Columbus native Jeff Bodart has made a name for himself on the regional comedy scene, capitalizing on his everyman look and aw-shucks Midwestern humility. Now he is hoping his comedy will translate to even greater fame when he relocates to Los Angeles the first week of October.
But he won’t just be standing on a stage with a microphone in his hand. He will be looking to conquer the next level of comedic fame: television and movie writing.
Bodart, 35, said he has wanted to try his luck in L.A. for years, but the timing wasn’t right.
“I never really wanted to go alone,” he said. “Plus I had a healthy fear of being homeless.”
When his buddy and fellow comic Matt Holt decided it was time to take the plunge last winter, Bodart asked to go along for the ride.
The decision coincided with a successful meeting in February with comedian Greg Berhendt, best known for his writing for the HBO hit “Sex and the City” and a best-seller, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
The pair met and developed a friendship while on the comedy circuit together and collaborated on some of Behrendt’s writing projects. They even developed a couple of sitcom concepts based on Bodart’s comedy.
“It was nice to hear that he (Berhendt) thought I had a future with this,” Bodart said. “If everything goes according to plan, I should be famous about an hour after my plane lands.”
Bodart has completed a screenplay dubbed “Mourning Radio” about a widower who returns to his Midwestern hometown following his wife’s death and buys a local radio station. Hijinks ensue.
“A lot of my characters are from the Midwest, and they are all pretty down-to-earth,” said Bodart, who borrows heavily from experiences growing up in Columbus for many of his comedy bits.
Like so many other funny guys, he developed his sense of humor as a defense mechanism after feeling overshadowed by his athletic older brothers while a student at Columbus North High School.
He went to school for Web design following high school graduation in 1996 and worked various jobs — including at Sam Goody, where he routinely made customers sing before telling them where they could find the CD they were looking for. Such off-the-wall interaction with people fed his desire to hop on stage and give comedy a go.
Bodart’s first comedy gig was in February 2001. And about six months later, he cashed his first comedy-show paycheck.
“Granted, it was only 20 bucks. But I earned it.”
His self-deprecating wit and small-town material connected with audiences, and he continued filling his calendar with gigs around the region during the next several years.
Backstage about five years ago, a more experienced comic asked Bodart a crucial question: Do you want to do this as a job or as a hobby?
“It was a question I hadn’t even really asked myself, but I knew then that I wanted to do it for a living,” Bodart said.
So he ramped up his efforts to do exactly that, landing ever-more-impressive spots performing with comedy heavy-hitters including Bobcat Goldthwait, Caroline Rhea and Louis C.K.
He has also:
- Logged a half-dozen appearances on “The Bob & Tom Show.”
- Recorded his own podcasts, “Sticky Fingers,” in which he discusses the ups and downs of life on the road with other comics.
- Produced a comedy CD, which was released in April.
“I don’t want to brag, but I have sold upwards of 11 copies,” Bodart said.
All the while, he has been writing ... on planes, in hotel rooms and wherever else he can steal a few minutes. He not only writes down ideas for jokes but also fleshes out sitcom concepts and screenplays.
While other comics sometimes razz him for not having a more cosmopolitan background, Bodart said he is proud of his upbringing. While he will leave the Hoosier state physically, he said it will always have a place in his scripts.