I was born in 1953, a time when the cold war was warming up, Mccarthyism was destroying careers and noted writers and screen stars were branded as communists by the notorious “unofficial” Hollywood Blacklist.
It was a chaotic, riotous time in American history. A lot of people were nervous, waiting for the Russian invasion and the overthrow of the American way of life.
Growing up, I was buffered from most of that decade’s fear and apprension. I guess living a slow, easy country life will do that. As a family, we worked hard, worked some more, prayed a lot, went to church a whole lot and more important, we laughed a lot.
We laughed at ridiculous things and funny situations. We laughed at ourselves and others. We listened to comedy from the likes of Andy Griffith and Jerry Clower.
In those days, our introduction to “stand up comedy shows” was sitting in our living room listening to the monologues of Jerry and Andy pouring out of the tiny speaker of a table top record player.
The Blue Collar Comedy Tour wasn’t even a thing back then. Jeff Foxworthy and his “You might be a red neck.” schtik or Bill Engvall’s “There’s your sign.” humor although hilarious, didn’t exist. Instead, we enjoyed humor, country style, listening to Andy’s What it was, was football. We chuckled and slapped our knees in delight hearing Jerry Clower tell us about his Uncle Versie and The Last Piece of Chicken.
Wow, that shit was funny. I loved listening to their routines. So much in fact I would play the records over and over, trying to memorize what they said, how they said it. I spent hours muttering along — repeating every, single, word — under my breath to make sure I had the timing and nuance just right.
I even went so far as to rehearse the routines in front of live audiences (friends, family, congregation members at Wednesday pot luck suppers) every chance I got.
I thought I was going to be the next Andy or Jerry. A regular funny man.
Well, it turns out I wasn’t funny enough to make a living at comedy. But thinking back on those days I realize my humor, my satirical little funny bone, was molded and shaped by the hilarious country observations of Andy and Jerry.