With a list of TV credits and a growing following, Jeff Dye’s career goes boom!
By Ronald Sklar
Photography by Harley Reinhardt
By rights, he is way too good looking to be funny, but there he is, that adorable Jeff Dye, making us laugh as if he was your typical plain-Jane standup.
He was a top finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, then he embarked on a 50-city comedy tour with the other show winners. Comedy Central happily handed him his own special, and TBS invited him to perform at its comedy festival in Chicago. He was a regular on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (as the funny guy who suggested ideas to the interior decorators) and he took top prize at the Giggles Laugh Off in his hometown of Seattle.
Recently, he was be seen as host of MTV’s hilarious hit Money From Strangers, making everyday people do wacky things for dollars (think of it as a longer, greedier, more perverse version of “what would you do for a Klondike Bar?”).
“It’s all done in fun but it’s a little bit more pesky,” he explains. “We don’t get corny, like on other shows, where they say after the prank, ‘oh it’s just us!’ We just get the jokes out of it, and they we go on to the next one. We don’t ever try to show you how they are feeling. That always seems like a waste of time.”
Translation: Money from Strangers does not have the same emotional depth as Candid Camera. Or the pathos of a Punk’d.
“When Ashton Kutcher would come out, it would seem a little self-congratulatory,” Dye says.
Being on the streets of Manhattan is quite an adventure for the laid-back Seattle boy, who sees every mean street as a happy hamlet for comedy potential.
“I love New York, but I don’t know if I necessarily fit in,” he says. “New York is a little grumpy. I’m a smiley guy. I like to talk to people. I’ll say ‘hi’ to strangers. I’ll always chat up somebody. New Yorkers are confused by my chattiness.”
Not the first time that Dye has been a fish out of water. During his stint on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, he was asked to do the impossible, literally, by suggesting interior designs that would surprise, stimulate and tug at heartstrings.
“As far as building a house or designing a room, or color schemes, I know nothing,” he says. “I’ve never even built a book shelf. So it was weird that they had me on the show. I had a great time, doing my best. The only backfire is that it’s such a nice, sweet, good-hearted show. It was all these kids and moms. Real church kind of people who would start coming to my stand-up comedy show.”
Uh, no, Dye works a bit too blue to have an audience like that. Granted, he’s no Lenny Bruce, but live stand-up is where his heart truly lies. While in New York for the taping of the show, he performs, practically every night, at NYC’s famous Comedy Cellar. He continues to hone his skill and tweet his pretty head off (his followers are growing into the many thousands). Still, under the good looks and the charm and the funny churns the typical insecurities of a typical stand-up comedian.
“I’m a late bloomer,” he says. “Girls were not itching to get with me. I didn’t have a lot of friends as a little kid. I grew up real poor. I had a lot of hair. Nobody taught me how to dress. I looked like shit. I had to get a personality first. And I had to learn how to comb my hair.”
How you like him now, America?
This article originally ran in The Modern.