So Easy a Caveman Could Do it?

Macaroni Kid Speaks with John Lehr

February 5, 2010

By Michelle Sisco, Smyrna Vinings Publisher Mom
You’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with the GEICO caveman commercials. Perhaps the most recognizable cavemen in history is actor John Lehr, who’s teed up with Phil Simms, gone to therapy with Talia Shire, hit the court with Billie Jean King and more in what are arguably some of the most popular ads on television. Lehr is headed to the Super Bowl, courtesy of Phil Simms, who offered him tickets while they were shooting a bit for this year’s big game. A father of two, comedian, actor, writer, producer, director, former teacher … well I thought I’d ask him a few questions about how he manages it all. (You can view some of the GEICO spots here:

Q:     First, I have to ask – Saints or Colts? (Realize the questions to follow may depend on how you answer this question).

A:     The Saints absolutely! I am actually a Chiefs fan and the Colts have been a thorn in our side ever since Peyton and his Colts D kept Larry “Good Riddance” Johnson to 32 yards in the 2006 Wildcard. I am bitter, oh so bitter, and I would like to see the Saints & the kick ass city of New Orleans celebrate in style.

Q:      How old were you when you decided that you wanted to get into entertainment?

A:     That is rather unclear. I was always the kid who had the teacher’s comment on his report card: “talks to much,” but it wasn’t until I went to Northwestern and was exposed to Chicago Improv that I really jumped off the deep end. I couldn’t believe I was allowed to say whatever I wanted in front of a group of people.

Q:     How old are your kids now?

A:      3 1/2 and 1 1/2 and, yes, the “1/2” is important enough to put down. I am constantly stunned that   I have parented them well enough to keep them alive this long.

Q:      Your wife, Jennifer, is an author and writer. I imagine you’ve had to spend some time as a stay-at-home dad in the last year or so?  Any good stories you’d like to share? Advice?

A:       Fold. Completely fold to everything they want. Don’t take a stand. They will embarrass you by beating you down until you ultimately agree to their demands anyway. Just do what they want and count the seconds until your wife gets home so you can play PS3.

Q:     What’s the hardest thing about being a dad?

A:      Stomping down the fear that rises like bile in my throat every time I look at a tuition bill for my daughter’s fancy shmancy pre-school.

Q:       What’s the most rewarding thing about being a dad?

A:        I love the look of delight on my kids’ faces when I deliver “Chim Chimney” in my over- the-top cockney accent.

Q:        What’s the best family vacation you’ve taken since your son was born? Or worst!

A:     There is none. We tried taking them once and the shear amount of luggage it required was more than my car could handle.

Q:     I know that before you got into acting you worked as a substitute teacher. What grades?

A:      I taught 5th and 6th grade in Chicago and substituted high school in South Central LA. The high school kids called me “Mr. Beer,” “Mr. Queer” and “Hey White Guy.”

Q:     Your first big role on television was on “Jesse,” right?  You played Christina Applegate’s brother. Do you want to talk about the family dynamic there?

A:     Well this brother was HIGHLY interested in breaking some state laws with his sister, but sadly the writers of the show disagreed. Christina was a joy to work with and the $16K a week to play a mute was the best gig I ever had.

Q:     You hosted the first season of  “I’m a Celebrity… Get me Out of Here” in 2003, when     competitive reality shows were at their peak. Who are you most like: Simon Cowell or Jeff Probst?

A:     I think I was a little more like Pat Sajak.

Q:     Melissa Rivers beat out Bruce Jenner. Really?

A:      Lord knows. Supposedly America voted in the 100’s of thousands, but if that was the case, then how come only 3 people watched the show?

Q:     “Memron” is an award-winning “mockumentary” you starred in that was written and produced by Nancy Hower, of “Star Trek Voyager” fame.  In 2006 you co-created the improvisational   comedy “10 Items or Less” for TBS with Nancy as well.  Are you working on any other workplace-inspired comedies?  Perhaps something set in Washington D.C.?

A:     We signed a deal with Sony to develop a show called “Jail Bait” which is set in jail. That’s kind of like DC, right?

Q:    You’ve probably spent more hours in makeup then all of our readers combined to prep for the GEICO spots (and that’s saying something). Any makeup tips for the moms out there? Or makeup removal tips perhaps?

A:     Ha! That’s true. The weird thing about that make-up is that it kind works on you — like the water torture that Cheney says wasn’t torture. After about 8 hours I run to people crazy-eyed saying, “Get this shit off me!”

Q:     What’s your favorite Geico spot? Can you give us any scoop on what we’ll see Sunday during the game?

A:     I think my favorites are probably the ones in the therapist office (“It’s my mom-- I’ll put her on speaker.”),  although I loved the Billie Jean King one (except for the 70’s style tennis shorts). The upcoming spot is pretty funny, I think. The Caveman stalks Phil Simms.

Q:     Macaroni Kid has editions all across the U.S. Any shout outs to friends/family in L.A., Chicago, KC, etc.?

A:     Go Chiefs!!

Q:     So what’s next for you? Planning to adopt any kids from foreign countries?

A:      As you know, Mr. Simms gave me free tix to the Super Bowl so I am focused SOLELY on that. I cannot wait to sleep late in the hotel without my kids waking me up. 

Until Sunday then,