VALLEJO — Don Reed performed standup comedy for the “The Tonight Show” audience, warming them up for more than 1,000 episodes.
Reed also created a trilogy of acclaimed solo shows that he performs in the Bay Area. All this experience, however, hasn’t chased away his battle with nerves before going on stage.
“I’m still terrified before I have to go on stage,” he said. “It’s like ‘I have to do what? Again?’ Will I be funny this time?”
“Terrified” is an improvement from the days when he had panic attacks before performing, he said. Watching another performer get physically ill before going on stage helped him calm his nerves. That guy had strong writing skills, so he eventually left the stage and devoted his time to writing.
“He started panicking over other stuff,” Reed said, joking.
That man was Shane Black, Reed said. Black went on to pen “Lethal Weapon” and “Iron Man 3.”
Reed stops at the Empress Theatre May 2. The performance is a departure from his autobiographical works. The audience can expect to hear about the time Reed was rushed by the Secret Service on “The Tonight Show.”
President George W. Bush made an appearance. Reed had a bag of T-shirts and hats to share with the audience before taping began.
Some overhasty agents didn’t know what was in the bag and made a mad dash toward him to inspect the bag’s content.
He’ll probably delve into and demonstrate his observations about how people dance.
“These characters think they are doing the coolest dance in the world, but it’s the wrong one,” Reed said.
He may even tackle twerking. Reed did audience warm ups for “Hannah Montana.” Miley Cyrus, the woman who introduced tweaking to international television audiences, starred in the Disney show.
“She was a young delightful child,” Reed said of Cyrus. “Now she’s a wild freakazoid. What is it with her tongue out all times. Wouldn’t it dry up, like suede?”
Reed is a chameleon who mimics everyone from Chris Rock to Sammy Davis Jr. The first is his toughest because Rock has an odd and loud cadence, Reed said. To do it justice, Reed said he has to find the right balance of tone.
One of his favorites is Davis rapping a Jay Z song. “It’s quite interesting,” Reed said.
He predicts Jimmy Fallon will claim the top spot in the late-night talk showbattle. Fallon is hip, likable and produces monologues that can be trimmed to small sketches, perfect for YouTube, Reed said.
Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell and Louis CK are the comics who make him laugh. Also Barry Diamond, a comic who Reed said hasn’t gotten his due.
Diamond can quickly shift into character on stage.
“There’s no heads up. It’s like he just makes a left turn,” Reed said.
Thursday night, Reed will do a private fundraiser for the Food Bank of Contra Costa Solano. It’s one way he gives back. Reed is also on 51 Oakland, a nonprofit that works to assure Oakland students have access to art and music programs.
Reed is the father of two teen sons. “They think I’m funny about 60 percent of the time,” he said.
Ben Feldman will open the Vallejo show.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.