For Jon Reep, it’s both nostalgic and a bit nerve-racking to come to Raleigh to do stand-up.
The Hickory-born comedian will be performing this weekend at Goodnights, the same place he started doing comedy when he was going to N.C. State University in the mid-’90s. “I guess, with the club where you started, you feel that everyone who comes has seen you from Day One,” says Reep, 44, on the phone from his L.A. home. “So, I always have a little more to prove when I come to Raleigh, because that was the first time onstage and that holds a deep place in my heart, really.”
Although he’s been out in Los Angeles for the past 16 years, making such major moves as winning season five of “Last Comic Standing,” appearing on such shows as “MADtv” and “Eastbound & Down” and doing a series of Dodge commercials (he was known as the “That thing got a Hemi?” guy), he still has love for N.C.’s capital city.
“Raleigh is sort of like a great place for comedy because, well, you’re in the South, technically, but you’re in the capital and you’re surrounded by a lot of college kids,” he says. “So, it’s a good melting pot of all kinds of people, and if [a comedian] can do well there, then that’s a pretty good sign, I think.”
These days, the ginger-haired (and bearded) funnyman has been consistently working the road, doing his best to become what he calls “a Southern Brian Regan.” Reep definitely tries to be a Southern-born comedian for all audiences. Years ago, comics like Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy famously appealed to red-state crowds via their Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Now, there has been a rise of progressive comics (like “liberal redneck” Trae Crowder) coming from the South. And, yet, Reep remains apolitical when it comes to his stand-up. “I’ve never been political ever and I will never be because, like Jay Leno, I’ve learned from him that once you pick a side, you’re gonna lose half your audience, and I’ll never do that,” he says.
But even Reep has to admit our country’s current, political climate has incited a lot of madness. “It seems to me there’s just a lot of hatred on both sides, which is unfortunate,” he says. “I don’t know how that started. I think social media’s a part of it. ... When I was growing up, there was no internet. It was just what you saw on TV and that was it. But, now, every two seconds, there’s a new video popping up on your iPhone and it’s like, ‘Oh, look at this!’ and it proves whatever point that you already agree with or not agree with.”
Reep is currently shopping around a new stand-up special he did in Chicago, called “Well-Redneck.” He’s been reaching out to country star Brad Paisley, whom he’s opened for, to help him land the special somewhere like Netflix.
“We’re hoping he’ll put, like, an executive-producer stamp on it and get more eyeballs on it,” Reep says. He also has an online-development deal with TBS, where he’ll do book reviews (“…like a one-minute sort of review of books as a redneck – a smart redneck”) in the future.
But, mainly, Reep is continuing his mission of telling clever jokes with a Southern twang. “It really is unfortunate that when you hear a Southern accent, in the rest of the country, it sounds dumb to people,” he says. “Because if you hear an English accent, they think you’re automatically smart, which is not always the case. I mean, there are pretty dumb, English people too. But there are a lot of smart, Southern people – NASA is, you know, in the South!”
Who: Jon Reep
When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Goodnights Comedy Club
Cost: $20 (Friday), $25 (Saturday)