backstage (2007-11)

Rednecks on Parade

Local yokel Storm Taylor brings his Dirt Poor Comedy Tour to a theater near you

by Leslie Wylie

Storm Taylor's done time in the underbelly of rural America. As co-host of Yokel , a gonzo-style travel show that aired on Turner South for a couple of seasons (and is still available through TBS on-demand), the Knoxville native made his living drifting from one speck-on-the-map town to the next, shootin' the breeze with locals, capturing the

What they lacked in material luxuries, though, they made up for in beer-fueled belly laughs. "Obviously I have this sort of deep passion for the real rurality of small towns, and during our travels we tried to show a lot of that--the farmers who work hard all week, but they play hard as well," Taylor explains. "In doing that, I just started noticing how there were a lot of funny people. People who have a hard life, but they deal with it through humor."

That's when Taylor got the idea to start gathering the humor up and taking it on the road, kind of like Jeff Foxworthy's popular Blue Collar Comedy Tour, but a little less... classy. A wanted ad for the act's cast on a national improv website reads: Are you the next "Redneck" Comedian?... Storm Taylor (Turner South's Yokel , MTV), Go Go Luckey and PUD Productions are looking for the next real redneck or in your face confederate daughter, dirty collar, southern cowboy comedian. If you're a lady especially, think miner's daughter and come rock out.

After hosting auditions in Chapel Hill, N.C.; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Atlanta, Ga., Taylor had his redneck dream team narrowed down to five standout caricatures of backwoods southern life, and the Dirt Poor Comedy Tour was born.

"Each of them represents a different facet of rural or small-town America," Taylor explains. "A little bit trucker, a little bit cowboy--we're trying not to miss anything." There's Dustin Chafin (yes, that's his real name), "this guy from Texas who's half-cowboy, half-Indian"; Cousin Ricky, "who has a tremendous and entirely legitimate accent, and is kind of like the weird cousin hanging out at the family reunion"; Etta May, à la "poor white trash"; J. Scott Homan, "an amazing oddity of a human being"; and Big Kenney, who was raised poor and black in Georgia.

The tour's cast may sound disenfranchised, but Taylor says that, even in today's era of political correctness, his comedians are proud of who they are. Rednecks, perhaps, are the last frontier of shamelessness. "You don't have rednecks who are like, 'I'm a redneck, but don't make fun of me,'" he says. "Rednecks don't care."

And they're not afraid to turn that same sense of humor on themselves, or each other, or the audience. Take it or leave it, but the Dirt Poor Comedy Tour is not for thin-skinned city-slickers (or for youth under the age of 18). "That's the thing about comedy we're trying to address," Taylor explains. "It's not going to be no-holds-barred, but it's going to be open. It's time everyone got the chip off their shoulders. Everyone's going to get made fun of, even ourselves."

Besides which, Taylor figures that being "dirt poor" is something that many in the audience can relate to. "Most people, at some point in their life, they can say, 'Oh yeah, I ate Raman noodles for a month,' or, 'I've had my electricity or water switched off a time or two.'"

The Bijou Theatre should make a fine backdrop for the Dirt Poor Comedy Tour's two shows this week, which will be filmed for a DVD to be distributed by Sony. A full-blown tour and possibly a television show are in the works as well.

Taylor says that even though the show's theme is poverty, its production will be first-class. In between acts, video montages of the comedians' on-the-road antics will be shown. Taylor will serve as "the ringleader" of his "hillbilly circus."

"It's time to take it back to the way it was. Where everybody gets made fun of, and that's OK," he explains. "There's this vast subculture, this salt of America, that's being overlooked, and we're trying to pick it back it back up and have a good time with it."

What: The Dirt Poor Comedy Tour