they may or may not admit you as a student. I said, “There’s my back door.” I had to pick a major. Wow. So I asked what the athletes were taking, and everybody said theater because it’s so easy. I never looked at comedy as a possibility. When you grow up in Hickory, there’s no place to get started as a comic. It was a pipe dream. There was a comedy club in Raleigh, next to the university. I thought I’d just stick my head in the door. I didn’t have any money to get in.
They laughed at me when I told I just wanted to stick my head inside the door. There was a female comic on stage and everybody was laughing at her. Wow, I was hooked.
Was that where you first appeared as a comic?
Once in, I fell in love there. They told me I was good, but I didn’t get any huge laughs. It was good enough for me to like it and get better. My first time on stage, a friend videotaped it for me. It was open mic night, and I wanted to be the best. The emcee told the audience that this was my first time on stage. I wished he hadn’t said that. I am a big Chevy Chase fan, so I went on stage and fell, and to my credit, it was a great fall. Only problem was, it was so great the audience thought I really fell. I heard a collective gasp from the audience — oh no, it’s his first time and he fell. Also, the mic was too far away from my mouth. Huh. They did like me a little bit.
How do you like Los Angeles compared to Hickory?
It’s raining here. I don’t hate L.A. It is whatever you want it to be. I have my own circle of friends and my favorite restaurants. I travel so much — I come home, do laundry and leave again. Yes, I’m married, and she travels with me sometimes — when it’s someplace she wants to go to. Yes, I miss her. I’m also an actor — that’s why I live in L.A. I’m always auditioning — sometimes it goes good. I worked on two pilots — for the Speed Network and Animal Planet. Hopefully, they get picked up.
How often do you come home?
Holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and random gigs like this [last week’s appearance at J.E. Broyhill Center].
Who is Metro Jethro?
Basically, it’s this. I live in Los Angeles, a big metropolis. I am from Hickory, the opposite. Jethro is a name given a male usually from a rural setting. I’m not 100 percent redneck hillbilly. I am a well-read neck. Go to my website, www.jonreep.com and click on Metro Jethro. There are three definitions:
Anyone who was born or raised in a small rural area, and now has to function in a big urban area. Or vice versa; anyone who understands and appreciates both small town life and big city life; and No. 3: Jon Reep. It’s for blue-collar scholars.
Did you ever think you’d be the Last Comic Standing [2007, season 5]?
Jon: No, not until I was. I looked at the show as a necessary evil. I was very happy to do it and very fortunate to have folks who voted for me — I’m grateful to those folks. I didn’t like the fact they use comedy as a reality show, but is was a prime time audience and shown all over the world. I had to do it. My agent talked me into it.
What keeps you going?
Jon: Red Bull and coffee. I always heard if you find something you like to do and get paid for it, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s what keeps me going.
You took karate lessons from Coy Reid when you were a kid. How was that?
Jon: I think I made it to yellow belt. I was probably too young to take it. My buddy and I laughed the whole time. Coy made us leave the room when we were laughing. I lost my coat, and my mother made me stop taking lessons.
Visit Jon Reep’s website at www.jonreep.com.