Jon Reep is a guy whose face might look familiar to viewers thanks to his work in commercials, television and movies. But when the stand-up comedian first appeared on television, he never expected to be on camera.
The native of Hickory, N.C., was at a Carolina Panthers football game in 1995. Reep went from being a dancing fan cracking people up in the stands to being called onto the field by the team’s mascot to show his moves off to tens of thousands during a timeout that turned into a Sportscenter-esque highlight (feel free to YouTube it).
“My TV debut was me dancing in the end zone, doing ‘the worm’ and the cops giving me a wedgie dragging me out of there,” he said.
This is typical behavior for Reep, a self-described class clown who first got into stand-up comedy performing at open-mic nights while attending college at North Carolina State University in Raleigh in the 1990s. Throughout his career, Reep has honed his personal material about family and small-town life, but he said it was punctuated with a heavy helping of energetic physicality in his early days. Now, he said, he wouldn’t mind becoming more of a Southern Brian Regan, mixing great material with just the right amount of physical humor.
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To laugh at you is one thing, but to pick up a phone, to go on the Internet and vote for somebody they don’t know, they have to like you. For whatever reason, people think I’m likable.
Jon Reep on winning NBC’s ‘Last Comic Standing’
“There was a comedian that once told me, ‘You’re very funny, but you’re going to wear yourself out,’” Reep said. “I started getting better at developing stories with punchlines and jokes and making a funny face instead of doing a backflip.”
Eventually, Reep’s comic abilities led him to move to L.A. and pursue opportunities beyond the stand-up stage. Most notable among these migiht have been his role as the “Hemi guy” in the popular Dodge truck commercials (“That thing got a Hemi?!”), which helped him buy a house and get his face out there in a big way.
“They played it on every station at random times before you could fast-forward through commercials, and they played it for four or five years,” Reep said.
The next time he was in front of a huge television audience, it was showing off his stand-up skills instead of his acting. Reep was declared the winner of Season 5 of NBC’s reality competition Last Comic Standing in 2007 Reep chalks it up to years of polishing his act on stage and some other helpful intangibles.
“To laugh at you is one thing, but to pick up a phone, to go on the Internet and vote for somebody they don’t know, they have to like you,” he said. “For whatever reason, people think I’m likable.”
Reep has since made acting appearances on HBO’s Eastbound & Down and ABC’s Black-ish, and he hosted the Speed Channel show Are You Faster Than a Redneck? He now spends most of his time performing stand-up while having a few projects in the works. In addition to writing a sitcom and a few movies, Reep has collaborated with country superstar Brad Paisley, who has featured Reepthe comedian in various stand-up comedy events he has helped to organize (the two also have performed on stage together at Paisley’s concerts in a hybrid bit of musical comedy centered around Paisley’s hit River Bank). Reep recently filmed a stand-up comedy special in Chicago that he plans to release soon.
Some of that special’s material will be what Reep brings to Lexington when he performs this weekend at Comedy Off Broadway. He said parts of his acting and writing career might come with a bit of uncertainty, but he gets plenty of reward as long as he has a spot on stage and crowd in front of him.
“I don’t know what’s around the corner,” Reep said. “If I get paid to do stand-up, it beats working for a living.”
If you go
When: 7:15 p.m. July 7, 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. July 8 and 9, 7:15 p.m. July 10
Where: Comedy Off Broadway, 161 Lexington Green Circle
Tickets: $13 Thursday and Sunday, $20 Friday, $23 Saturday