Jeff MacKinnon
Gig Seeker Pro

Jeff MacKinnon

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
Band Comedy




"100 Interviews: Jeff MacKinnon "Price Is Right""

After a little while of talking to Jeff MacKinnon, I ask if he’s one of those guys who is “dumbly charismatic.” I have a real way with words in conversations, if you guys haven’t figured that out about me yet. Luckily, Jeff laughs.

“I’d like to think I’m charmingly charismatic,” he replies.

I groan. “That’s exactly what that guy would say.”

Here’s Jeff’s deal: He’s young (25), adorable (on the short side for a dude, but he doesn’t seem hindered by it - on his website, he jokes about it extensively), and he’s one of those people with a consistent smile on his face. If I wasn’t interviewing him for being on a game show, I’d think maybe he hosts one.

I met Jeff because he’s in the stand-up comedy scene with me. He started out in Boston (which is technically where I started) and eventually moved out to Los Angeles, where he lives now. We’re put in touch by a mutual friend in the scene, but Jeff’s interview was on hold until now because this is when he’d be back on the east coast. It turns out that we’re both in Boston for the weekend for a comedy holiday party, but we decide to get a drink the next day, back in New York — where we’re both coincidentally going to the same late-night comedy show at the famous Upright Citizen’s Brigade. He’s got his cousin, Charlene, with him and she joins us, interjecting family details when they come up. She’s young too and pretty with dark hair and a smiley face like Jeff’s. (She’s remarkably good-natured too as Jeff is making her carry pumpkin-flavored Silk milk in her purse because he can never find it in stores. For some of the interview, it sits comically in the middle of the table.)

Jeff and I trade barbs and jokes throughout the interview. When he tells me he attended the University of Colorado in Denver, I ask if he majored in “pot smoking and snowboarding.” Originally, he attended Pace University in New York and majored in finance but on the side, acted in plays. He says he found the people at Pace clique-y; they resented a finance major coming in and wanting to do theater. Plus, at 17 years old, Jeff says he felt overwhelmed living in such a big city alone as Pace is mainly a commuter school. After a year, he transferred to Colorado, where he continued acting and doing comedy on the side.

I find it kind of funny that Jeff is being interviewed for winning on ‘The Price is Right’ and that he majored in finance. There’s some kind of money tie-in that I reach for throughout the interview.

“I just wanted to be smart with money,” Jeff says when I ask. “The economy is basically the conceptual order of the world so it wasn’t necessarily for a career as for an understanding of the world.”

On the topic of his early life, we talked about how when Jeff was in high school, his parents divorced. Jeff says most of their fights stemmed from money problems, leading to his interest in finance. They were high school sweethearts and his mother was in college when he and his older sister were growing up. His sister now works for Goldman Sachs.

“Neither of us wanted our lives defined by money,” he explains.

After four years of being divorced, however, Jeff’s parents got remarried. I am momentarily stunned. “That never happens!” I exclaim. Jeff laughs, “I know! I think they got their ya-yas out when they were apart because they were so young when they got together. Then, they realized they were meant to be with each other.”

“That’s sort of…romantic,” I say.

Jeff smiles, “It is. Oh, definitely.”

“Did you ever think they’d get back together?”

“Not for the first two years I didn’t,” he says.

It’s an hour before we get to his stint on ‘The Price is Right.’ I often forget why I put this type of person on the list. Before I met up with Jeff, I gave it some thought and tried to remember. ‘The Price is Right’ has never been - in a word - cool. Its target audience is old ladies and the unemployed. Even so, the show’s iconic. It’s been on the air on CBS since 1972 and you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the English-speaking world who hasn’t heard of it or its original host, Bob Barker.

It’s the longest-running game show in history and so realistically, people who have been on an episode must number in the thousands, but I’d never met one. On television, when you’re home sick or on winter break from college lounging with nothing to do all day, the people screaming their heads off on game shows don’t seem like real people.

‘The Price Is Right’ tapes in Los Angeles and after moving there, Jeff and a friend decided to try and get on.

“You get there at 8 a.m. and there’s 300 fucking goofballs who think this is their shot,” he says. “They want to get on TV so they’re going to be the wackiest and most annoying at 8 a.m. It’s like, sit down and shut up.”

Jeff showed up with his friend. The two were given an “About Me” card to fill out, which Jeff took seriously, filling in a mini-bio.

“It was like Reader’s Digest, so dull,” he laughs. “I wasn’t playing the game so the producers were probably like, ‘He’s a fucking dullard.’ I didn’t get called up.”

Because the show needs an LA audience and Jeff was local, the producers asked if they could call him in a pinch to fill their tapings. This surprises me, but the show tapes twice a day and airs daily — the studio holds 350 people. How many LA residents are clamoring to attend ‘The Price is Right’? Jeff says it’s mainly old women and college kids doing it on a lark.

During Christmas time in 2009, Jeff was invited back. He got a couple of friends together and thought, ‘Why not?’ Even though this time they had a group of six young people (Jeff had seen groups of 20 with similar shirts on get called up), Jeff was skeptical about getting on. He was so sure, he wore a ridiculous argyle sweater and a puffy vest.

The group was speed-processed through. Jeff was separated from his friends. When he was given the “About Me” card, Jeff says he just wrote jokes and “smarmy comments.”

“Like what?” I ask.

“Like, ‘I don’t think old ladies should bid on WaveRunners’ or ‘My check engine light is on. I need a new car’ or ‘Even though Bob’s retired, I spay and neuter my girlfriends,’ he says. Jeff was so sure he wasn’t getting on, that before the group went in, they promised that whoever won would split the winnings among them. Because he really did want a car, Jeff had the presence of mind to say, “If I win a car, I’m keeping it.”

The producers interviewed Jeff solo and he says he acted so disinterested in the show.

“They asked me what I did, I said I was a comedian,” he says. “They said, ‘Make us laugh’ and I said ‘Pay me money.’” He was sure his attitude had clinched his fate — there was no way he was going to be a contestant on ‘The Price is Right’ yet again.

As soon as he and his friends sat down, however, Jeff heard his name being called.

“My ass was barely in the seat and then they were holding up my name,” he says. “I didn’t even have a moment of ‘Holy shit! I’m getting on The Price is Right. It happened too fast for me to even think it was outlandish.”

Jeff faced off against three older ladies and the first item was a Valentino designer handbag, sunglasses and heels.

“I had my ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ moment,” Jeff jokes, referencing the 2008 film about a Mumbai teen who uses his life experience to win a game show. “My sister had just bought a fake Louis Vitton bag in Chinatown and I’d asked her how much a real one would cost. She’d told me around $2,000 dollars so that’s what I guessed. The other ladies were guessing lower, like $500 or $700. It ended up being $2,400.”

Jeff was still in a daze, having not yet processed what he was doing, even as he walked up to host Drew Carey.

“I was like, ‘Of course this is happening,’” he says. “I didn’t want to look like a screaming reject. I was in this cool zone and I’m so glad because nothing took me aback and I didn’t have a chance to sit around and get in my head. I was fully present. I wasn’t like, ‘Holy shit, this show’s been on for 40 years and I used to watch it when I was sick and now I’m fucking on it!’ I was just like, ‘It is how it should be.’”

Jeff’s luck ran out when he got to the game Plinko. He was excited because Plinko is a lot of people’s favorite part of ‘The Price is Right.’ Each dropped chip is worth thousands of dollars. The crowd started yelling suggestions at Jeff, who says it all faded to white noise. “The audience seemed mad at me for not listening to them,” he says. In an improbable mess, Jeff got all four Plinko guesses wrong and his chip got stuck twice. According to one of the producers, a 70-year-old woman named Linda, it was the worst-played game of Plinko in 27 years. In fact it was so bad, Jeff’s game ran as a segment on called “Plinko Stinko.”

“It was the worst game of Plinko ever,” he says. Linda took Jeff under her wing then, keeping her hand hard on his elbow to guide him around the stage. Jeff says at one point she told him, “Isn’t this exciting? This is what we see during the show.”

“It was like your grandmother letting you drive her car and saying, ‘Isn’t this exciting? This is what grandma sees when she drives,’” he says, doing an old lady voice.

Luckily, Jeff had one chip and could move on to the wheel. On his first spin, he got .95 cents, which is as he describes it “pretty solid.” The next person had to tie him or get a dollar even to beat him.

“I was the underdog,” Jeff says. “Drew was loving it. The audience was loving it.”

It was at this moment that it suddenly hit Jeff that he was on ‘The Price is Right.’

“The audience became a room full of cheerleaders. ‘All right, Jeffrey! You’re gonna get it back! Keep your head up, Jeffrey!’ The place went nuts,” he laughs. “They were so in my corner and they were all rooting for me. I sat down with some old ladies and one of them was massaging my shoulders.”

In the group, Jeff and the old ladies discussed strategy. Some of them had been to the show more than 10 times so Jeff used that pause to pick their brains on prices for trips or bicycles. For the showcase showdown, Jeff ended up pitted against an old woman from Arizona. He got first pick of the first showcase and to Jeff’s delight — it was a bicycle, a Vespa scooter and a Hyundai Elantra.

His father worked with bikes, so he knew roughly what one cost. His roommate owned a similar scooter so he knew what he’d paid. Plus, he truly had been looking at cars. Jeff guessed a knowledgeable $26,500. His opponents showcase was based on Dan Brown’s books — trips to Washington DC, Paris and Rome.

“The old lady turned me like, ‘I hate to travel. Do you want to switch?’” Jeff laughs. Her figure was rightfully way off.

“It was insane!” he says. “I won the Showcase Showdown. Everybody was going nuts.”

Then, Jeff’s comedian skills kicked in. He realized he wanted to make his segment “good TV.”

“I became the most ridiculous camera mugger,” he says. “I was jumping on the vehicles and shaking the scooter.”

CBS labeled him “the comeback kid.” We talk a bit more about how supportive the audience became once they realized Jeff could make the aforementioned comeback.

“Grown men were yelling things like, ‘Fuck yeah, Jeffrey!’ and ‘Let’s go, Jeff, you got this!’” he says, still sounding astonished. “I became the most important person in that room. It was this weird celebrity moment.”

This part of the story is interesting to me because these audience members had no reason to support a guy they barely knew, but within the context of the game — everyone wanted a positive result.

A happy ending.

Usually, I try to draw parallels to my own life through the stories I hear in the interviews. From Jeff, I was struck mainly by his parents ability to separate and then reconcile — a story I’d never heard before from a divorced couple, but I tuck it away for when I find my “high school sweethearts.” Or you know, perhaps it falls under…

A happy ending.

The parallel for Christmastime is perhaps the amount of money we spent on material items for ourselves and our loved ones this month. I’m a Jew so I had my gift-giving misgivings (nailed it!) earlier in December, plus how predictable would it be for a Jew to go on and on about money?

Jeff sold everything he won on CraigsList but the car. He needed the money, but more than that, ‘The Price is Right’ taxes winners on the value of what they win. In order to keep the car, Jeff sold the other items to pay the IRS tax of $9,000. I’m surprised to learn that CBS gives winners the opportunity to decline their winnings because they can’t pay the taxes.

I wonder if there are people who try to get on just for the glory of being on television, who decline the winnings and then go home and bask in the allure of watching themselves win big in a room full of people chanting their name.

A happy ending. - Gaby Dunn/100 Interviews

"Funny Brew"

Cheap drinks. Cheap décor. Cheap jokes. The latter depends on thickness of skin
and value of time. To see how these three elements blend together, take a stroll over to
Sunday nights at the Red Fish (poorly named “The Brewhouse Comedy Brew-Ha-Ha”)
to witness what has slowly but surely grown into an addictive mixed-bag offering of
stand-up comedy. The performers range from wonderfully-talented comedians all the
way to deranged individuals who should be billed by the audience for providing
indifferent therapy.
…One of these youngsters stands out amongst his peers. Avoiding clichés like “wise
beyond ones years” or labeling him like my mother might as an “old-soul,” I am left to
describe Jeff MacKinnon as one incredibly self-aware quipster. MacKinnon is slyly
likable, with jokes that are keenly crafted, clever, and relatable. To peg his “style” is
difficult – a lazy critic might call him observational – as he mixes social satire, absurdist
logic, and economical storytelling into a potent brew (a fitting pun). Bottom line,
when he picks a target, he hits it.
Not that this night’s lineup did not also deserve mention, including Denver heavyhitters
like Josh Blue (fresh from winning Last Comic Standing), Chuck Roy, Adam
Cayton-Holland, Ben Kronberg, Louis Johnson (unbelievable), Hippieman, and Greg
Baumhauer. All delivered consistent sets, as expected. I suppose I just have a soft-spot
for highlighting the underdog. The fact that MacKinnon left an impression on the
crowd amongst these all-stars is a luminous projection of his future.
…Most Sundays, you can catch MacKinnon keeping this show afloat with his
impressive hosting work. The role of MC is a thankless one in the comedy world,
particularly when it is done well. Nothing accelerates the demise of a tanking comedy
show like an inadequate host…fortunately, the Brewhouse has Jeff. Even though his
fellow comedians may feel scorned, MacKinnon’s ad-libbed quips about the prior
performance can be greater than their inspiration. The audience is grateful. Now just
change the name of the show. - Daily Camera


"Bring Me To Your Mother" (Wicked Comedy 2011)
"Recession Proof" (Hoock Records 2009)



Jeff MacKinnon is an important comedian who continually refines the art of stating his opinions as facts. He has been featured on NBC, CBS, MTV, Sirius XM, ManiaTV!, Comedy.TV and the Comedy Central “Comics To Watch” showcase.

In 2011 alone, he performed at festivals around the World, including the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bridgetown, SF Sketchfest, Boston International, and Laughing Skull.

His ability to create material on the spot led him to become a regular performer on Set List, an internationally-acclaimed live improvised stand-up show that airs overseas on SkyAtlantic HD. He tells jokes that he writes. He tells them real funny-like. He once described himself as "one of the best comedians his parents ever gave birth to."

Not only does he tour clubs and colleges nationwide, Jeff has also become a staple at nationally-renowned clubs such as the Hollywood Improv, the Ice House and the Comedy Store.

He is also a quick-witted improviser - known as Agent Eyebrows in Campus Activities “College Act of the Year” Mission IMPROVable and member of their house-team Child Dish. Jeff is also a founding member of Groundlings-bred Hot Ice! Sketch Comedy and a primary writer-performer in the sketch pilot Recycled Babies.

His debut comedy-album, Bring Me To Your Mother was released in September 2011 and sold more copies than zero.

"Wow That's What They Call Music" is the Now compilation-obsessed comedy podcast that Jeff hosts and produces, much to the delight of hundreds of people every few days.

Jeff can be seen seeking attention and validation in comedy clubs, theaters, bars, VFW’s, coffee shops, college auditoriums and/or cafeterias and sidewalks adjacent to those venues.

Here are common adjectives used in comedy bios that may or may not apply to Jeff's "skits": clever, inventive, hilarious, up-and-coming, rising, falling, established, sharp, cerebral, veteran, crowd-favorite, witty, palsy, top-notch, best-ever, touring, favorite, egotistical, delusional, self-aggrandizing. Only Jeff can say what's true.

Despite considering himself an important artist that should not be subjectively measured against fellow artists, here are some COMPETITIONS where Jeff didn't finish last:

2011 Boston Comedy Festival (Boston, MA)
2011 Laughing Skull Comedy Festival (Atlanta, GA)
2004 - 2006 Comedy Works New Talent Search (Denver, Colorado),
2005 Wiseguy’s Rocky Mountain Laugh Off (Salt Lake City, Utah),
2008 Valley of Laughter Festival (Westfield, MA)

2005 Stand-Up Comedy Battles (Denver, CO)
2006 Survival of the Wittiest (Denver, CO).

Jeff has written comedy about comedy for:
-LaughSpin (coverage of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011)
-Examiner (various opines about Los Angeles comedy events)
-Project Breakout (video-series about the comedy industry)
-ManiaTV! Internet Television (on-air host of Loudmouths on Latenight, Weekend Surf, Wasssup!, Freakshow & Citizen Journalism)

Fueled by insecurity and plenty of caffeine, Jeff continues to gain attention with the fresh material he consistently delivers from his small body and big mouth. Bringing Jeff to you is a no-brainer! Although, he would appreciate if you brought your brain to the show.