Sure, they were all professional comedians. But somewhere during last season's Last Comic Standing, nearly every single cast member of NBC's hit show became a lame reality-show caricature of himself. In the end, only three savvy pros survived. And of them, John Heffron would win it all. The 34-year-old -- but teenage-looking -- Michigan native never got into the gossip or drama. He won over audiences with observations on being a kid because, at the end of the day, he was a kid at heart.
And now the kid has a talent deal with NBC and a half-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central. He's also in the midst of a seven-month tour, which is stopping by the Houston Improv this week. His act is hardly highbrow: On LCS, one of his most popular bits was about creative ways to injure younger siblings. From a simple wrapping-paper tube, Heffron explained, you can fashion a sword; then, as it unravels, a whip; and then, when it tears in two, nunchaku. When Mom gives you a "safe" Nerf football, just douse it in water, freeze it and chuck it at your brother's eye.
"I have a real steel-trap memory for stuff I did as a kid," says Heffron. "I couldn't tell you where my cell phone is right now, but I could tell you stuff that happened on a school bus on the way to fifth grade."
Heffron's kid stuff developed over a 12-year stand-up career. As a student at Eastern Michigan University, he grabbed every open mike he could get his hands on. Later he'd co-host a morning show with ex-Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce. He even co-created a popular game, That Guy!, which sends women on scavenger hunts to find guys like "Sports Jersey Guy," "Bad Dancer Guy" or "Loves His Own Body Guy" at clubs or bars. Celebs like Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore were seen buying the game, giving it instant buzz and loads of publicity. ("I'm kinda the Martha Stewart of the game," Heffron says of his involvement now. "People associate it with me, but I'm not the one making the bedspreads, or going to jail or anything.")
Missing stand-up, he moved to L.A., nailing appearances on The Tonight Show and the lead in the VH1 sitcom Smash. Then LCS came calling, and Heffron, who got married during the tail end of the series (he and his wife have yet to honeymoon), won by keeping it simple. "As a comic, I don't think I suck, but then again, I don't think I'm funnier than anyone else," he says of his success. "I just didn't put that much thought into the show."
After a much-needed break at home where he tried to "not shower or shave for a week," Heffron will toast New Year's Eve at the Improv, a gig he's accustomed to. "I used to do them all the time, then one day I said, 'Screw that, I want to be partying,'" says Heffron. "But yeah, the parties are cool -- until they start giving out the noisemakers." -- Steven Devadanam
Heffron kids around Thursday, December 30, through Sunday, January 2. Special New Year's Eve show, 10 p.m. Friday, December 31. 7620 Katy Freeway, suite 431. For information and showtimes, call 713-333-8800 or visit www.improvhouston.com. $20 to $65.