Warrenville comedian makes a career in TV commercials

Posted4/15/2014 5:30 AM
  • Comedian and actor Jon Huck of Warrenville has appeared in dozens of commercials, including Rocksmith's "Guitar Baby" video, which has close to 5 million views on YouTube.

    Comedian and actor Jon Huck of Warrenville has appeared in dozens of commercials, including Rocksmith's "Guitar Baby" video, which has close to 5 million views on YouTube. courtesy of J. Brown

  • Warrenville native Jon Huck co-starred in the 2013 movie "Garbage," which is now available on Netflix.

    Warrenville native Jon Huck co-starred in the 2013 movie "Garbage," which is now available on Netflix. courtesy of Jon Huck

Comedian Jon Huck is cast in a lot of TV commercials, so he didn't think much about being hired to make a "Guitar Baby" ad for the learn-to-play guitar company Rocksmith.

"I just showed up in my own pajamas. They said, 'Don't comb your hair,' and I said, 'Got it. Not a problem,'" said Huck, a Warrenville native who describes his trademark messy mane as "chronic doll hair."

But then the ad went viral. "Guitar Baby" got 3 million views during its first week on YouTube. Today, it has more than 4.7 million views.

The commercial looks like a homemade video of an infant playing rock guitar, with his dad (Huck) jamming along. It was made by digitally superimposing a baby head on a little person who plays guitar.

While Huck hasn't read all of the 3,800 comments on the video, the ones he did see cracked him up.

"People were, like, 'Oh my God! You taught a baby to play a guitar!'" Huck said. "And some of the comments were angry. 'This is fake!' Yeah, good for you, buddy. You figured it out."

Huck's look makes him a natural for commercials, but his personality suits his main job as a stand-up comedian and actor.

Huck, 38, tours regularly, performed on a few Comedy Central specials including "Live at Gotham," and recently headlined at the Hollywood Improv.

It led to a few character roles on MTV's hidden camera show "Punk'd" and a co-starring role in the 2013 movie "Garbage" (which also starred actress Daryl Hannah, a former Long Grove resident).

He had a role in the movie "Dumbbells," released in January, and just finished filming a mockumentary in Dallas about an adult hide-and-go-seek competition, "Hidden in the Heart of Texas." He plays the returning champion.

"I do act, and it's become more than just something I do on the side. It's something I'm trying to do more of," he said.

"Then again, the characters are not so far away from who I am. I'm not playing a supermodel, or a deep sea diver, or a Marine."

For fun, since Huck is a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, he and his friend, Texas-born comedian Shawn Halpin, do a sports podcast called "The Full Count." It always involves a discussion of Chicago sports teams, but the show is promoted as "all things related to sports, comedy, life, beer, and whatever else these two idiots can think of."

The Cubs, and comedy, have always been part of Huck's life. His good-humored parents raised him and his brother on Laurel & Hardy movies, Three Stooges episodes, and stand-up comedy by everyone from George Carlin to Bill Cosby.

After graduating from Wheaton Warrenville South High School, Huck earned a degree in English literature from Northland College in Wisconsin.

He moved out to Los Angeles in 1999 because a friend, who had recently moved there, enticed him with the idea that he "could probably find work in TV production."

After six months in L.A., all he had were temp jobs with insurance companies. That's when Huck's mom, Nancy, planted an idea in his head.

"My mom said, 'You should go onstage and tell jokes. You'd be funny. It might be something you could excel at.'

"And I said, 'You just don't go onstage and tell jokes. That's ridiculous!'" he recalled.

Soon after that phone call, though, Huck found an open mic night at the Ha Ha Cafe in North Hollywood and took the bus there to perform.

"For four minutes onstage ... I talked about going to the bathroom at work and read the bus schedule, because I didn't know what else to do. And I got laughs. So I thought, OK, maybe I'm good at this," he said.

The open mic nights led to a regular stand-up gig. Things were going well until he was curiously added to the lineup for a Latino comedy all-stars show and epically bombed.

"It was horrible. I was up there ... and it was just silent. Someone in the audience yelled, 'You're white!' And I said, 'Mom?'" he said.

"Afterward, my friend said, 'Well, think of it this way. You'll never bomb that bad again.'"

That turned out to be true. Huck's comedy career quickly rebounded and he started getting commercial work from big companies like Capital One, Boost Mobile, Armor All, Milwaukee's Best Light, AT&T, Burger King, Starbucks, ESPN and others.

"They'd be looking for a lazy dad, or someone who's homeless but not superhomeless, or overweight but not obese, or disheveled but not superdestroyed," he said.

"Commercials aren't about skill. They're about a look. My look is a number of things."

As he continues to pursue acting, Huck also is working on a follow-up to his 2010 comedy album, "Fantasticular Hilaritation."

"The long term plan is to keep doing what I'm doing and hope it entertains people. I love stand-up, and I can't imagine not doing it," he said.

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking from people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would be great to feature, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.