Trucker-turned-comedian Julie Scoggins describes her comedy as observational — a day-to-day take on things. And, while she admits her husband is often the brunt of her jokes (“I can tell by how much he rolls his eyes whether it’s a keeper or not”), on a five-hour drive from her hometown of Charlotte to a performance in Pikeville, Ky., it’s her fellow motorists who are fueling her wit. “All the amateurs are out. They’ve got their cars so loaded they can’t see, they’re talking on the phone while programming the GPS,” she says.
Even off the road, Scoggins (who has been performing for 15 years and will do two shows at The Millroom on Friday, Jan. 10) keeps a keen eye on those around her. She makes a point of getting to each performance early enough to go around and meet people. It’s a good business practice, but it also influences her performance. “You’ve got to look at who’s in the room, look them in the eye and choose what you’re going to say to them,” she says. For her, the connection to the audience is everything. “I talk to them, not at them. I don’t like the lights on stage to be so bright because I want to be able to see people’s faces.”
As far as her creative process goes, Scoggins has a notebook with her at all times. “When something strikes me that has potential, even if it’s just a premise, I write it down. Irony makes comedy,” she says. The comedian then takes the raw material to writing sessions with friends. Wine may be involved. “I’ll go in with bits and pieces and I’ll say, ‘What do you think of this?’” If a bit is too much of a stretch or it’s too much effort to take the audience to the point where they get it, Scoggins throws it out. This method took her a while to establish. “Starting out, you try to write for the crowd. The longer I’ve done it, the more I realize you write your style, and your people will find you,” she says.
She’s been on “The John Boy & Billy Radio Show” for two years (Asheville residents can hear it on ROCK 104.9), and she appears on Sirius XM Blue Collar Radio. Scoggins admits being a regular guest forces her to write. She doesn’t duplicate her material on the radio.
“Comics see things skewed — that’s what makes them entertaining,” Scoggins says. “They say what people are thinking but are afraid to say.” And yet she often finds that her opinions are more unique than she realizes. “I’m shocked every day that not everybody thinks the way I do,” she says.
There are subjects that Scoggins generally avoids, such as politics, which are too polarizing. “Eighty percent of the people in the room won’t share my point of view,” she says. “Although Asheville would, and that’s why I love it.” Her last local performance was at The Grove Park Inn’s annual Comedy Classic Weekend last March.
This week’s performances will be her first with Funny Business at the Millroom. Special guest Cliff Cash played the Cape Fear Comedy Festival three years in a row and won Port City’s Top Comic 2013. Local comedian Kelly Rowe, slated to host to performances, says she is excited to finally perform with Scoggins. She’s long been aware of Scoggins’ impact in Western North Carolina. “Julie has a sweet and honest Southern charm that draws people into her act,” Rowe says.
Like Scoggins, Rowe puts emphasis on constantly creating new jokes. “I like to keep my material fresh and you have to get out there if you want to keep your writing fresh.” To prepare for the Millroom show and get her creative juices flowing, Rowe takes trips to places she wouldn't normally go: “I visit the mall sometimes and listen to people's conversations. Then, when I’ve had enough, I reward myself with a giant cookie.”
In the endless search for comedic inspiration, Scoggins hopes to get her husband on board. “I told him that Jeff Foxworthy’s wife writes 50 percent of his jokes — you need to get with it, son.”
— Toni Sherwood can be reached at Toni_sherwood@yahoo.com.
who: Julie Scoggins with special guest Cliff Cash and host Kelly Rowe
where: The Mill Room, ashevillemillroom.com
when: Friday, Jan. 10, at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
$10 advance/$12 at the door