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Jeff Sharkey: End of the Road Less Traveled

Jeff Sharkey is a local who started acting up as a child and turned to acting as a creative outlet. Along the way

Jeff Sharkey is a local who started acting up as a child and turned to acting as a creative outlet. Along the way, he has tried his hand at stand-up comedy and is currently hosting comedy and local talent events at the End of the Road Theater in Lower Township. 

By Christopher South

NORTH CAPE MAY – Like many people who make their homes in South Jersey, Jeff Sharkey found his way to Cape May County, settling first in the north and making his way to venues as far south as Cape May. 

According to Sharkey, 60, he was the proverbial class clown who still feels the need to act up now and then. Born in New Providence, the family moved to Watchung, which is not far from New York City. 

“They did what they could to stick you in the corner,” Sharkey said. “There were some mild reprimands, but if it got the class laughing, it was worth it.” 

Sharkey survived his K-12 education and went on to Stockton University, which is where he caught the acting bug. At the same time, while being really into theater, he did not feel it would be a lucrative career choice. Still, he majored in English literature while engaging in creative arts, saying, “You learn more by doing.” One of the things he has learned by doing is the secret of staying young. 

“The secret to staying young is to act as immature as possible,” he said. 

Sharkey, though, could see the benefit of having a day job to support his nighttime acting habit. He said he worked in casinos, which he didn’t like, while he always wanted to be more creative. He was feeling like a blocked artist (his words), while wanting to be the next great American novelist.  

He picked up a copy of “The Artists Way” (1992) by Julia Cameron, which addresses identifying barriers to one’s own creativity. Sharkey said soon after he got the book, he started coming out to poetry readings in Ocean City. 

“That book helped me get past the blocks. It helped me with my acting side,” he said. 

Sharkey started auditioning for parts in local plays, and he signed up for a comedy workshop in Sea Isle City. He was encouraged by the workshop’s creator, radio personality Steve Trevelese. 

“He told me if anyone was going to make it, I would,” Sharkey said. 

Still, he knew it would take a lot of work. 

In the meantime, Sharkey is a student of comedy. He follows the humor of several successful young comics, including Nate Bargatze and Mark Normand, as well as more established comics, such as Bill Burr.  

He took a comedy course in 2007 and did stand-up for a few years. He said he would go out to open mics and found out the meaning of the word “hustle” – something that didn’t appeal to him. 

“So many comics have to travel and hustle,” he said. “I just didn’t see driving Long Island, or upstate New York, or Pennsylvania for $25 for an opening spot,” he said. 

So, in 2011, Sharkey essentially gave up on stand-up comedy, but not on comedy entirely. He started working with Cape May MAC in its Victorian Comedy Murder Mysteries and Elaine’s doing comedic dinner theater for a couple of years.  

Eventually, he became part of the cast of East Lynne Theater and ended up on its board of directors. East Lynne, he said, is in the process of moving to the old Allen African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church on Franklin Street in Cape May, which belongs to the city (both the church and the street).  

Sharkey decided to stick with acting and got a few roles through backstage.com, going to New York for a few jobs. He got an agent and went to Philadelphia and New York City. He has participated in a few local productions, including Exit Zero fundraisers to benefit the Christmas Parade, and finally came to the End of the Road. 

The End of the Road Theater opened in about September 2021 when, coming out of the Covid shutdown, there was nothing much going on.

Sharkey said he was feeling a little bored and itching to do something when a friend told him about End of the Road. He thought he might do five minutes of stand-up, but after meeting the owner, Jennifer Swain, he offered to host a comedy night. She agreed and he went home and dug up some old material and put together a show which he said “got a pop from the audience.” 

“I caught the stand-up bug again since November when they started local talent night,” Sharkey said. 

Local talent night, he said, is mostly musicians with a few comedians who are mainly new to the game. Sharkey said it’s a supportive, nurturing event for people who are starting out. 

“What I like is the set-up – no distractions, no screeching cappuccino machines, no one calling out coffee orders – the focus is on the stage. The patrons are not having background conversations; it’s a respectful room – a listening room,” he said. 

Sharkey said the Local Talent Night has attracted a true, family band, including parents and two teenage children. There has also been a child of about 9 or 10 who solved a Rubik’s Cube for the audience. Sharkey said they limit Local Talent Night to 10 or 12 performers who get about 10 minutes. For musicians, that is basically three songs. 

Local Talent Night has a “pay what you want” fee scale. Contact the theater for dates.  

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com.  

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