Even as a kid, Jeremy Ricci liked to make people laugh.
“I used to put pencils in my ears and wiggle them to make my mom’s friends laugh,” he said.
Now, Ricci is a familiar face in Manhattan’s stand-up comedy scene, performing his own sets as well as hosting many of the open mic nights around town. He said writing jokes has made him observe the world more closely and develop a sense of how to keep an audience on his side.
“I try not to get too out of control,” he said.
Ricci, a graphic designer and videographer for Champion Teamwear by day, grew up in a military family and went to Junction City High School while his father was stationed at Fort Riley. Ricci then joined the Army, too, and found himself back at Fort Riley. He enrolled at K-State for software engineering but didn’t end up enjoying that work. He started teaching himself Photoshop and other design software.
He got a job in 2014 designing posters and other products for Aggie Station, an Aggieville bar that has since closed. He then worked for Able Printing before starting his current job at Champion Teamwear in 2017.
By that point, Ricci had already found a home on the comedy stage.
Ricci went to an open mic night at Auntie Mae’s to watch a friend in 2012. He saw people trying out stand-up, some for the first time.
“A couple of beers in, I was like, ‘I could do this,’” he said. “I chickened out that night but I went home and for the next month, I tried to write jokes.”
Almost a decade later, Ricci, 38, is still writing jokes and has performed at several places around town, including Auntie Mae’s and Liquid Art Winery.
Ricci said he thinks attending live comedy shows is a good way to support the community because it’s an opportunity to support both local performers as well as the local venues where they perform.
“Investing that money in the community through local entertainment, whether that’s live music or comedians, supporting the community in that regard is really important in the age of Netflix,” he said.
He said he finds most of his material from listening carefully to people around him and observing the world. He said friends sometimes tease him when he pulls his phone out to take notes. Maybe it’s something he hears at a restaurant, like when a woman at the next table asked if the chicken was free range, meaning the chickens are allowed to roam free.
“How much joy does that chicken have to have for you to taste it?” Ricci said.
Sometimes it’s simple everyday experiences, like life with his wife, Shayla.
“My wife can sleep through a dozen alarm clocks, and I know that this marriage will last forever because she’s so good at ignoring the things that annoy her,” he said.
Ricci said he has developed a couple of different strategies for dealing with hecklers. He tries to match their energy, he said, and actually enjoys the spontaneity of addressing the situation. If they are hostile, he might be a bit more aggressive, but if they are clever or playful, he can be more playful, too. He said he tries to avoid jokes that are too personal, for example mocking someone’s physical appearance, even with more obnoxious hecklers.
“If you’re just mean about their physical traits, you lose everybody and you’re just being a jerk,” he said.
He said being aware of his own appearance and behavior can help shut down hecklers as well by beating them to a joke they might make about him.
“If you’re already aware of those things, it’s super easy to disarm it,” Ricci said.
In general, Ricci said he enjoys interacting with the audience. Whether entertaining them between comedians while he’s hosting or dealing with hecklers, he said he sometimes asks people about their jobs or something else about their life.
“Any comedian will tell you that’s very hacky,” he said. “And they’re right. But I still love it.”
Ricci said because of college students passing through experimenting with stand-up, Manhattan’s comedy scene is dynamic and often diverse. Students often bring a large group of friends with them, adding to the show’s energy.
Sometimes the group might be made up of just kids from Western Kansas, or it might be people from lots of different places and walks of life, Ricci said. He enjoys hearing from comedians from different backgrounds, he said, because it can bring a new or more informed perspective to his own material and influence how he shapes jokes.
He said sometimes people just starting out will ask if there are things they shouldn’t say or topics they should avoid. He tells them if they touch a nerve, they have to be accountable.
“You have a freedom to say whatever you want, but you don’t have a freedom from consequences,” Ricci said. “If you feel like something you’re going to say is going to get you in trouble, you’ve got to deal with that one on your own. I’m not going to stop you, but I’m not going save you.”
Ricci said many comics who have received public backlash to jokes are still selling out shows. Even if some of their jokes weren’t received well, no one is stopping them from telling them, he said.
“I’m so tired of hearing comedians complain about what they’re not allowed to say while they’re saying it,” he said. “You can’t be like, ‘I’m not allowed to say this thing I’m about to say.’”
He said over the years he’s developed a better sense of where the lines are drawn. He said reading the audience helps keep them on his side.
“I talk all the time, I’m very accountable for my mouth anymore,” he said.
Riley County counselor Clancy Holeman said he and other county officials will have to decide whether to appeal a recent decision from the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals or refund more than $95,000 in tax to Home Depot.
During an intergovernmental meeting Monday with leaders from the Manhattan city government, Riley County and area entities, Holeman gave an update on the “dark store theory” case involving the local Home Depot. He said the Board of Tax Appeals last week denied a petition for reconsideration he filed several weeks ago.
“We felt very good about the record we presented before the Board of Tax Appeals,” Holeman said. “We were very optimistic about the petition, but it just didn’t turn out.”
Holeman told area leaders he was hopeful for a more positive outcome in part because of the time allotted by the board for Riley County’s presentation, but the Board of Tax Appeals ruled in favor of the big box store.
Holeman said he was surprised that the document from the board stating its reasons for denying his petition was only two pages.
“It seems to be the route these cases are taking so far, at least at a (Board of Tax Appeals) level,” Holeman said.
Home Depot’s case is based on the “dark store theory,” which argues that big box stores should be valued as vacant — meaning they’re valued based on their hypothetical future lease value. Riley County valued Home Depot at $6.44 million in 2018, and Home Depot’s representatives argued the amount should be $4.07 million, a 40% reduction.
The tax board initially agreed with Home Depot that the county must refund $87,849 plus $7,600 in interest. The ruling also affected the taxes applied through 2020. Property taxes are outlined by a property’s appraised value and tax rates, which are determined by local elected officials.
In March, officials said the county government will have to pay back $24,194.49, as well as nearly $7,600 in interest, the city government will pay $29,186.08, the state $887.03, and the Manhattan-Ogden school district will owe $33,582.18.
Holeman said he will speak with the attorney that represented Riley County in the tax appeal hearing, as well as other county officials, on whether they want to seek another appeal from the Board of Tax Appeals.
“Our attorney representing us on this is also the Saline County counselor,” Holeman said. “We need some time to talk to him and evaluate if it’s a case that’d have a good chance of success on an appeal, or not.”
Local officials for the last few years have expressed worry that judgements for big box stores set precedents and could become a much bigger problem for municipal entities.
“What we’re concerned about is this spreading to different taxpayers and different types of property,” Holeman said. “This could represent a potential shift of responsibility for paying property taxes, away from big box stores and potentially onto homeowners and agricultural properties.”
The county is also waiting on several tax appeal cases related to box stores. Those stores include Target, Hy-Vee, Bed Bath & Beyond, and both Manhattan Walgreens locations. If the Board of Tax Appeals found in favor of the stores in all those cases, it would mean a loss of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars for the government.
Holeman said “every taxing entity” locally, including the city and county government and the Manhattan-Ogden School District, would be involved in paying back the refund amount if county officials decide not to appeal again.
“The more of this that happens, the faster there’s going to be an impact in tax shifts,” Holeman said. “Right now, counties are losing these cases, and that could have an impact sooner than later. All counties have to take it seriously.”
Holeman said there are bills pending in the Legislature that “would make it clear that a hypothetical lease fee valuation is not a good representation of current market value.” He said Riley County officials will be “fighting for space to engage” lawmakers about the problems with dark store theory during next year’s legislative session.
After enjoying some turkey and shopping, take any family members still in town to the Festival of Lights Tree Lighting.
The annual event that kicks off the monthlong light show at Blue Earth Plaza will bring Santa to town Friday night, as well as a Christmas villain, the Grinch.
There’s no cost to join in on the fun and there will be carriage rides, hot chocolate and more.
Here’s a look at some local events in the area this weekend:
Turkey Trot, 9 a.m.
Register: $20-$30, manhattanrunningco.com.
Black Friday, all day.
K-State Football at Texas, 11 a.m.
Watch, listen, live stats: Fox, K-State Sports Network, kstatesports.com
Holiday Performing Arts Festival: Jhavelle, noon.
Manhattan Town Center, 100 Manhattan Town Center.
Paint and Sip: Christmas Gnome, 6 p.m.
Also Paint and Sip: Christmas Bunny at 6 p.m. Saturday and Paint and Sip: Winter Believe at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $28-$35, uncorkedinspriation.com. Bring your own beverage.
Uncorked Inspiration, 1223 Moro St.
Black Friday Pick Your Project Workshop, 6 p.m.
Also Pick Your Project Workshop at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and Sunday Funday Mini Sign Workshop at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: costs vary, boardandbrush.com/manhattan/. Bring your own beverage.
Board and Brush, 311 Fort Riley Blvd.
K-State Women’s Volleyball, 6:30 p.m.
Watch, listen, live stats: Big 12 Now on ESPN+, KMAN, kstatesports.com.
Festival of Lights: Tree Lighting Ceremony, 7 p.m.
Blue Earth Plaza, Third and Colorado streets.
Small Business Saturday, all day.
Various small businesses around the area will participate.
Downtown Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Third and Leavenworth streets.
K-State Women’s Basketball vs Northwestern State, 11 a.m.
Watch, listen, live stats: Big 12 Now on ESPN+, K-State Sports Network, kstatesports.com.
Santa’s Luminary Trail, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Luminary trail, pictures with Santa, activities and more.
Friends of the Zoo have time between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. for early entry.
Tickets: $5-$10, Sunset Zoo gift shop, at the event, sunsetzoo.com or 785-587-2737.
K-State Women’s Volleyball vs Kansas, 6:30 p.m.
Watch, listen, live stats: Big 12 Now on ESPN+, KMAN, kstatesports.com.
Recital: Michael Walker and Gabby Yager, 11 a.m.
Flute and euphonium recital.
Kirmser Hall, McCain Auditorium.
Open Hood Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Check out what powers select vehicles.
Regular museum admission.
Midwest Dream Car Collection, 3007 Anderson Ave.
Christmas Movies, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
A Christmas Story at 2 p.m. and White Christmas at 6:30 p.m. on the big screen. No cost concessions.
No cost, but donations of non-perishable food items for the Geary County Food Pantry encouraged.
C.L. Hoover Opera House, 135 W. Seventh St., Junction City.
Recital: Peri Carney Sr., 2:30 p.m.
Kirmser Hall, McCain Auditorium.