Jeff Richards on MADtv, SNL, developing impressions

Jeff Richards on MADtv, SNL, developing impressions
Jeff Richards has the distinction of being the first person to have been a cast member of both MADtv and Saturday Night Live (Taran Killam would also go on to accomplish that feat). Richards is involved in several projects these days,  including a new comedy album, and continues to be a headlining standup comedian.

We took a moment to chat with Richards before his show at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy this week.

So what's new with Jeff Richards?

I've got an album coming out July 1. It's comedy songs, and there will be videos to go with them.

What are the songs about?

They're about all different sorts of things. They're sexual, there is some weird stuff, some all-American stuff.

Were you funny growing up?

I realized I could do voices when I was in junior high. I could imitate people, so that's what got me interested in doing voices.

Who were some of those early impressions?

David Letterman, Louie Anderson, and Robert DeNiro were some of the first ones.

Was it in college that you got interested in sketch?

In college, I was in a sketch troupe for a just a little bit. One of the guys in the group said he was going to a standup comedy club, and told him I wanted to go along. I went up that night. That was 16 years ago.

Which do you prefer then standup or sketch?

I like them both for different reasons. I like standup because it's easier to accomplish. You just get up there with a microphone and do your act. 

How did you get the gig on MADtv?

I don't know. I think different people recommended me. I was in L.A. at the time, and they recommended I do a showcase. Then I got called back to their offices for an audition. That's how that happened.

How did you wind up on SNL?

I had a limited contract at MADtv, and when that was up my managers tried getting me over to SNL. They really didn't care that I was on MADtv. I think I auditioned for Lorne Michaels before he knew I was on MADtv. Even after he found out, he didn't care.

Does developing a character allow you more creative freedom compared to an impression?

It's the same as a celebrity impression, it's just that less people know that person. They are actually both the same as far as they do have to come to me and be in my wheelhouse before I think I can do one. They will come to me in little parts, and then I'll be like, "I think I can do that," and then I'll pay more attention to that person or that character and I'll usually be able to get it down.

Do you develop an impression first, or do you think of a funny joke or situation and work backwards from there?

Usually it just happens. Somebody speaks to me for some reason. Like, Gary Busey is so outrageous that everything he says is kind of a joke. So he has this rhythm that I can be like, "Okay, I'm in the rhythm with him, I can see what he's doing."  They kind of have to stand out or people don't know that that's the person.

Who are some of your newer impressions?

Kevin Spacey from House of Cards.  Robert Downey Jr. I'm still trying to work those out.

Robert Downey Jr. sounds like a tough one. It doesn't seem like there's a lot to latch on there.

I think that's what a really good impressionist should do: show people that there is something to latch on to whatever it is. Everybody knows the person, but you pick out something to make that impression work. That's the art of it, I think.


Jeff Richards
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558

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Rick Bronson's House of Comedy

408 E. Broadway
Bloomington, MN 55425


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