Around town: One-man show finds laughs in the absurdity of people-pleasing

FUNNY MAN: Joe Carroll's one man show, Quality Service, will run Friday-Sunday, Jan. 19-21, 7:30-9:30 p.m., at the Asheville Masonic Theater. Photo courtesy of Carroll

 Joe Carroll spent many years of his professional life guiding drunken bachelorette and bachelor parties and other tourists around Asheville. So he didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for Quality Service, his new one-man comedy show.

“At some point along the way, I recognized that I had a knack for presenting a version of myself that reflected what others wanted to see: a judgment-free, puppylike energy that shared the message ‘I love it here’ and ‘You’re doing great,'” explains Carroll, a veteran of the local improv scene. “But most of the time, I didn’t love it here, and they [tourists] were not doing great.”

Quality Service examines what it means to serve others and highlights the absurdity of pathological people-pleasing, Carroll says. The show, which blends improv with sketch comedy, storytelling and audience participation, will run Friday-Sunday, Jan. 19-21, 7:30-9:30 p.m., at the Asheville Masonic Theater.

“I would leave work covered in beer and confetti and watch the mask slowly slip off. Underneath the mask was someone that wanted for the pain in the world to be acknowledged so that it could be healed. Underneath was someone that treasured authenticity and connection over pointless pleasantry,” he says. “I am creating this show to honor that side of myself and to honor that side in others.”

Carroll, who began improvising in 2007 as a student at Appalachian State University, moved to Asheville in 2011 and performed with the improv troupe No Regrets. After the group broke up, he developed several comedy projects around town, including his one-man show JOLO. He taught at Asheville Improv Collective until it closed in 2020 and now teaches long-form improv classes at Misfit Improv & Acting School.

“I think it’s fair to say that comedy found me,” he says. “When faced with hard truths, one is often put in the position to laugh or cry. I chose to double down on the laugh option, but I still cry frequently and in public.”

The show, which Carroll developed over several years, will be directed by Carin Metzger with music by Aaron Price.

The Asheville Masonic Theater is at 80 Broadway. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

Speaking in tongues

Kim Hayes says releasing a book of poetry was like giving up babies for adoption.

“My poems come from a lot deeper than the surface part of me that most people see,” the Asheville woman says. “And it’s taken some courage to share those depths, knowing that what the reader understands may be entirely different from what I intended. Quite frankly, I could have taken the easy path and gone on scribbling little poems just for me until I died.”

Instead, she was “inspirited” to put together As if She Spoke in Tongues, a collection of poems written over five or six years. It was recently published by Grateful Steps Publishing House and features 10 illustrations by her daughter, Rachael Thomas. The title refers to the idea that readers will interpret the poems in their own language and she, as the author, will lose control.

“The book is me letting go of things I’ve held close for a long time. It covers a lot: nature, God, the universe, love, politics, dying, living,” she says.

Although Hayes has been writing poetry for years, her credentials as poet are sketchy, she contends. “I’ve taken some poetry classes and attended some workshops over the years. These days, I meet regularly with other poets to gain their insights and suggestions.”

Her poetry has appeared in Barricaded Bards: Poems from the Pandemic, a 2021 collection put out by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. She also contributed to a book of Lenten meditations, Winged with Longing for Better Things, by Sylvia Sweeney and took second place in the semiannual Xpress Poetry Contest in April.

For more information or to purchase As if She Spoke in Tongues, go to

Local music spotlighted

The Dark City Kings, Aunt Vicki and Fashion Bath will take the stage for a local music showcase at The Orange Peel at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11.

“I know that the AVL Music Fest helped create some larger interest in the local scene, so I’d like this Orange Peel showcase to build on that momentum,” says guitarist John Kennedy of the Black Mountain-based Dark City Kings. “Sure I’d love a good turnout for the Dark City Kings, but I’d also like a good night for the other bands, and so The Orange Peel will host more local showcases, and more people will become interested in checking out the local music scene.”

The Dark City Kings began as a group of friends who met to play music outdoors during the height of COVID restrictions. It recently released an album, Porch.

Led by married songwriters Lee Dyer and Erin Campbell, Asheville’s Aunt Vicki plays indie, retro rock and Americana. And Fashion Bath, formed by Kevin Boggs and Max Murray, is an Asheville-based experimental rock band.

The Orange Peel is at 101 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

Making history

The Walton Street Park and Pool, one of Asheville’s most significant African American historic sites, was added to the National Register of Historic Places last month. 

At the southern end of the Southside neighborhood, the city-owned Walton Street Park opened in June 1939 as Riverview Park. The pool was completed in the southwest corner of the park in fall 1947 and the poolhouse the following summer. With its gable-roofed picnic shelter, concession stand and playground, the park became a community hub for generations of African Americans.

In early 2021, with the city building a new pool at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, City Council voted to close the pool. When community members raised concerns about the site’s future, the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County worked to get the site listed on local and national historic lists. The park and pool were designated a City of Asheville Local Historic Landmark in 2022.

The historic designations do not include permanent protections for the site, PSABC Executive Director Jessie Landl cautioned in a press release.

“Our work does not end with the completion of the designation process. Recent renovations to the park have breathed new life into the landscape, yet the pool remains closed. Without a plan in place for the future of the pool, it will continue to deteriorate,” she wrote.

The preservation society hopes to work with the neighborhood, the broader community and the city to explore options for site’s future.

Trail blazing

The long-planned Asheville Black Cultural Trail was unveiled in a recent ceremony at Black Wall Street.

The self-guided interpretive trail highlights prominent people, places and events in local African American history. It includes 14 stops and 20 panels across three historically significant neighborhoods: downtown, Southside and the River Area, now known as the River Arts District.

Among individuals spotlighted on the trail are William R. “Seabron” Saxon, who refused to give up his seat on a bus from Atlanta to Asheville in 1951; William and Georgia Roland, business owners who provided strategy, training and meeting space to Black teenagers during the Civil Rights Movement; and Matthew Bacoate Jr., who operated the first Black-owned manufacturing companies in Western North Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s. The YMI Cultural Center and the site of Stephens-Lee High School, the area’s all-Black secondary school from 1923-65, are stops on the tour.

Development of the trail was led by the River Front Development Group, a community advisory group and Explore Asheville staff.

“Our goal was focused on lifting up Black history in an inclusive way by illuminating stories of resilience and resourcefulness,” Catherine Mitchell, executive director of River Front Development Group, says in a press release. “We selected stories of bondage, resistance, advocacy, medical care, and entrepreneurship.”

For more information about the trail, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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