Comedian Jon Reep might not like to tag his work as simply blue-collar comedy, but he understands that people need the label.
The North Carolina State University graduate, and Hickory, N.C., native has spent the past 10 years in Los Angeles, and is used to people stereotyping him as a hick — "Hick is in my hometown's name, it's hard to escape it," he says — but finds it hard to label himself.
"I've performed in every state in the nation, and you have to play to the type that the audience thinks you are," said Reep, who comes to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this weekend. "But honestly, when I was doing the Dodge Hemi commercial I was just imitating my friends from home. It's hard for me to label myself, but I guess I would say it like this: I'm a blue-collar scholar."
Once known only as the "That thing got a Hemi?" guy from Dodge truck commercials, Reep, 38, now has the distinction of being the winner of NBC's 2007 season of Last Comic Standing. He also has appeared on Comedy Central Presents, the TV sitcom Rodney, and in the movie Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.
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Reep derives his comedy from his roots, but he is not limited to them. His material is littered with references to growing up in the South, particularly anecdotes about his blue-collar dad, but other aspects of his life — his love for sports, being married, living in L.A. — also manage to permeate the script.
Reep, who is still getting used to his friends from home calling him "Hollywood" and is shocked by his own love for sushi ("back home they call it bait," he says), likes to think of himself as the "Metro Jethro," not quite a city slicker and not quite a redneck, but "somewhere in between," he says.
"Have you ever seen the sculpture by Rodin? You know The Thinker? I like to think of (Metro Jethro) like that. But he's got a mullet ... and he's wondering how he's going to get a gun rack in his Geo Metro."
Reep, who says he loves Kentucky, also describes Lexington as having that "somewhere in-between" feeling.
"Lexington feels like a small town and a big city feeling all at once," he says. "It's great. It's what you would get if Donald Trump mated with Andy Griffith. Comedy Off Broadway has become one of my favorite places to perform."