Steven Wright, Jeff Foxworthy and Bryan Regan’s career highlight was the same. During recent interviews, each comic said they look back at their first appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson with great pride.
“It didn’t get any bigger for me than when I was on Carson and he asked me to come over to the couch (to chat),” Wright said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Kevin McCaffrey, who will perform Friday (12/20) and Saturday (12/21) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids, is too young to have appeared on Carson, who retired in 1992, but he had a similar life-changing experience on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”
“My main goal was to perform on Dave’s show, and for 5 minutes, that show would be mine,” McCaffrey said by phone from Cocoa Beach, Fla. “When it finally happened, I wasn’t nervous. It felt surreal. I went on with the approach that it had to go well. I felt comfortable, since I knew the studio.”
Years before his performance on “Letterman,” McCaffrey interned at “Late Night.”
“Dave came up to me and said, You used to work here,’” McCaffrey said. “It was a great experience for me. I loved being there. It was an education. Sometimes Dave was in a good mood and sometimes he was in a bad mood. I was on the show when he was in a good mood. I was on with Iggy Azalea, who told me that she was so nervous. I was also on with John Goodman, who was so chill. In makeup, John said, ‘Break a leg, Kev.’ I was blown away being told by Dan from ‘Roseanne’ to break a leg.”
Like Letterman, McCaffrey is a Ball State alum, who was hellbent on becoming a stand-up comic since he was a teen.
“It’s always been my passion,” McCaffrey said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love going up there and doing my thing, which is telling stories. I tend to tell stories that really happened.”
McCaffrey will spin yarns from hosting TruTVs “World’s Dumbest,” “Greatest Ever” and “Comedy Knockout.” The Indiana native appeared with a number of dodgy D-Listers on the TruTV projects, including Danny Bonaduce and Tonya Harding.
“Danny always brought it,” McCaffrey said. “He would come in half-naked and bleeding. He was wild. He was out there as we talked about silly clips. I’m not complaining. I had a great time doing those shows. It definitely beats doing real work.”
Comedy is in the family. McCaffrey’s wife, Jamie McCaffrey, writes jokes for Howard Stern’s satellite radio show.
“It’s good to be married to someone who understands what I do for a career,” McCaffrey said. “My wife gets it, and we have a similar sensibility. We have common interests.”
The couple are sports fans, and had an unforgettable experience at a New York Jets-Chicago Bears game last year.
“I’m from Chicago so I’m wearing Bears gear and I noticed a bunch of drunk old dudes really raging. One of them comes up to me (outside Chicago’s Soldier Field) and asks if I have an extra ticket. I didn’t look up. My wife told me the person who came up to me was Bill Murray, who was apparently deputized by his crew to come up to someone to ask for an extra ticket. I have all sorts of funny things happen to me that I like talking about onstage.”
Expect a new set of material from McCaffrey when he returns to Penguins.
“I have a bunch of fresh stuff,” he said. “So much has happened to me since I was out there last. I have a feeling that I’ll be talking about my first-ever cruise ship experience. I’m leaving in a half-hour for the cruise and I have mixed feelings about it. I’m sure it’ll inspire something and I’ll have some cruise stories when I get to Cedar Rapids.”