Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m no great wit. Yet somehow I ended up playing Abbott to funny man Killer Beaz’s Costello.
Our long-distance shtick went something like this:
“Alli? Killer Beaz here, world-famous comedian.”
“Really? World famous?”
“Yep. And part-time swimsuit model.”
“Well, you know. For those real long shorts they used to have … hey, it’s all a blur to me, man.”
Beaz, born Truett S. Beasley Jr., got his start as a blues guitarist in Jackson, Miss. The story goes that one night he was delivering an especially hot solo and someone shouted, “That was killer, Beaz!” Hence the stage name. And though the move from music to comedy might seem hard to fathom, to Beaz it was destiny.
“I’ve been funny since I was a little-bitty baby,” he insists, “so I was determined to do standup.”
While most comedians get their starts checking out professional side-splitters at local clubs, Beaz claims there just wasn’t that sort of opportunity in his neck of the woods. He had to train on the job, playing pool halls, appearing in between bands and entertaining the clientele at biker bars.
“I did over 300 shows before I ever saw a comedian,” he recalls, adding that he finally caught a standup act on a business trip up North. With the realization that there were actually comedy clubs where people went for the purpose of having a good laugh, Beaz knew he was on the right track — and that all that legwork would serve him well.
“Since I went through those rough times, I’m really strong on stage,” he says.
But it’s more than just being able to handle an audience — any audience.
“I can stand on their necks with love,” Beaz vows.
His secret is simply his ability to spin a good yarn. “I’m pretty much a storyteller with oodles and oodles of punch lines,” he explains. “I shoot for lots of laughs real close together. I consider it performance art — high-powered performance art. I want those people to leave wounded from laughing so hard.”
His stories revolve mainly around family — he’s married with two boys — and reflections on life. But not the life of the nation.
“Politics are too easy,” Beaz maintains. “Current events are too easy. It’s no gift to read the newspaper and make smart-aleck remarks about what’s going on.”
So he jokes instead about marriage, kids and bosses.
“The stuff we all go through is the stuff I like to deal with,” he says.
Which brings me to what Beaz is not about: He doesn’t use props, he doesn’t get on the “I hate this” spiel and he doesn’t resort to putdown humor.
“I’m upbeat,” he says. “Love makes the world go ’round. I think if the Lord’s given you a gift, you should use it without hurting other people. I don’t believe in ‘anything for a laugh.’ “
So, in the sea of successful comics roping in cheap guffaws with sexist slurs, fat jokes and jabs at divorcees, how can a nice guy come out on top?
“My act has universal appeal — it’s not regional or even Southern, though I’m a Southern guy with a thick accent,” Beaz says. “I make a lot of money not having to be rude, and I have a strong following.”
Admittedly his musical ties have helped. The Mobile, Ala.-based comedian recorded with Columbia Records in the ’90s and co-wrote Save Up with his good friends, Lynyrd Skynyrd. More recently he completed a CD, Shaken Not Stirred, of his stage humor.
“It’s a comedy-club CD,” he explains. “It wasn’t intended to be released; it was just supposed to be sold at gigs, but it’s got really great reviews.”
The thing is, the disc contains a few too many four-letter words for Beaz to feel completely comfortable with it.
“It’s not one I’d let Mama listen to,” he confesses.