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Funniest Man to tickle funny bone Friday night
James Gregory talks about entry into comedy industry
Stand-up comic James Gregory got his start in the business in 1982 during an open mic night at Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta. He is on his 30th anniversary tour, including a stop Friday night in Gainesville.

James Gregory 30th anniversary Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9
Where: Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., Gainesville
Cost: $27,

For more than 30 years, James Gregory has kept family audiences laughing with his comedy routine. The “Funniest Man in America” started locally in Atlanta in 1982, at Punchline Comedy Club. He hasn’t slowed down since.

He has performed in 38 states, all across Canada, Greece, Spain and the Middle East to entertain the military. Currently, he can be heard on the radio shows “Rick and Bubba,” “John Boy and Billy,” and “Bob and Tom.” He has been a part of each for at least 20 years.

He also contributes to several local radio shows on a regular basis.

Gregory will perform as part of his 30th Anniversary Tour at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, in Brenau University’s Hosch Theatre at 429 Academy St.

The Times asks about how “The Funniest Man in America” became so funny.

Question: How did you get started in comedy?

Answer: That’s a long, boring story. I’ll give you the capsule version of this.

You need to understand that (in) 1982, the first comedy club in the southeastern United States opened up for business. Prior to that, there was no such thing as a live comedian on stage anywhere in the southeastern United States.

The Atlanta area is where I lived all my life, and me and a couple of friends of ours used to go on Tuesday. Tuesday was what they called Open Mic Night or Amateur Night. So we would go out there, not to be on the show. I was just a big fan of comedy. I loved comedians.

But I had friends who always thought I was funny, and they kept daring me to go on stage on Amateur Night. And I finally got the courage to go on stage on Amateur Night. That’s my initial taste of it.

It’s not like you go on stage Amateur Night and then the next week someone offers you money. It doesn’t work that way. There’s a few years there of, as I say, starvation years ... but everything’s worked out great. I’ve been at it ever since.

Q: What do you think is the best thing about being a comedian? Why are you interested in comedy?

A: I’m a big fan of comedy, period. I love comedy. I grew up as a kid loving comedy. I love old comedy TV shows. I love sitcoms. I love stand-up comedians. So I love comedy, so I guess that’s my interest in it. That’s what made me want to go to the Punchline Comedy Club in 1982, to go see those live comedians.

It’s just the job I love doing. I love comedy. I’ve always enjoyed it all my life. Then when I got a chance to actually be in the comedy business and could make a living at it, I believe it’s the greatest job in the world.

So to do what you want to do, get paid for it and see the world and see this great country we’re in, most people don’t get to do that.

Q: You’ve received the title “The Funniest Man in America.” How did that come about?

A: That ... almost started out as an accident.

I was doing some shows in Hunstville, Ala., in 1986, and the shows run Tuesday through Sunday. So on the Tuesday show, there was a newspaper reporter in the audience. He was a longtime columnist for the Hunstville Times for decades, and his weekly column came out every Friday. It was the entertainment column.

I had never heard of this guy before, but he said, “This guy has to be the funniest man in America.”

Anytime you see a great press clipping, you kind of cut that out and you make copies of it. So I would use that in my press kit and highlight that column, that little sentence there, and I was in St. Louis, Mo., a few weeks after that. And they got this little advertisement.

It said “Coming this weekend, the Funniest Man in America.” They just said it. I didn’t say it.

So it happened two or three times over the next four or five months and I said, “You know what, this is going to be a great program right here.”

Q: You are currently heard on several nationally syndicated radio shows. How do you alter your comedic act for radio?

A: When I’m on stage ... that whole show is just funny, it’s gut-busting laughter, and it lasts for about an hour and 40 minutes, uninterrupted. No commercials, uninterrupted.

When I go on the radio, basically I’m just a guest. I’m not the star of the show, I’m the guest.

We can only talk for 2 or 3 minutes or 4 or 5 minutes, then they’ve got to break for a commercial or break for the weather. So I don’t really do my act on the radio.

I try to be as funny as I can, but I follow the lead based on what the host is talking about. I’m there, right next to the radio personalities, and we’re all talking about something. In that air time, we promote where I’m going to be and what show time is and that kind of stuff. It’s much different being live on stage than being on the radio.

Q: How would you describe the ideal experience you want to create for your audience?

A: It is so simple. I am a comedian. That’s what I do. The people who come to the show are buying a ticket. They’re doing that to see a comedy show.

And without bragging, I think my show is the funniest, funniest comedy show in the country today.

Everybody can come to my show. There’s no age restriction because all of my shows are completely family-friendly.

I want them to leave being happy that they came to the show. It’s just funny.