Jon Reep may come from the small town of Hickory, N.C., but he's had some big successes, including his own Comedy Central special, snagging the role of Dodge's "Hemi guy," and winning the 2007 season of NBC's Last Comic Standing. And while you may not even have heard of Hickory, if you see Reep, 35, perform at the Pittsburgh Improv Jan. 18-20, you'll feel like you grew up there with him.
How has Hickory celebrated your victory on Last Comic Standing?
February 21st is going to be Jon Reep Day. The mayor's giving me a key to the city, they're naming a street after me, and a chorus from my old high school is singing some of my favorite rock songs from the '80s and '90s in my honor.
Those sound like unexpected perks.
I've also been getting recognized a lot more. Not by name, because often people don't remember the show, but as, "That guy from that comedy show. You know, you're the comedian!" Like I'm the only one in the world. "Are you the comedian?" "Yes, I am the comedian. I'm not a comedian, but the comedian." I like to mess with people, so it's OK with me.
Mess with people how?
If I see people who are trying to figure out why or how they know me, I turn my head to them real fast and say, "You got a Hemi?" And they say, "Oh my gosh, that is him!" Then I run off and they chase me.
What if they catch you?
They ask me to sign something, shake their hand really hard, or put me in a headlock.
Being touched by strangers is an unadvertised effect of fame.
Yeah, people like to grab onto you, slap you on the back and generally manhandle you a lot, which I don't care for. I've thought about standing with my hands on my hips with my elbows sticking out so that people can't grab me or hug me. My elbows are kind of jagged, so if they're out there they might keep people away. Or I could wear Mace as cologne.
You've also got a development deal with NBC. Do you have ideas for sitcoms?
I have lots of ideas. One is about my family, growing up in the small town of Hickory. I'd play my dad and have two little kids play me and my brother. I'd work in a Goodyear, changing tires, be a part-time cop at night, and explore all the craziness that can happen in a small town. It's like Northern Exposure, but it'd be Southern Exposure.
Jon Reep Fri., Jan. 18-Sun., Jan. 20. Pittsburgh Improv, 166 E. Bridge St., The Waterfront, West Homestead. $20. 412-462-5233