“I could do impressions since I was young,” Jeff Richards says, “and when I realized I could do celebrities, then I thought I could maybe be on Saturday Night Live.”
A mere three years after first taking the stand-up stage, he found himself doing precisely that. Not only did he portray Dustin Hoffman, Louie Anderson, Dr. Phil and his popular “Drunk Girl” character, but prior to his 2001 debut, Richards served as a cast member on rival sketch show MADtv, the first of two performers to ever do so (Taran Killam became the second in 2010).
After three seasons, though, the pressure and partying caught up to him—“I wanted to smoke all day, and it just got in the way”—and he lost interest in the relentless weekly grind. Now off drugs and alcohol for two years, Richards admits the parting of ways brought a sense of relief. “I did feel reborn when that ended. I felt a renewed energy. The only pressure I had was to figure out my next job.”
He regularly performs stand-up both on the road and around his hometown of LA, but Richards also began composing musical-comedy songs via GarageBand. He hesitates, however, to define the output as such. “They’re not joke songs. There are jokes, but that’s not my first goal,” he explains, preferring the term “weird.” “I want the audience not to always know exactly what I’m doing.”
He’s released two albums, with a third, Jeff Richards: The Shingles 2010-2014, slated for late spring. Additionally, the Conan and Kimmel vet is writing a Portlandia-esque series with fellow Laugh Factory Hollywood regular Ian Edwards, centered around two guys living in a car.
Whether doing stand-up, music or writing, Richards remains adamant that his work stand on its own, independent of his previous credits. “Do you make the work so that you can find an audience for it, or do you just do what you do best, and let the audience find you?” he asks. “I don’t know, but that’s what I’m looking forward to figuring out.”
Jeff Richards February 17-23, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m., $35-$45. Laugh Factory, Tropicana, 739-2411.