As soon as he hit school, Jeff Dye knew he was funny. Right after graduation, he began banking on it.
“I was the goofball at school, the class clown,” Dye, 35, said by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I never tried to learn stuff — I was just trying to make the class laugh. I knew I was good at it, and that’s why I’ve always wanted to be a comedian.”
Even when he tried to be serious, they would laugh, so his future was written on the cue cards.
“I remember this first time I got the whole class to laugh, and thinking, ‘I want to do this the rest of my life,’” he said. “Most people don’t think that ‘class clown’ is a profession, but it is, and it pays real good.”
That path will lead him to his comedy club roots, when he returns to Penguins in downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday (7/13) and Saturday (7/14) with his brand of observational humor. He keeps it clean, but edgy.
“I want people of all ages to come and not leave with a sour taste in their mouth,” he said.
Right after high school, Dye began sharpening his funny bone at Giggles Comedy Club in his hometown of Seattle. Friends from school, church and every job he was ever “hired and fired from” came to see him on open mic nights. That made the owners and talent bookers “very happy,” he said, which quickly led to bigger and better things.
Dye moved to Los Angeles after placing third in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in 2008, which led to a 50-city tour with other top contenders. He was soon on a roll, with comedy specials, hosting duties for several MTV shows, and in 2015, a recurring celebrity guest slot on NBC’s game show “I Can Do That.”
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He hit the big time, however, with his two most prominent shows: being a cast member of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which brought him to West Union in 2011, then touring the world with William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman and Henry Winkler in “Better Late Than Never” beginning in 2016.
Both gigs brought him great joy — which is exactly what he wants to bring to his audiences.
He said “Better Late Than Never” brought him four more sets of parents, and even if he hadn’t been hired, it would have been enough for him to have spent “hours” having coffee at Winkler’s house. Now, if he can’t get home for the holidays, he hangs with the Bradshaws.
“I went from having a little family up in Seattle (his parents and two sisters) to having a new set of parents,” he said. “They’re all very parental. It’s kind of an answered prayer in a lot of ways — it’s more than a show for me.”
With the home makeover show, his role was to bring a little humor into emotionally charged situations.
“I like being on things that are another callback to kindness,” he said. “That show is about doing good things for people who have been through rough things. I really liked that about the show and really responded to that. And they were very open-minded to me being silly and playful.
“There is a place for seriousness and there’s a place for humor, and those subjects overlap very often. In 2018, as good as modern times are, people forget that we have to have a sense of humor about even the worst things.
“So when I got on that show, they were very open to being like, ‘Yes, Jeff, we have a lot of tears here — we could use some laughs,’ and I really appreciated that,” he said.
“We could also celebrate and love each other and laugh and have fun.”
WHAT: Comedian Jeff Dye
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (7/13) and Saturday (7/14)
TICKETS: $15 advance, $17.50 door, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE; Jeffdye.com