Well, it happened again.
It’s happened a few times over the past fifteen years and I’m always a bit taken aback when I hear it.
I’ll never get used to it.
Another reader friend said that I reminded him of Lewis Grizzard.
I love that.
And I hate that.
I love it because it’s as high a compliment as can be paid to a writer from the Blessed South, because Mr. Grizzard set the standard for all other Southern humorists.
I hate it because it’s an extremely high bar to attempt to reach.
I’m always grateful to hear such high praise but I know in my heart, I ain’t ever going to be Lewis Grizzard.
Lewis left us with quotes that have become iconic.
“If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”
Or this one:
“I know lots of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence.”
And my favorite:
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
Lewis Grizzard left us way too soon.
It’s been said by lots of different folks that Southerners are just naturally funny due to having lost the War Or Northern Aggression, thus the need to laugh to keep from crying.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that Southern Humor, the same genre that I try to accomplish, is unique and different.
As a young man, just off the farm and aching to see the rest of the world, I spent many hours listening to the 8 track tapes of Justin Wilson as I aimed my Dodge van westward and traversed the fruited plain. Mr. Wilson was a real Cajun and his accent and his stories about life in the Louisiana swamps kept me entertained for hours.
He once described the rabidity of the LSU Tigers football fans:
“Them folks believe in the Tigers so much that they bet on the instant replay!”
Jerry Clower was another very funny Southerner. A former fertilizer salesman, Mr. Clower would salt his sales presentations with hayseed stories that were so well-received that he became one of the most sought-after speakers in America. His humor was decidedly Southern and always clean. Mr. Clower’s tales about coon hunting, or dirt farming, or about his extended eccentric family were ones that most of us in our neck of the woods could, and still do, relate to.
Of course, in more recent times, Jeff Foxworthy’s name comes up when you think of Southern humorists. His “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” also featured Larry The Cable Guy, Ron White and Bill Engvall, but it was Mr. Foxworthy, a fellow Georgian and fellow rabid Bulldawgs fan, who brought us sidesplitting jokes and stories about “rednecks”, a term that was once an insult but now is a badge of honor for many of us down here below the Mason- Dixon Line.
According to Jeff, you might be a redneck if:
“You’ve ever made change in the offering plate at church.”
“You’ve ever financed a tattoo.”
And my favorite of all time,
“If you go to the family reunion to meet women.”
All stereotypical, but all hilarious.
Right here in the same pages where my scribblings appear, we have one of the most delightfully humorous, yet thought-provoking Southern writers the South has ever produced. Ronda Rich brings her Appalachian roots and her Christian faith into her writing and I’ve never read one of her pieces that didn’t move me in some way or remind me of my own life. She’s an extremely talented woman.
The South has produced lots of those.
Fannie Flagg is one of the wittiest and most beloved of all Southern writers. She, of course, wrote Fried Green Tomatoes, but she was very successful even prior to that best-selling book and the subsequent movie.
My favorite Fannie quote:
“People can’t help being what they are any more than a skunk can help being a skunk. Don’t you think if they had their choice, they would rather be something else?”
That little adage has helped me deal with difficult people for many years.
Miss Fannie also gave us this:
“If you do everything within your power to avoid writing, and still can’t (avoid it), then you must be a writer.”
I understand that.
There are days when the last thing I want to do is sit at a keyboard and be creative, but I still do, and so far, due to God’s grace, and funny folks who came before me who inspired me, I haven’t run out of ideas just yet.
Thank you, Lord, and thank Lewis for me.
Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of several books of Southern Humor. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.