October 25, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In June of 2000, Richard Reese took his first tentative—but eager—steps into the brutal, addictive world of standup comedy on the stage of what was then Jokers Comedy Club in the Old Market. After just a few minutes of performing a tight set of long-practiced material, he got his first positive public response. After that, he was hooked.

“My best friends and family filled the audience to watch me do a whopping three minutes,” Reese says of that first small step into a larger world. “It went really well, which I guess is the reason I’m still doing it 17 years later.”

Born in Chicago, Reese moved to Nebraska in 1994 to live “the good life.”

“My mother and I moved from Chicago in 1994 to get away from the rising crime rate in our neighborhood,” Reese says. “I grew up in Lincoln. I’ve lived in Omaha for about 10 years.”

Inspiration came from Reese’s comedy heroes Steve Martin and Buster Keaton. They helped set him on the road to comedy, but it was the Prince of Pop who inspired him to be an entertainer in the broader sense.

“From an entertainment standpoint, I love the innovation that Michael Jackson was able to create during his peak,” Reese says. “When I got to Nebraska, I started typing jokes and stories onto an old IBM computer with a green monochrome monitor. Little did I know, I would perform stand-up comedy for the first time on stage six years later.”

“Intellectually silly” and “a bit unpredictable” is how Reese describes his style.

“I definitely like to experiment when given the chance. I have some wordplay and one-liners in my act, and I like to touch on current events every so often.”

Other than the usual career hurdles, Reese says he has taken a pretty smooth but circuitous ride along the “scenic route.”

“There have been the usual roadblocks you face when pursuing a career in entertainment,” Reese says. “I didn’t get my first paid work at a comedy club for three years…two years after that when I received my first standing ovation. Three years after that I got my first road gig at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago…another four years after that I recorded my first comedy special independently…another two years I recorded another one. Another year when I recorded an album. [This year] I’ve had more paid gigs than any other year of stand-up. Like I said, the scenic route.”

Comics have their reasons for performing, but one that comes up frequently is the healing power of public self-expression. 

For me it’s definitely therapeutic to speak my mind in front of people,” Reese says. It’s a thrill to be able to think of something in your head and have an audience respond to it accordingly. Sometimes that response is a laugh, sometimes it’s applause, and, unfortunately, sometimes it’s silence. That’s just a part of the rush that comes with public speaking.”

A regular at the Omaha Funny Bone, Reese also performs at comedy clubs and theaters around the country. One day Reese hopes to find himself writing for film and television.

“That would be awesome,” he says. “But mostly I would like to be the first comedian to perform for the Super Bowl halftime show.”

Visit richardreeselive.com for more information.