ANTIOCH -- He's the class clown in the best sense.

And, Lenard Jackson is hoping his laugh-factory talent will take him to that next level.

At 17, the Antioch resident has already performed with professional stand-up comics, garnering attention along the way.

Last January, the Deer Valley Academy for the Performing Arts senior played the iconic Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco with Kevin Hart.

"It was an amazing feeling because the performance was decided on the spur of the moment," Jackson said. "Kevin looks at me and goes 'you want to go on tonight.' I'm like YES!"

His love of performance began with acting, but for the last year, the focus has been on comedy.

"When I was 8, my dad (took) me to School of Rock (with Jack Black). And, ever since, I wanted to be an entertainer."

Aside from his gift of humor, Jackson said there's a "satisfaction knowing I made a crowd of people laugh at stuff they have seen happen, but have never thought anything funny could come out of it.

"(Comedy) is like a drug (for me) ... When I get off that stage, I'm legally high off laughter."

Jackson enjoys performing, especially in comedy clubs. "But adults underestimate me -- until I'm done performing that is. It is crazy how the same ones who were eyeing me (then) compliment me."

So far, one of the biggest challenges has been overcoming "bad hosts. (They put) the audience in a disgruntled mood. Then the comedians have to get ourselves out of that mess."

Although still in high school, Jackson said he feels like he's been performing his whole life; like this is what he's meant to do.

His entertaining role models run the gamut from Fred Astaire and Jack Lemmon to Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby, along with Simon Cowell, Michael Jackson and Carol Burnett.

Aside from his studies at the Academy, Jackson will take on acting classes early next year -- an opportunity set up for him after auditioning for Disney and Nickelodeon.

"It's been good news from all of them," he said. "Training is the key in this business." And, while his career may be starting to grow steadily, the relationship with his manager has been a real bonus for Jackson.

"(Rick Sullivan) is the coolest guy ever. We're always on the same page," he said. "He's like a boxing trainer and I'm the fighter. We're side by side and are taking over the business together."

While fame may be a goal, Jackson said his ultimate target is "to have everything God wants me to have. I'm ready for it."

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net

In our "Neighbors" series, we give you a personal look at the people who are serving your community. If you would like to nominate someone for this column, contact Judy Prieve at 925-779-7178 or e-mail jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com.