Cliff Cash is frustrated.
He’s frustrated when he turns on the TV and encounters “Duck Dynasty” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” He’s frustrated by the persistent stereotype of the loud-mouthed, closed-minded Southerner. He’s frustrated when Southern comedians perpetuate this idea.
“The problem is not that there are that kind of crazy redneck that everybody associates with the South,” Cash explains. “The problem is grouping all Southerners into that and us, as Southerners, allowing ‘Duck Dynasty’ and ‘Honey Boo Boo’ to represent us.”
So Cash is pushing back. Along with fellow stand-up comedians Tom Simmons and Stewart Huff, he’s embarked on the eight-stop Sick of Stupid tour, with an Asheville date Friday, Jan. 22 at The Millroom. Think of it as a the mirror image of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour — one featuring left-leaning, progressive comics instead.
Though he lives in Wilmington today, Cash, like his author brother Wiley, went to UNC Asheville (for two and a half semesters before dropping out, he quips). Xpress caught up with Cash to talk about the Sick of Stupid Tour, but also to reminisce about late-’90s Asheville.
Xpress: What’s your recollection of Asheville 15 years ago?
Cliff Cash: Asheville has always kind of been a liberal bastion in North Carolina, and it certainly was then, too. There were great restaurants, great music and a lot of culture. It’s the same now, there’s just more of it.
It’s one of my favorite towns to perform in because it’s Southern enough to get the Southern stuff, but it’s liberal enough to get the more progressive angle. The South is amazing — just look at Asheville, Beer City USA however many years in a row. It’s a great city, full of progressive, intelligent people — a city that really gets it, that has a ton of green space, that’s being environmentally conscious, that’s bringing in great music and great food. Western North Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the world, between Biltmore Forest and Highlands and Cashiers. There’s a lot of aspects to North Carolina and the South, and I think the rest of the country doesn’t always get that.
Why don’t you tell me about what each of you brings to this tour?
I think Stewart is a lot of philosophy and science, sort of thinking of things existentially and analyzing the world and the way things are. Tom is a really prolific writer. Something can happen in the news that day and Tom can have a joke about it that night. I think he’s more like that than Stewart and I both. He’s always writing about what’s going on right then, which, as a comedian, is really impressive.
Each of you is from a different part of the South, too.
Tom was born in New York, but raised in Georgia. Tom lives in North Carolina now, too — he lives in Greensboro. Stewart is from Kentucky, but lives in Athens, Ga. We’re all very much Southerners and raised in the South. They’ve both got pretty significant accents — they’ve both got stronger accents than I do. I’ve got one, evidently, because people up North are like, “Where are you from?” But really Southern people are like, “Are you from New York? Why do you speak so well?”
How do you combat the stupid?
I don’t really know. I think [for] all three of us, it’s important for our comedy to have a message. All we feel like we can do is get out there and spread some truth and try to make people think. Hopefully people who agree with us will love it and share it, and people who don’t agree with us will at least go, “I don’t agree with that, but it’s funny and I’m gonna think about it.”
When you have an opportunity to have a captive audience of 100 people or 300 people or whatever it is, it’s a big responsibility. I think you’re squandering that opportunity if you get up there and do fart jokes. You’ve got this opportunity to possibly affect people’s mindsets and it’s wasteful if you don’t try to do that.