Funny Guy: Jon Rineman
It's possible that Jon Rineman of Hampton makes you laugh every night, even though you never heard his name before.
To answer some of your background questions, I do still do standup. I don't have any dates scheduled there right now, because I'm busy with the sitcom script, but I'm hoping to get back in early 2013.
For pivotal experiences in New Hampshire, I'd say I had a lot of great teachers at North Hampton School and then Winnacunnet High School who really appreciated comedy and creativity and encouraged me to pursue it. The standout memory for me is the Joint Relief fundraiser I held during my senior year at Winnacunnet. I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years earlier, and the basically miraculous recovery I had, combined with the Andy Kaufman "Man on the Moon" movie, all of a sudden gave me this new appreciation for performing that led to this comedy/variety show for the Arthritis Foundation. There was a great turnout, we raised a lot of money and the sketches just killed. No matter what happens for me, that'll always be my proudest comedy moment. I'd like to come back and do a standup show for the Foundation at some point, too.
I've written jokes for Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Jay Leno.
When or how did you first know you were funny?
To be honest, I think it's still up in the air. But my parents always said I was kind of an "old soul," so my first memories of making people laugh are making my teachers laugh in school – usually by saying things that a 4 or 5 or 6-year-old wouldn't say or observe. There was kind of a Stewie Griffin or Baby Herman thing going on there, sometimes. But I was left with this amazing feeling that these people who told me when to eat or when to read or when to clean up – I had them in the palm of my hand. I could make grownups laugh and that's kind of what hooked me.
It takes guts to do comedy even in front of an audience having some drinks. Writing comedy for professional comedians must require a special kind of nerve.
Sort of, but the guy reading them realizes that and realizes that nobody bats 1.000. So for every one that's a hit, you'll probably have a few that miss. That's how just how it is. The great thing about writing that you don't have with live comedy is that you can really tinker with a joke and go back and rewrite it so that when it's time to present it, it's up to par. So while there isn't the same feeling of control as telling your own jokes, you get more chances to get it right. And also, you can do it in your pajamas.
About what percentage of what you write makes it on the air?
I'll usually write about 65 jokes a day and a really strong day is getting five or six on the air. You just have to understand there are four other people writing monologue jokes, so there's always a good chance someone will have a better joke (or jokes) about a certain story – so you can't take it too personally if a bunch you wrote don't make it. But at the same time, someone could get sick or something, so some of those "extras" may come in handy.
Can you tell me one great joke that never made it?
I don't remember the exact jokes, but when Hosni Mubarak was refusing to step down as president of Egypt, I wrote like five jokes about it and they were all great. But when I woke up the next day he announced he was leaving after all. And I didn't have his number to see if he'd rethink it for a day.
Might be hard to put this in a nutshell, but how did you get "discovered" by the late night shows?
I used to write jokes for Jay Leno, who I'd gotten to know through a friend, and later a couple jokes for "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live." In the summer of 2009 they were both on break and I had no one to write for so I e-mailed someone at Fallon to see about doing a tryout – and, frankly, didn't expect it to amount to anything because I had been trying for nearly four years, doing pretty well, and hadn't been hired anywhere. But it worked out, and about a month-and-a-half later, I was working there. And I'm lucky because now that it's a more established show, it's much harder to get hired.
Now you're writing a situation comedy for TV. How's it going?
It's just getting started, but so far, so good. Jimmy and his production partner, Amy Ozols, have been great and very supportive. There seems to be a lot of excitement about it, which is really cool.
Do you have any experience with professional wrestling or did you have to get in the ring for research, so to speak?
I grew up a huge, huge WWF (now WWE) fan. When I was in third grade, I went as The Undertaker for Halloween and when I was in high school, I wrote a 20-page term paper on the rise of the WWF in the 80s. And I kind of got back into it when we had Triple H on "Late Night." He's also from New Hampshire and we sort of hit it off talking about the area – and also some of his famous matches in Boston that I'd seen in person. So when it came time to think of some ideas to pitch Jimmy – something I really knew and grew up with – all of a sudden, the light went on.
What's the funniest thing about NH?
I'd say it's a tie between me and Triple H.