Dodge's Hemi Guy Answers Five Questions

Stand-Up Jon Reep Has Himself a New Chrysler

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Jon Reep, 33, had been a struggling stand-up comic touring the country when he nailed a starring role in a Dodge Hemi commercial. The Hickory, N.C., actor has since appeared in six TV commercials for the Chrysler Group brand in recent years, making famous his signature line "That thing gotta Hemi in it?" which marked the return of the Hemi engine brand.

Mr. Reep, named class clown in high school, graduated from North Carolina State, Raleigh, in 1996 with a B.A. in theater and communications. He recently spoke to Detroit Bureau Chief Jean Halliday.

AA: How did you become the Dodge Hemi guy?

Mr. Reep: My agent called me up and said 'We have an audition. They're looking for somebody to play white trash'-those are the words he used. I said 'I know what that is. I've been rehearsing for that role my whole life.' I went down there and dressed the part. I had a tank top on with spit on it. I didn't shave and I put a dip of tobacco in my mouth. I had one line. I was sitting on an aluminum chair and I put my arm out like I was leaning out a car window and I started vibrating like I was in a muscle car.

AA: How has it changed your life?

Mr. Reep: It's made it more comfortable in terms of money. I got a new car-finally-and I've got a house now. I bought a town home in Studio City [California]. I just had the gas fireplace hooked up. I was living month-to-month paying rent. Because of the Dodge commercials I have been able to do other things. I just did a half-hour special that will air on Comedy Central March 24 and I'm doing more on the sitcom I'm on (ABC's "Rodney," on which he plays a County Sheriff Jim Bob). I didn't know it would last this long. I've been to the Daytona 500 three times with Dodge for personal appearances.

AA: What were you doing before the Dodge commercials?

Mr. Reep: I was living in L.A. maybe two years and was a full-time stand-up comic. Before I moved to L.A., I had done stand-up in every state except Hawaii.

AA: What's your next big project?

Mr. Reep: I did auditions for my new sidekick (with six finalists as part of Dodge's Be the Next Hemi Star contest). Now, it's me and a girl. We just finished two new commercials for Dodge that will probably start airing in February or March.

AA: If you weren't doing what you're doing, what career would you have?

Mr. Reep: The last job I had before I started stand-up was working at a TV station as a production assistant-UNC-TV, like a PBS affiliate. I was an assistant director for a couple of TV programs-"North Carolina Now," a sort of magazine show, and "Legislative Week in Review." I probably would have stayed in that role and worked my way up in the business.

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