A bold and witty commentator on lifes eccentricities, comedian Jeff Cesario stands tall among his peers. Cesario performs on-target observational humor emphasizing reality, simplicity and common sense.
The youngest of three sons in an Italian family, Cesario grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He attributes his sense of humor to his parents, Bill Cosby records, and childhood insecurities, discovering early on that making people laugh was an easy way to diffuse uneasy situations.
An accomplished percussionist, Jeff won a musical scholarship to the prestigious Northwest University, but his interest in jazz soon led him to the University of Wisconsin. He started composing for jazz big bands, as well as writing and arranging for marching bands. After earning a degree in communications, Jeff worked as a musician, a sportswriter and feature writer. But as he wrote, he kept a folder of jokes that he knew would be funnier if he actually said them. Stand-up comedy began to seem like an ideal convergence of both music and writing – performing and improvisation combined with the discipline and structure of writing.
Finally, he decided to make his first stand-up attempt at an open mike in a Hollywood club during a vacation back in 1977. "I think I got about two laughs in five minutes," say Cesario. "But the idea was that I lived through it." He returned to Wisconsin, where he continued to work successfully as a freelancer and musician. But the bug bit him.
In 1980, Jeff moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota determined to step into standup comedy. Minneapolis was quickly becoming a force in the comedy world, gaining a reputation for being a proving ground for up-and-coming comedians. Within a year he was a founding member of the four man Minneapolis Comedy All Stars, a quartet of standup performers which also included Louie Anderson. During the next eighteen months, Jeff worked four nights a week at the same club with the group, thereby gaining a rare advantage – an abundance of stage time to perform his material.
By 1983, approaching headliner status on the comedy club circuit, Jeff moved his base of operation to Los Angeles. Several years of hard work and perseverance finally landed him a five minute spot on the "Tonight Show." His very first appearance earned him the Carson seal of approval – perhaps the most prestigious endorsement a young comedian can obtain. He has been invited back regularly since the 1987 appearance.
Jeffs comments often reveal the incongruities of life. For example, his observation that violent, televised hockey games are the chief source of prison riots in the United States. "Thinks about it," Jeff said, "Youre a convict sitting in your cell at the federal penitentiary, watching a hockey player on TV get a 2-minute penalty for the same offense youre serving 17 years." This conclusion found its way into Sports Illustrated and newspaper across the country. Almost over night, Cesario was recognized as a kind of light-hearted Socrates of a sports-crazed society.
Cesario feels that a turning point in his career came when he achieved focus within the broad range of his material. Always a prolific comedy writer, he sought a theme to his work. The answer was a matter of common sense – literally. "I grew up with common sense. My folks were the kind of people who set their thermostats at 68 in 1968. Filter your life through that, and you have a kind of perspective that tends to shape your attitudes towards life." And as a performer, Jeff feels that he has never lost his roots in jazz. "Comedy is jazz to me. You get up on stage with a few planned things, but then you just start jamming. It has the same improvisational qualities."
Jeff has made appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," and ESPNs "Sportslook." His guest spots on the "Tonight Show" have continued with regularity over the last year and he has been a featured comedian on MTV. He first appeared on Showtime in 1988 in the one-hour special "Jimmie Walker & Friends," followed by an appearance on the "Showtime Comedy Club Network" series. In 1990 he joined Showtimes family of "Resident Comics," a list of twelve stand-ups who create their own half-hour specials for the network. Jeff also signed with CCBS, and has two series projects in development. His "Sports Comedy Network" aired following this years NBA Playoffs.