Some parts of who you are always stick with you. Though calling from Los Angeles, Jasper Redd's cell phone comes up as a Tennessee number. The host of American Eagle's Campus Comedy Challenge, coming to Marquette on Saturday, has come a long way, both geographically and in his career.
His first move out of Knoxville, Tenn., at age 22 was to San Francisco, which at first glance is an unlikely city for trying to establish oneself in comedy. Redd's reasoning in 2002 came from research and a gut feeling.
"I was listening to a lot of comedy, and some of my favorite albums were being recorded in San Francisco," he said.
Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce were some of his favorites who "tipped (him) off" that San Francisco was a good place for comedy.
With a past appearance on Comedy Central's "Premium Blend" and a two-day stint in England for a Comedy Central show called "World Stand Up" right in the middle of the comedy challenge, the move is proving fruitful. He also feels that now he's in the "big time" with AE behind the tour.
But has he reached the status where groupies are included on the tours?
"If I do (have groupies), they haven't made themselves apparent," he said modestly, though he has a Web site created by a super fan that he links to on his MySpace page.
Groupies or not, "my journey's been fun," he said. "Every year I say I've gotten better at the craft and also at advancing my career at the same time."
Before moving, Redd was a janitor with aspirations as big as his smile of becoming a musician, cartoonist or sheriff.
"I still have a deep appreciation for music," he said, but he doesn't have plans to follow this dream since comedy is his main mode of self-expression.
As far as Redd's comedic style goes, he began his career by imitating Jerry Seinfeld's observational humor.
"I try to joke about things that are personal, I try to write jokes that come from my life and aspirations and are attached to who I am as a person," he said.
His quirky, timed style sometimes has to lend itself to comedic routine archetypes, such as "yo mama" jokes. He was the 2005 "Yo Mama Joke Champion" at Club Deluxe in San Francisco, and though his jokes are usually clean, he struggled to think of a joke in this category that was appropriate.
For the comedy challenge, Redd opens things up, followed by another professional comic. Next the student performers do their routines, and two more professionals finish the set.
Though the clunky tour name comes from being sponsored by American Eagle, it means the performances are free. AE is also "hooking a brother up," as Redd put it, since he got to pick out his clothes on tour. The student performers are also treated to a new outfit, so in essence, they are getting paid in an AE staple – khaki cargo pants.
In the future, Redd said he'd enjoy writing, especially in the vein of comedy, which lends itself to his current locale in Hollywood. "You put all this time and effort into being a comedian," he said. "People are like, all right, you're funny, but what else you got in your bag of tricks."
So for mass appeal, Redd is trying to do more "cheesy stuff," trying to "do a little acting eventually," but said that if he was doing comedy five years from now, "I'd be happy."
His advice for young comics? "Comedy is trial and error," he said. "Just stick to your guns – that's all you can do as a comedian – do what you think is funny and don't get discouraged."'
The Campus Comedy Challenge is Saturday at 9 p.m. in the Weasler Auditorium, and is co-sponsored by Marquette Student Government's AfterDark program.
The winning student performer has a chance to perform in Cancun, Mexico, for AE's Spring Break.