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Issue-Driven Comedy With A Southern Accent


At The Comedy Attic this weekend it's the Sick of Stupid comedy tour, featuring Stewart Huff and Tom Simmons. It's a provocative title, but that's exactly what the comedians are going for. They aim to present issue-driven, intelligent comedy all with a southern accent.

Stewart and Tom came into the WFIU studios to talk about what it's like to get audiences to laugh at jokes about the Federal Reserve.

Tom Simmons: I used to sit down with my notebook and literally, What would Bill Hicks or George Carlin or Sam Kinison be talking about? You look for the bigger belief systems to slay. But you start to tell those jokes and people just stare at you. So, you have to go in and do the whole writing process. I'm writing out every money cliche. I'm going through my books. What did the Bible say about money? What did Gandhi say about money? What did Einstein say about money? I looked for those things. Then it can be condensed down into five minutes of jokes that get my point across and say what I want to say succinctly. It just comes together that way.

HS: What's interesting to me is when you hit that wall. Let's say you're going to do a bit on the Federal Reserve, and you're interested in that, and you have some thing you'd like to say, and you're going to make them funny. And then you go onstage and present it in front of a group that doesn't like it. At that point, your choices are to not talk about it or just be stubborn.

TS: I prefer the stubborn.

SH: Me too.

But then some nights, especially this happened in Aspen with you, people would actually gasp. Five minutes in, people who go, 'Oh, he's not dumb!'

TS: We were talking about this on the way here. Now you're writing more in the way of an entire show. So, you're trying to get this point across that humans are stupid with our beliefs, and we kill for them, and we fight science, and we fight learning. So, how do you make that funny for an hour?

SH: Looking back, I think it became a challenge. You've got to figure out a way to make your idea translate to a group of strangers. I think it's a better way to do comedy myself, and here's why. Your argument has to be sharp. When you're presenting an argument about an issue in front of a group of people that do not agree, you better be right, and you better be able to show them you're right.

TS: Right. Me and you are road guys. We have a little piece of almost all of America. We know Ohio, Virginia, Colorado. We've figured out how to make people laugh at what we do everywhere.

SH: I agree with that totally. Let's say someone yells at you. Do you notice your southern accent thickens?

TS: You know what, I know my southern accent thickens when I voice the opposite view of myself or I'm sort of mocking a point of view.

SH: The southern accent is really interesting to me. If I go on stage in, say, San Diego, and I walk up and say, 'How y'all doin'?' Six times out of ten, I will immediately get a laugh.

TS: Yes! They would do that in New York, too. You guys speak 97 languages and 'y'all' is the one that throws you off? That's the thing that makes you laugh?

SH: They immediately laugh, just from the accent. But then some nights, especially this happened in Aspen with you, people would actually gasp. Five minutes in, people who go, 'Oh, he's not dumb!'

TS: Right. I guess I'm just not a true southern.

SH: Why are you on this tour?

TS: Because I've lived in the southern for 20-25 years.

SH: You know that don't count, boy!

TS: That's what my wife says. She's like, 'You're not really a southerner, you don't eat grits.'

SH: You don't eat grits?

TS: I'm a southern. She's like, 'You're a faker.' I'm like, 'I'm not, this is what home is.'

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