After moving from Michigan to Chicago, Jeff Arcuri quickly became a regular at The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Bar, and Zanies Comedy Clubs. The Chicago Tribune called him a, “Joke Machine.” But Jeff has a human side, too! Get to know it by reading through our interview with him below:
What inspires your comedy? What do you like to joke about?
My comedy is inspired so randomly. I mostly get inspired by the premise. I like the feeling of entering a joke in a unique way, something that will pique the interest of the audience. But seriously, it changes frequently. One week I’ll be adamant about fact checking for a history joke, the next I’m working on a DMX impression. It’s usually whatever makes me laugh at the time.
What’s your most accomplished moment?
Boy, oh boy. I want to say having a snippet on Roast Battle on Comedy Central, just because that’s the biggest one technically. I also feel like it fell into my lap. My proudest accomplishment was having gone full time almost three years ago. That one didn’t happen by chance.
What should an audience expect when they see you perform? What’s your act like?
I wish it was puppets, but it’s usually me talking like a normal person. It’s hard to capsulize my act. I mostly point out the flaws in my life and oddly people relate.
What types of events have you done? Corporates, Sales meetings, Fundraisers, Clubs, Colleges, etc.
I’ve done a couple of dozen colleges, which have been a blast. College kids are so happy, it makes me happy and freaks me out a little bit. I used to perform for nuclear power plants a couple of days a week. That was intense. Hours of going through security, passing by men and women guards carrying assault rifles. Like for shooting a lot of bullets. They all need to have guns that shoot a lot of bullets? Then I’d perform for 200 engineers at 8 AM. Some would say that is where I found my voice.
What advice can you give to readers who are planning an event?
Comedians need very little to put on a good show, but the very little we need is crucial. Stool, Mic, Mic stand, and a spot light. As long as we have those things and they all work, we’re happy.
How has your act evolved over time?
I’m a lot more of myself on stage. My first five years or so were a little “performancy.” Now that I’ve gained some confidence, I feel like I can go up on stage and just be me, but a little louder. Also, my first few years were figuring out how to make people laugh, now I’m figuring out how to make people laugh at what makes me laugh. It’s way more fun when you find it funny.
How did you get started?
I actually sold a cell phone to a comedian. I had lost all of my money in some bad investments, moved back in with my parents, and got a job at a cellphone store. I would usually ask customers about their work with very little enthusiasm, but this time I was enthralled. He advised me on doing open mics and even a comedy class.
I took a class at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle back in February 2010, and I loved it. Comics joke that comedy classes are a great way to pay $300 to learn how to move the mic stand out of the way, but there’s obviously more to it. After the third or fourth week of class, my teacher, Bill Bushart, asked if I wanted to fill a spot in a comedy competition three days away.
I had never been on stage in front of a real audience before so I accepted the offer and then immediately threw up. I wrote like a madman for three days straight. I honestly did OK. Nothing spectacular, but I put so much heart into it. The second I got off stage I knew I wanted to do this forever.
What’s your most embarrassing moment on stage?
Nothing beats bombing hard in front of loved ones. Before I left Michigan for Chicago, my dad took me out to lunch. I had been doing comedy for almost three years and made some decent improvements from my first year.
I remember him saying how he was proud at how funny I had become and how much work I had put in. But then he made it a point to say, “I remember the first time I saw you at the one place. I just kept thinking to myself, “that poor kid… But hey now you’re good!” Thanks dad.
If you were in some other kind of art, what would you be doing?
I love music. I can play thirty seconds of three different songs on piano and guitar, so yah know.
Who has been an inspiration to you, comedian and/or non-comedians?
Brian Regan was a huge inspiration. Some friends and I drove to Six Flags when I was about 17 and my buddy brought Brian Regan Live! on CD. We quickly found out that my car had eaten the CD and would not let it go, so for the remainder of the time I had that car, the only thing I could listen to was the radio or Regan.