When my hilarious friend Jeff DeRouen told me he was taking an extended break from standup comedy, I was temporarily devastated. But only temporarily, because as our conversation progressed, it became apparent that the stage has been a chrysalis for Jeff, a place where he could hone his story-telling talents. A task made particularly challenging by the fact that audiences aren’t always appreciative of his authenticity.
“I’m a gay man in the south,” Jeff said. “And I’m tired of performing for people who really don’t want me to be who I am.”
It broke my heart to hear how over and over again, the very people who Jeff shared his gift of comedy with treated him like a second class citizen. Literally, Jeff and his amazing husband Carlo had to drive from their home in New Orleans all the way to Iowa to get married. Only to have their union disrespected by the state where they live.
As one of Jeff’s fiercest fans, and a Louisiana native, I think I can safely say that our stages don’t deserve him. I hope you’ll join me in supporting his comedy by purchasing his album and of course congratulating him on this exciting new career path.
Jeff DeRouen has emerged from his comedian cocoon and is exactly where he was always meant to be—in front of a camera. Jeff is spreading his hard-won wings and soaring to new heights as an actor.
“I feel like I’m going through this metamorphosis,” Jeff says. “First of all, I’m in grad school. I’m learning how to make movies.”
Y’all, I should apologize to Jeff right now because I’m pretty sure I squealed when he said this. One of the things I remember most about visiting Jeff’s home (other than Carlo always cooking something delicious) was his amazing collection of movies. (Yes, I’m one of those nosy people who looks in everyone’s shelves. No, I have no shame.)
Jeff’s amazing taste alone are enough to tell me that I want to watch whatever he creates. But I would be remiss not to mention that he has experience on both sides of the camera, which I am sure will inform his cinematic choices.
“My dream has always been to make movies,” Jeff said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And if I go back to standup, I’m going to lean in to being gay.”
As much as Jeff’s presence and story-telling style will be missed on stage, there will be plenty of opportunities to watch him being funny—from the comfort of home. Recently, Jeff delivered an impeccable performance on BJ Novak’s new series, The Premise. If you haven’t seen it yet, (finish reading this) and then head on over to FX on HULU and watch the first episode, “Social Justice Sex Tape”.
Tracee Ellis Ross exhibits flawless comedic timing, as always. And Jeff DeRouen is delightful as the online therapist of Ethan, the reluctant sex tape star at the center of this satirical trial. My only complaint—more Jeff, please!
Listen up, powers that be, you are underutilizing this comedic gem. Happily, it appears the universe is already listening. Though Jeff has to keep the details secret for now, he was recently booked to appear on ANOTHER television show starring one of my favorite actors from NBC’s celebrated comedy, The Office.
Jeff was quick to credit his surge in popularity to several factors, but in his humility was quick to sing the praises of his agent, Angie Huffman Moncrief at Action Talent Agency. Angie doesn’t limit the roles she sends Jeff, which has enabled him to expand his acting chops into unexpected parts.
“I’m taking these roles that were clearly written for straight people and I’m doing them gay. And the directors are like—oh, I like that, I like what he’s doing with it,” Jeff explained. “Finally, being gay is paying off!”
These television roles certainly aren’t Jeff’s first forays into acting. His filmography includes Grudge Match and Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser. The seriousness with which he takes his craft is apparent when he speaks about his scene with Robert De Niro, which, unfortunately, ultimately did not make it into the final cut of the movie.
“It didn’t go well,” Jeff revealed. “It was my first time acting on camera. It was a comedy, and I was trying to be funny, but De Niro was coming at me with such raw emotion, so I started to meet him with raw emotion. And, it just did not work. I got cut out of the movie. You can still see me in it, but they cut my lines.”
One of the things I appreciate most about Jeff, as a performer and a person, is the candidness with which he speaks of not only his successes but his struggles. When I asked him if I could write about his recent decision to stop drinking, he was unequivocal.
“Yes. Talk about the fact that I’m not one hundred percent successful at it. Maybe it will help someone else reading this.”
Jeff has been working hard to stay clear-headed, though by his own admission, he’s lived in a clouded and dark place for a long time. He wants other people battling addictions to know that it’s not always a linear journey and that taking steps backward sometimes doesn’t prevent you from getting back on the right path.
An ancient belief, Middle Eastern in origin, has helped ground Jeff in his sobriety. He explained the parable in his characteristic mix of painful truth and tension-relieving wit.
“When you drink alcohol it allows evil spirits—that’s why they call it spirits—to enter your body. And what happens is, your soul leaves and is tethered by a string, and floats above you. And these evil spirits take over and do their thing. And I can just see my soul floating above like—holy shit, can we just go to Taco Bell?”
So many things have challenged Jeff DeRouen in his quest to share his unique point of view with the world—timing, self-doubt, location. But he’s accepted the fact that no one will hand him a platform and is building one for himself.
“I don’t care if Hollywood ever knows me. If they do—it’s great. I’d love to make big movies. And I’m also happy with being an artist, booking my own gigs. Making my own movies,” Jeff said.
Not only does DeRouen dream of making his own films, but he’s also interested in writing a detective series. He’s currently in research mode and has been certified as a private investigator solely to lend authenticity to his future characters. Wisely, Jeff is also studying craft by reading a lot of detective novels by such masterful authors as Janet Evanovich, Tana French, and James Lee Burke.
DeRouen’s ability to wear so many different hats virtually guarantees he’ll find his niche as an artist. I have zero doubt he’ll continue to accomplish amazing things, including his goals of a comfortable life by a lake.
“What I really want to accomplish is making movies and making enough money that I don’t have to worry about money,” Jeff said. “And I want a house on a lake with a pool—because I don’t want to swim in the lake.”
Because I’m no fool, I quickly secured myself an invitation to the pool party. To witness the continued rise of Jeff DeRouen’s star, you should like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram , where his hilarity isn’t adequately appreciated because of the ridiculous algorithm. But if I learned one new thing about Jeff from our conversation, it’s that the world will eventually catch up to him.