Cliff Cash believes little conversations can, collectively, bring about big change.
He’ll bring his gift of gab and his unique brand of down-home humor to the local stage this weekend. Cash and fellow stand-ups Tom Simmons and Stewart Huff are returning to the Port City with their Sick of Stupid tour for four shows at Bourgie Nights this weekend, after the original sold-out stop back in January was delayed due to snow.
But this time around, they’ll be having some back and forth with the crowd. After the laughs, the three will hold a Q&A session that, Cash hopes, could lead to some serious discussion about the southern issues he and his peers poke fun at.
The trio has some new material, thanks to HB2 and the resulting fallout, which has included plenty of late-night TV jabs at North Carolina lawmakers and lots of cancellations and boycotts from big-name acts like Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam.
The Sick of Stupid crew will give free admission to anyone showing up to catch the comedy with a ticket to a show that was canceled in protest of HB2.
“I respect that for sure,” Cash said of such bow-outs. “I get it. It’s obviously sad for the people who wanted to see that show…But I understand they feel like that’s their way of getting the news’ attention… and have a light shine on the issue.
“For me, though, I wouldn’t want to let my fans down. I’d rather show up and then spend the last 10 minutes berating the North Carolina legislature and get in the news for that.”
The same offer will apply at the trio’s upcoming performances in Greensboro and Asheville.
Sick of Stupid came about after Cash realized he was something of an anomaly, at least when compared to the southern comics that most often come to mind – Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.
Not that he’s knocking those blue collar folks. It’s just that, as a proud byproduct of a rural NC town, Cash’s south is not the stereotype perpetuated in TV and movies and its people, not those who grab the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
He wants the south to have a “better voice than Honey Boo Boo and Pat McCrory” and yes, he consciously lumped the two in together.
“Any real southerner knows there is a lot more to the south and its people. Beautiful, culturally diverse cities with incredible people and art and food, amazing natural beauty like the gulf and the Appalachian mountains. We have amazing universities and museums and breweries and venues,” Cash said. “We’re getting a bad rap and we don’t all deserve it. We know that people are frustrated by that and those people are our audience.”
So, as he imagines it to be the case with fans of other anti-HB2 entertainers, Cash, Simmons and Huff plan to tackle the measure with comedic timing, although it’s not an entirely new subject for the group.
“We will talk about [HB2] more in the North Carolina shows, but equal rights and gay rights are already a big part of our shows,” he said.
A true southern gentleman, Cash is courteous when it comes to talking about those Tarheel staters who believe in the so-called bathroom ban, which restricts people to the bathroom that matches their biological gender, not the sex with which they identify.
“I get how people are fearful about this issue, how they are small-minded. If you’re not a transgender person, then you of course don’t really know what it’s like to be a transgender person. So, it is easy for someone to exploit that fear,” he said. “Because the bathroom part is just a way to scare people…so they can make it legal to fire someone because they’re gay or make it hard to file discrimination claims. That’s the real meat of the bill; it’s not just about who is pee-peeing beside who.”
But perhaps the time for politeness is over, Cash said.
During a Q&A at a recent gig, an audience member posed this to the Sick of Stupid comics: “What can we all do to start changing ignorant mindsets and create a better image of the south?”
Cash said it’s a good question, and one that might not have one right answer. But, he added, the best place to start is one-on-one.
“I think it’s about starting the conversation,” he said. “You have to be willing to be brave. If your coworker says the ‘N’ word, you have to be willing to stand up and say, ‘I’m not cool with that and I won’t accept that’.”
In that spirit of finding a voice and engaging in dialogue, Sick of Stupid is changing up its format with that Q&A but also by taking some suggested topics from the crowd.
Cash et al will perform at 8 and 10 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Bourgie Nights, 123 Princess St. Tickets are $10 in advance ($15 day of show) and are available online.
Click here to watch a promotional video of the Sick of Stupid comics onstage.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.