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LAUGH AND THINK, THINK AND LAUGH : Jeffrey Jena Doesn't Care Which Comes First

November 29, 1990|DENNIS McLALLEN | Dennis McLellan is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

As a topical comedian who likes to stay on top of the news, Jeffrey Jena couldn't pass up Laker star James Worthy's recent arrest on two counts of solicitation of prostitution in Houston.

As Jena says in his act: "James Worthy apparently isn't real smart because the number of that escort service was 911. He called 911 and they said, 'Is this an emergency?' 'Yeah, I've got to be at the game in 20 minutes.' "

Jena, who will be at the Improvisation in Irvine through Sunday, has been described as a comedian who is "both sarcastic and well-informed."

In his bio, Jena states that his lifelong credo is: "The whole truth, and then some."

"That's kind of like what my show is," he said in a phone interview from Houston, where he was appearing last week. "I like to base my comedy on real-life experiences and things people can relate to. I do a lot of topical humor, things like the budget and the S&L scandal."

Jena, who has appeared on "Evening at the Improv" and a string of other TV stand-up comedy shows, is currently doing a bit about the proliferation of self-awareness and self-help groups.

"And some of them do great work, like Alcoholics Anonymous," he said. "But I've got to question some of those agoraphobics. They've got a meeting group. Who shows up for that one?

"There's another one: Bladder Control Problem Awareness Group. I just don't think they get much done at the meetings. . . .

"I used to go to Cynics Anonymous . . . Like that really helped."

Jena is a former math and science teacher who says he loved teaching but always wanted to be a comic. He began doing stand-up at the Comedy Workshop, the same Houston comedy club where "outlaw" comics such as Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks got their start.

"I never considered myself too outside the 'law,' " said Jena, who turned to comedy full time 11 years ago. "I don't scream at people or use a lot of obscenity. My intent in my show is never to shock or embarrass. I like to make people think. Actually, I like to make them laugh more than I like to make them think. . . . I don't care what order they do it in. Laugh and think, think and laugh. Either way is fine."

Jena, who writes all his material, said he gets a lot of ideas out of the newspaper. He generally reads three papers--the local paper, a big city paper and USA Today, which he calls "news for the illiterate. . . . It's like: 'Oh, here's some pictures!' " He said that if nuclear bombs ever fall and the world comes to an end, USA Today will run a three-paragraph story on the front page "and way down in the corner they'll have a pie chart: Great Bombs of All Time, like Hiroshima, Dresden, Jerry Lewis movies . . ."

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