Flat tire can't keep Omahan away

DARIN EPPERLY/DAILY NEWS


Richard Reese of Omaha (left) thanks the crowd after receiving the trophy from host Dave Reinitz for winning the amateur contest at the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk on Tuesday night.

Richard Reese's tire went flat just hours before the start of Amateur Night in Norfolk.

When the Omahan finally made it to the Johnny Carson Theatre, his act was anything but.

Reese, whom the audience declared the winner of the event Tuesday night, nearly didn't make it to Norfolk in time. His car blew a rear tire on the way to Fremont, and the wheel was corroded on too tightly for him to replace with the spare.

"I'm just like 'Disaster, we're not going to make it,' " Reese said. "Finally somebody came by with a mallet - I don't know, he was sent from God - knocked the tire off and put the donut on. Went back, got another car, headed here and got here roughly 20 minutes before the show started."

Reese had called ahead to make sure his spot was still open, and he ended up in the final slot by default in the 18-person field. The 26-year-old, who said he's been doing comedy since 2003, wasn't about to miss his opportunity because of some car trouble.

After all, he said, comedy is his career. And the chance to meet with Eddie Brill, the chief talent scout for David Letterman, for a one-on-one consultation about his routine would be a huge break.

It was a prize Reese never thought he would win, adding that he thought "at least two or three" others had a better shot.

"It's very surprising," Reese said. "Comedians are more critical about their sets themselves so I really thought it was just alright."

Reese said he tried to think positively about his place in the final slot. He reasoned that at least people might remember him more when they voted.

But waiting for nearly two hours behind the stage - watching fellow comedians enjoy varying degrees of laughter - was draining.

"That's the biggest stage I've ever been on," said Reese, who has performed in bars and comedy clubs throughout the Midwest. "It's overwhelming. I didn't see (a win) coming at all."

Though Reese had one of the most balanced routines - including bits about former NFL quarterback Michael Vick adjusting to being a "receiver" in prison and video-game ducks making fun of the size of his tiny television - he saved his best for last. Reese's 45-second spiel about "The Last Reality Show," incorporated a plethora of current show titles in its plot summary, drawing a loud ovation from the crowd.

After the show, the comedian kept busy signing autographs and posing for pictures with people. In addition to his consultation with Brill, he said the prestige of the win would help him continue to do what he loves.

Heck, he even got a Great American Comedy Festival trophy out of the deal.

"It's a dumbbell," Reese said with a laugh. "It's awesomeness is what it is."

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