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New role for Hickory's 'Got a Hemi?' star

By Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

You may know comedian Jon Reep from his winning run on “Last Comic Standing,” but more likely you remember him from the Dodge Ram Truck commercials where he delivered the punch line, “That thing got a Hemi?”

Reep, who grew up in Hickory and does stand-up comedy as Metro Jethro, will be the host of “R U Faster Than a Redneck?” launching next week on Charlotte-based Speed channel.

Let’s talk about the commercial first.

“I made pretty good bank on that,” says Reep, 40. “They didn’t know these commercials would be so popular, otherwise they would have locked me down to a contract. So every time they wanted to do another, my rate would go up because I had a good agent.”

A very good agent.

Reep asked him to see if he could get Dodge to throw in a truck as part of his next deal. That afternoon he had one.

“He called them and said, ‘Hey do you know your spokesman is driving around in a beat-up Chevelle?’ He made up something that sounded really bad. They said they couldn’t have me being seen in that.”

Before sunset, Reep was driving a big Dodge Ram 1500.

In the new Speed series, which previews after the season-opening NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Feb. 22 then moves to its regular 9 p.m. Monday time slot on Feb. 25, Reep serves as master of the races between redneck muscle cars and fancy imports.

Reep, of course, cheers for the rustics. Beside him is Ken Squier, the original voice of the Daytona 500, playing it straight as he calls the races, which are held at the Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C.

One race in the eight-episode season features LeeAnn Shattuck, better known as The Car Chick on the “America’s Garage Radio Show” at 7 a.m. Saturdays on WZGV-AM (“ESPN Radio” 730). She swings through the paces in a pink Mini Cooper.

Analyst Kenny Wallace is guest celebrity in the first episode, and John Schneider, who played Bo Duke in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” races in the third episode.

Reep still incorporates his hometown of Hickory in his stand-up routines.

“One of my favorite things is when you tell people you’re from Hickory – it’s got the word Hick right in the name. It could have been Hillbillery. I tell people it’s an hour from Charlotte, at the bottom of Appalachian mountains. Literally, hillbillies look down at us. They’re saying, ‘Look at ’em down there, brushing his tooth.’

“I make fun of it fondly. Now I live in one of the worst cities in the world, Los Angeles.”

Reep got into acting while a student at N.C. State University and got his big break on the fifth season of the NBC comedy series. Now he plays to full houses in comedy clubs around the country. He appears as comedy relief in the upcoming dramatic movie, “Black Sky.”

Media Movers

Myers Park High School and UNC Chapel Hill grad Keith Whitener, who won $147,597 over eight days on “Jeopardy!,” returns to the show at 7 p.m. Monday (WCNC, Channel 36) for the Tournament of Champions. Whitener is one of the top 15 winners ever on the show. … Carrie Hofmann, assistant news director at WCNC, has been named news director at the NBC affiliate in Kansas City. Hoffman was instrumental in planning for WCNC’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention because she worked at a Denver station during the previous DNC there. … B.J. Murphy, morning show host and acting general manager of WGIV (103.3 FM; 1370 and 1490 AM), says he believes Charlotte will move up to a top 20 radio market in the next few years. Charlotte is now ranked No. 24 in size by Arbitron. …

Heather Shelley has been named co-host with Eric Calhoun of the “It’s A New Day” morning show on contemporary Christian station WRCM-FM (“New Life” 91.9). She is already known in Charlotte for her work at WMIT-FM (“Light” 106.9), and her voice may be familiar from commercials for Procter & Gamble, State Farm, McDonald’s and J.C. Penney. She replaces Erica Parkerson, who left the station in June. Shelley starts Feb. 25. …

Asha Degree will be featured on “Find Our Missing,” 9 p.m. Monday on TV One. Asha is the 9-year-old who vanished from her Cleveland County home in February 2000 and has never been found. Her hair bows and book bag were found a few miles from her home.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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