When comedian James Gregory makes his way to Oxford on March 14 to perform his comedy show, it’ll be like visiting an old friend."I love the great state of Alabama; Alabama is just like a second home to me," said the Atlanta native. "It’s my neighbor state, number one. Number two is there’s probably not a small village town or big city in that whole state that I haven’t performed in."
Gregory has been performing his brand of "common sense" comedy all over the world for more than three decades. Think the quirks that you make fun of around the table after Sunday dinner: your great-aunt who swears she’s going on a diet as soon as she polishes off this meal, observations made about passers-by while sitting on your front porch, the unspoken etiquette of funeral food.
Gregory talked recently with The Star:
Q: So, when did you first realize you had a talent as a comedian?
A: The first comedy club in the Southeast U.S. opened in 1982. And I had always been a big fan of comedy. Tuesday was an amateur night — an open mic night. A couple of friends and myself would go down [to the Punchline] every Tuesday, not to be part of the show but to just watch the show. And I had friends that always thought I was funny, and they kept daring me to go up on amateur night.
You can’t become a good comedian the first day you’re on stage. But it’s all worked out. I think the reason that I’m still in business after all these years [is that] I look at [performing] as a job. I work two or three nights a week about 45, 46 weeks a year — which is a lot.
Q: Your comedy style is observational and relatable in an old-school way. What do you do that makes your work stand out from the pack?
A: The shows that I do are completely, completely family-friendly. In other words, people can come to see my show and they can bring their kids with them if they want to. You can come and enjoy the show and not be embarrassed. I don’t use any profanity or bad language in my show. And I have no criticism of the entertainers who do the other way. This is a big, big, big country we live in — we do have the first amendment and different strokes for different folks. I’m just saying that’s not what I do. I just think that people enjoy the show because it’s "common sense" — they can relate to it.
Q: Are there any new comedians on the block that you think are worth keeping an eye on?
A: There’s some that’s been around for a long time that are not necessarily brand new but a lot of people may not be familiar with. I met Brian Regan probably 25, 30 years ago, and I think he’s one of the funniest human beings in the world. There’s a lot of funny guys out there, and all of them are not sitcom actors.
Q: You’ve been performing for over 30 years; do you have any plans to slow down?
A: I’m gonna keep doing this until I win the Powerball lottery! Powerball is every Wednesday and Saturday — it could happen at any moment, you know. I hope to do another DVD this year — I’ve got four already. People have told me over the years that I should write a book. There’s always things that I think about, and then I don’t get around to it. I might write a book one of these days, just for the fun of it.
Erin Williams is a freelance writer for the Anniston Star.