Comedian Jon Reep won the fifth season of Last Comic Standing, but like me, you probably know him better as the redneck hillbilly in a recent series of Dodge commercials. I was amazed that a caricature that deep featured a guy who (1) had more than three teeth, (2) was able to navigate to another vehicle in traffic to check out the engine, and (3) had the vocabulary skills to pronounce the word “hemi”. (Face it, this could have been the banjo playing kid from Deliverance all grown up and edjumicated except that the actor in the commercial exuded a trailer full of charm. Welcome to our radar, Jon Reep!
Fast-forward a couple of years, and the genial, likeable guy parlayed that Andy Warhol moment into a nice career, a Comedy Central special and his first album, Bless His Heart. Basically an extended series of self-depricating jokes and cracks at Southerers, what saves Reep from falling into that tired genre is that same likeability and charm, which thankfully comes across on record as well. Although he’s playing a character, it’s more of an angle than a full blown persona like Dan Whitney’s Larry The Cable Guy or Andrew Clay’s Dice. He doesn’t play dumb; it’s closer to incredulous, as if he’s as weirded out as you are. (Rule Number One…make the audience like you.)
Nothing too subversive here, and while not wall-to-wall funny he does have some great bits on phrases we take for granted (“Ever try to shoot fish in a barrel? They’re fast!”) and wondering why Jimmy would smoke that crack corn, anyway. Sure, he might circle back to the catchphrase “Bless His Heart” a little too often (“always followed by something terrible”, he says), and picking on West Virginia and Louisiana is an interesting approach for a guy from North Carolina.
But somehow he pulls it off, like pointing out that Louisiana turned down Federal money for two years so they could keep the drinking age at a minimum (If you get pulled over in Louisiana and your blood-alcohol level is lower than the cop who pulls you over, you’re free to go!”). Or that his illiterate relative couldn’t spell I.Q. but could build an engine out of a tin can and a chicken heart. Crap jobs, bad movies, weird parents, messing with strangers, mascots and referees, restaurant pepper pimps…everyday material, but elevated by Jon’s energy and personality. (And yes, he does make fun of the absurdity of the whole “Hemi” situation, from the agent’s pitch to the auditions to pulling up alongside a Dodge Ram in traffic.)
If you like the Foxworthy/Larry genre, check out Jon’s Comedy Central clips and you’ll get a good read on what the album is like. (And keep an eye on your Hemi.)
Buy the CD at Jon’s official website
Jon Reep sampler.
Reep tells a Jeff Foxworthy joke without using words.
Reep on Mad TV