Here are a few of my favorite comedians who have inspired me, both alive and kickin, as well
as a few six feet under!
Southern "Country" Comedians
Jerry Clower (1926-1998)- Undoubtedly the reigning King of Southern Comedy
until the arrival of Foxworthy. The best storyteller in comic history. His delivery was key, as it was completely unique.
Just try and tell "Knock him out, John!" and make it funny! Jerry did it, as nobody else could.
I realized his far-reaching influence recently when I was riding around Flint, MI with an African American Imam listening
to Clower Gold on his radio. Now thats mass appeal!
Lewis Grizzard (1946-1994)- An absolutely Brilliant Southern Comedian,
journalist, and Southern spokesman that has a huge fanbase, but is now often overlooked for his contribution to
the Country Comedy genre. In the 70's he helped to bring Southern humor to a wider audience, and showed the particular
tone of Hillbilly humor one would find around the woodstoves of hundreds of backwood General stores throughout the south.
He and Clowers paved the road used now by the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He died far too young for the wealth of his talent.
The Duke of Paducah (1901-1986)- He was the Larry the Cable Guy of the 40's.
The first great comic to grace the stage of the Grand ol' Opry, his one-liners became part of many scripts for Hee Haw.
Minnie Pearl (1912-1996)-" Howdee!" when
you heard that call, you automatically knew who it was, ..and you smiled.The Comic Queen of the Grand
Ol' Opry in its Golden Age. A very intelligent and sweet Lady that I had the honor of meeting before her passing.
She had the best known prop in the Comic Industry; that pricetag hanging off her flowery hat. This was decades before Larry
the Cable Guy's fishhook in his billcap(WHich, incidentally, my Brother has!). Minnie told the same jokes for forty years.
Yet, we laughed every time. This was due to the charm of her suberb on-stage persona. You couldnt help but love
her. The Grand Ol' Opry will never be the same without her.
Andy Griffith- An icon in the South. If you want to get the crap kicked out
of you quick, bad mouth three things in the South; Hank, Elvis, and Andy! Best known for his hillarious television
show that introduced the talents of Don Knotts, Andy first became famous for his southern comedy stand-up and albums.His
strong accent and friendly charming, country-boy delivery was a sensation in the fifties.
His "What it was, was Football!" is a classic, which is as funny today as it was forty
Junior Samples (1926-1983)- Best known for his "BR549" routine
on Hee Haw, as well as always messing up his lines, Junior was a bona-fide counry boy in overalls and no
teeth.This was no act, what you saw was what he was. He started his career when he told a story to a radio reporter about
a fish he caught. It was requested so much on the radio that he ended up attracting Talent Agents. He became so popular
that he ended up with a comedy career. A rare talent in that the act, was simply being himself on camera.Most Comics
can only dream to achieve in a life on stage what this simple country boy stumbled into by simply telling the right person
,at the right time, one whooper of a fish story.
Ray Stevens- The greatest Comedy songwriter of all time. His "The
Streak" with its "Dont look ethel!" was yelled through my house whenever anyone had
to dash from shower to bedroom naked. His "Shriners Convention" , "Mississipi Squirrel
Revival", and "Its Me Again, Margaret", still make me laugh. And though, as a Muslim,
"Ahab the Arab" should offend me, i cant help but giggle everytime I hear it.
Tim Wilson- Another great comic and songwriter. His "First Baptist
Bar and Grill", "My Brother-in-Law", "Acid Country" and
"Church League Softball Fist Fight" are brilliant and hillarious. You havent seen a country comedian
until youve sampled this one!
Cledus T. Judd- (No! I do not look like him no matter what everyone
says! )This is the "Weird Al Yankovich of Country Music" And a very funny one at that.
Country music has always had comedy associated with it going all the way back to the Duke of Paducah and Minnie Pearl. Cledus
is truly carrying that torch into the New Millennia. His parody of hit country tunes such as "Every Light in the
House is Blown", "My Coronary Life", "If Shania was mine", "Im a Plow Boy"and "Did I Shave my Back
for This?" are good clean fun, and would make anyone laugh; no matter their musical taste.
Brett Butler- A great southern female comedienne. Her sharp
tongued wit brought a voice to the modern blue-collar southern woman.She spoke of the problems confronted by working single
mothers who still have a edge and that rebellious, resilent spunk about them that is both endearing and I dare even
say alluring. With her jokes over having to put up with her dumb ex-husbands trailer parks, Deer hunting shows, and infidelity;
as well as a raw sexuality that came straight from the back of a flatbed on a back gravel road, Brett was the original "Redneck
Woman" long before Gretchen Wilson sang their overdue praise. Her stand-up was spot on funny, and her resulting
TV show, Grace Under Fire was a deserved hit with a good run with five popular seasons that even
rivaled Roseanne Bar and Tim Allen for the blue collar sit-com throne. It is unfortunate
that, like a lot of comics, the pressures of her success were relieved with drugs and alcohol, and thus brought it to
an untimely end. Whether it was a bump or a dead end is yet to be seen. I hear that she has her act together now in life,
so I hope to see her bring it back to the stage and the screen. If not, it is a waste of a great talent.
Jeff Foxworthy- Well now, what need be said! The reigning King of Country
Comedy. He made being Redneck a universal trait, no matter if you were from Alabama or Los Angeles. The top selling comedian
of all time, he has also opened the way with his Blue Collar Comedy Tour to bring fame to some other very
funny southern comedians., who are the next in this little list of mine.And most of his "You might be a Redneck.."
qualifications are met, with some amount of pride, by myself, and my kinfolk.
Ron White- One of the best new comedians out there.I think everyone has an
Uncle like this. The black sheep, parties just a little toomuch, but he has a smooth charm that you just cant help but find
endearing. His "They Call me Tater Salad" routine is the ONLY comedy routine by anyone that i would
have given my teeth to have written first! It is just southern sarcasm and ironic storytelling at its very best.Hence the
reason for its appeal, and now Mr. Tater has earned the fame this little piece of Brilliance truly deserves.
Larry the Cable Guy- I swear this guy is my brother. He looks like him, acts
like him, and dresses like him. His act and demeanor, his opinions and commentary, are the pulse of every farm-workin trailer
lovin country boy across this nation. Some high-browed journalist recently speculated that his huge success and appeal
is due to a reminscence of"The Old South" as opposed to the more Northern influenced "New South", that drops the accent and
enters the white collar world" What Bull!! We do not like Larry as a "reminescence"
But as a Relation! Larry represents THE South-its true voice; a voice with the twang
and drawl of the blue collar southerners that are the true backbone of Southern culture and heritage.Weilders and
mechanics, factory workers and truckers, roughneck oilfield workers and the men who plow soil in the hot sun
to feed this Nation. Men who like truck and tractor pulls, NASCAR races, fishing shows,four-wheeling in the mud,
Dukes of Hazzard Reruns, Listen to Willie Nelson and Tobie Keith,and seem permanently garbed in bright orange during whatever
hunting season you want to pick from. And it doesnt matter if your a college professor or a bank President in the South, this
is what you are and where you come from, and if you dont claim it with pride then you lose credibility in your community. These
are Larry's fanbase, who outnumber those "New Southerners" 1000 to 1. In truth, these Carpetbagging
"New Southern" Yankee Sell-Outs, who try to talk through their nose like their from New York and snub that
same nose at their Southern heritage, live off the true southern man's sweat like a typical Flatlander Yankee
Leech. .Larry the Cable Guy is A true Southern voice for the true South- new, old, and right now. Thats
who LArry the Cable Guy is to us! The beautiful thing is, he's found a universal audience throughout this Nation. An
inspiration to me in many ways, and "Git R Done!" is going to be the catch phrase of the decade.
Preacher Moss- Muslim, comedian, social commentator, and a man im proud to
call my friend and Brother in Islam. After we were first introduced at a benefit dinner, I called him a few months later
and told him I wanted to be a comedian. He put me in his next show in Michigan, -no questions asked. His comedy is sharp and
relays a social message without getting "preachy". His timing and delivery are versatile to both Muslims and non-muslims alike.
Writing for such talents as George Lopez, SNL star Darrell Hammond,and
Damon Wayans, Preach is a behind-the-scenes and on-stage one man comic phenomenon.(And for writing
this, he now owes me twenty bucks!)
Azhar Usman-Truly one of the Best Known, and most talented, Muslim comedians
alive. His comedy comes from a Islamic perspective that helps a religious group that is oftimes far too serious laugh at themselves.As
a Indian-American he brings an international humor that few others can match.Though he would be funny in any comic genre,
in a Mosque show, he Kills!
Sister Tissa Hami- A newcomer to the Islamic comic scene, who works mainly
in Boston. Ive yet to see her set, but her walking out on stage in full hijab (headscarf) and saying "I wore this hijab
because im feeling slutty tonight!" Shows that this sister is hillarious and definitely one to watch!
Other Comic Inspirations:
George Carlin-A Guilty Pleasure I must confess.I know, hes an atheist
,against religion,foul-mouthed, and a bit anti- government (Hey, 1 out of 4 aint bad!)but for his social commentary,superb
material and sharp-tongued sardonic wit, Carlin is,in my opinion,the best Comedian alive.
Richard Pryor (1940-2005)-A true Comic Legend. His recent death was
not as much of a shock, as he had been ill for over a decade, as it was a deep sense of loss that I think all comedians
felt and many fans as well. Pryor was, hands down, the best comedian of the late 20th Century; (A position that I and many
others feel was shared with Carlin)He was the standard by which all the rest of us are judged.
He was to comedy what Picasso was to art, he took the microphone and spotlight and reinvented them the way Ford reinvented
the automobile. Nobody could make fun at his own failings better, and nobody could create better characters right on stage.Give
me a MudBone story anytimeand I will fall -out on the floor.Jerry Seinfield said that he was the bravest
man to ever stand on stage alone, and at the time he came out, that was really true. He come to be the voice and pain of a
generation who lived in the excesses of the 70's and 80's, and were glad to find some much needed humor in its turmoil.When
he spoke of setting himself on fire with vodka during his heavy drug use, or shooting his wives car when she was about to
leave him. Or of waking up in his car "doing ninety." we had to laugh at its truth, its vulnerability, and its hillarity.He
has been the catalyst for a whole generation of Comedians, such as Eddie Murphy, Eddie Griffith, Chris Rock, Martin
Lawrence, Damon Wayans, and hundreds more, myself included, who watched the Comic Master and dreamed
of the stage.Much copied but never matched, Pryor was the man. I pray that Allah(swt) may be merciful
upon his soul.
Bill Cosby- "The Cos". Such a dynamic man. Hes a social activist,
outspoken promoter of education, and an icon of conservative family values and moral virtue that has done as much, in
my humble opinion, to uplift the image of African-Americans as MLKjr and Malcolm X. On top of all this, he is a brilliant
comedian. A man of natural Allah given talent who has used it to truly bring a strong moral message of equality and ethics
to a worldwide audience with a few laughs to boot. And he did it CLEAN. Anyone who thinks that you cant get the deep side-splitting
belly-laughs without getting dirty, needs to rent "Bill Cosby; Himself ". It is Cosby at his best,with
his storytelling ability rivaling that of Jerry Clower. In his tirade on the pains and aggravations of parenthood one
can see that it was through this routine that his long-running sit-com The Cosby Show, one of the
most successful in TV history, came into being. On a personal note, I can watch the Huxtables lip-sync "NIght Time is
the Right Time" everyday and still laugh.
Sam Kinison (1953-1992)- May he rest in peace. It wasnt his screaming, it
wasnt his foul-language, it was his vulnerability and superb delivery that made him an explosion on stage. He spoke to the
insecurities in all men when it came to romantic situations.We could all relate with a man who spoke of a woman causing him
pain, as itis not a topic we normally discuss in our masculine circles. he was one of a kind. And I hung a black wreath on
my door the day of his tragic death.
Andy Kaufman (1949-1984"?")- "The Man on the Moon"He
was either an Comic genius prodigy, or else he was completely insane. I opt for both. Best known as Latka on "Taxi",
this was the least of his talent and exploits. He was a true artist within the realm of comedy; and he did it with a completely
bizzare, surreal, and unique technique. Whether it was singing Western Songs dressed as a Hindu fakir, or only singing along
to one line of the "Mighty Mouse' theme song, or doing his "foreign man' impressions, then launching into a very good Elvis
impersonation (the only one approved by the King himself ,BTW) Andy made you laugh at what should have been embarassing
to him. Yet, Andy's real secret was that he wanted a reaction from his audience, any
reaction. Andy didnt care if you booed, cheered, cried, cursed,or laughed, it was all the same to
him. But he really loved the look of confusion the best, and seeing peoples butts squirm in their seats. His exploits
are now legendary .Like when he becamethe "Cross Gender Wrestling Champion"by wrestling women and
then challenged to Champion Jerry "The King" Lawler who nearly broke his neck.This whole little feud culminated in the
famous slap on The David Letterman Show that stunned the Nation, It was a great pariody of the
wrestling soap-opera many at the time whole-heartedly believed was real. Or When he donned the make-up and wig
of His rude lounge singer alter-ego Tony Cliffton and preceded to alienate everyone around him and make the audience
hate him...well, sometimes hate him,as often it was not Andy under the Cliffton make-up, but his
partner-in-crime Bob Zmuda (Who later went on to form Comic Relief with Whoopi, Billy, and Robin)
while Andy stood backstage or at home watching on TV laughing at everyone thinking it was him.It was a trick that had
everyone fooled for over twenty years. And last but not least, when he crashed the Friday's live
on-air skit becrying, "I cant do this type of comedy, I can work with stone!" and started an on-air fight
with the producer for "ruining" the show.They all expressed the same goal; Andy loved to push the audience to wonder,
"Is this real or is it TV trickery?" And many still wonder. Thus making Andy the first "reality TV" star. Many believed
he was pulling yet another Andy trick when he said he had terminal lung cancer (after all, he was a vegetarian
who never smoked or drank.)but he had the last laugh on them by dying in 1984...or did he? Knowing
Andy, we could have the greatest comeback ,as well as punchline to the greatest gag, in comedy history! One could
Monty Python-(John Cleese,Terry Jones,Terry Gilliam,Eric Idle,Graham Chapman(d.1989)
and Michael Palin) Sketch Comedy at its best! im a die hard Python fan. They created an entire genre of bizzare,"absurdist
comedy " that has never been matched. I enjoy it because it is a type of Comedy that I could never perform. To watch
a Python skit(especially Terrry Gilliam's weird cut-paste cartoons) is an excercise in combined confusion, chaos,
and hillarity. Whether its their Flying Circus TV show,their comic albums, or their wonderful
Cult Classic movies, Python has inspired a whole generation of imitators, such as The Kids in the Hall
(which I call Monty Python 1990 Canadian-Style) to Saturday Night Live, to the creators of South
Park. Who can forget "The Spanish Inquisition" , "The Dead Parrot","Im a Lumberjack", "Spam","The
Fatal Joke", "Hells Grannies","THe Knights who say "NEEP!!", "The Ministry of Silly Walks"or "Upper
Class Twit of the Year" and a hundred more examples of Comic brilliance that came from these six disturbed British
minds. All of them have went on to great careers as actors, directors, authors and screen/songwriters. Even with the loss
of Chapman to spinal cancer in October 1989, everyone is itching for a reunion, and though it will probably never come,
you will find a hillbilly in a Kufi in the front row if it ever does!(YOUR MOTHER WAS A HAMSTER, AND
YOUR FATHER SMELLS OF ELDERBERRIES! NOW GO AWAY, BEFORE I TAUNT YOU A SECOND TIME!... sorry
about that, I couldnt resist.)
Chris Rock- Though he credits Pryor as his inpiration, his mixing of comedy
and social commentary are much more inspired by Carlin.(Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy are more like Pryor) If
Larry the Cable Guy and Yasser Arafat had a child, it would be me, if Carlin and Pryor had a baby together.. its Rock!
Dave Chapelle- A great comedian and commentator, and a good brother. His
show and stand-up are the best since Flip and Pryor had their shows. He is also a man of more conscious than many may know.Were
with you Dave!