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Rodney Carrington, a five-foot, seven-inch banty rooster of a good o' boy from Longview, Texas, does indeed speak with a drawl and wear a cowboy hat. And he is funny as hell.
But let's set the record straight up front: He's no Ray Stevens, he's no Jerry Clower and he's definitely no Jeff Foxworthy. Nope, Carrington is altogether a bird of a different feather.
"Nobody influenced me and I don't think there's anybody like me," he asserts with typical self-assurance.
Above all else, Rodney Carrington, whose second major label album has been released on Platinum Nashville, hates comparisons – which is just as well. His side-splitting, frightfully graphic, yet immensely playful brand of extreme comedy pretty much goes beyond comparison.
He's visceral, he's gritty, he's irreverent, he's bawdy, he's outrageous, he's thoroughly unadulterated and unreconstructed. He makes no apologies, takes no prisoners and revels in his political incorrectness. In the outlandish yarns and off-color anecdotes he spins there are few favored oxen that don't get gored, and even fewer sacred cows that don't get sliced into rib steaks.
"I realized early on that I'm not gonna please everybody, and I don't intend to," he says with good-natured defiance. "I enjoy what I'm doing, and fortunately there's a lot of people out there who love it, too."
Carrington's already got a quite a following, evidenced by his many sold out shows and record sales. His CD "Live, C'mon Sing you Bastards," on Platinum Nashville marks the second major label release for Rodney. This follows up the highly successful CD "Hangin' With Rodney," released on Mercury Nashville.
For the past few years his performance at many of the U.S.'s top comedy venues (bolstered by his exposure on nationally syndicated radio programs such as "The Bob & Tom Show," "John Boy & Billy," "Steve & DC" and others) have been selling out. He has also appeared on NBC's "Friday Night Video" and the Arts & Entertainment Channel's "Friday Night At The Improv." He was featured at the prestigious Montreal Comedy Festival in 1996 – one of 20 new faces invited to appear that year from around the U.S. and Canada.
Carrington routinely holds forth with explosive candor about such potentially touchy subjects as marital infidelity, topless bars, prostate exams, being hung over at a religious revival, or his misadventures in Wal-Mart. Whatever his target may be, the power and hilarity of his tongue-in-cheek commentaries derive from his talent for tapping into what so many of us really think, talk and joke about in our most unguarded moments – when we're alone or with trusted friends or when we let down our hair, shoot from the hip and heedlessly throw all pretenses of correctness and propriety to the wind.
"I talk about real issues. I just talk about what people – particularly me – think about, whether they want to admit it or not."
"And most people seem to relate to it," he adds. "Maybe the women tend to think, 'Oh, that's just Rodney.' And the guys say, 'I'd kinda like to drink a beer with him!' Sometimes I'll see people out there trying their damnedest not to laugh, but sooner or later most of 'em crack. I tell folks, 'Even if you think you don't like me, you still like me.'"
Ask Rodney Carrington how an unassuming and somewhat quiet and shy kid from East Texas came to cut such a bold swath in such an unlikely occupation, his likely reply will be, "To tell you the truth, I don't know what got me into this whole damned mess."
Initially, Carrington aspired to be an actor. He stumbled across his nascent comic talent while appearing in a junior college production of the play "Noises Off."
"It was then that I realized how great the feeling of laughter from an audience was," he recalls. "I started ad-libbing my lines during the play. The director was kind of irritated with me, but at the same time he was laughing."
Without a clue as to what lay ahead, he auditioned for a comedy night at an inconsequential Longview club called Sparky's Bar & Grill one night in the late 1980's. "I was scared shitless," he guffaws. "I was an idiot. I was awful! I was only 20 and I had to lie about my age to get in, and I must have had seven or eight Jack and Cokes before I hit the stage. But even though it was all kind of a blur, and what I was doing then bears no resemblance to what I'm doing now, I left that night knowing that's where I belonged."
The next six or eight years were a rigorous, often brutal apprenticeship as he learned his craft by trial and error and clawed his way up through the ranks of would-be comic stars.
"I'd drive for hours for a 75-buck gig," he recalls. "Drive 12 hours, hop out, tell a few jokes and drive 12 hours more. I'd sleep in my camper truck at rest stops and eat Beanie Weenies out of a can. But looking back, I don't remember those as bad times. It was just something I had to do."
As Carrington kept grinding away, the money got better ("I've really been on a roll these past few years," he says proudly), and so did he. His material began to take on a more vivid, aggressive, comic-confessional, no-holds-barred edge.
"I never sit down and write anything," he explains. "It's spontaneous. I start by taking an idea up on stage and kicking it around and end up going in whichever direction with it. I have a tendency under pressure to become more creative. When I'm on stage it's almost like being a boxer," he adds eagerly. "Boom-boom-boom-boom! You hit 'em and jab 'em and stick 'em and kinda toy with 'em a little bit! When it's happening, man, when you get the crowd rockin', there's nothing like it! It's an unbelievable feeling!"
Again and again, Rodney Carrington, in his own weird, shoot-from-the-hip, hilariously demented way, manages, for better or worse, to bring us face to face with public posturing and pretense. It damned sure ain't always pretty, but it's damn sure real, and it's a whole lotta of fun.
"What I do best is make people laugh," he insists. "There's no b.s. or hidden messages around what I do, and like I said, I've got no apologies for it. My main message is: Lighten up! Don't be so serious about stuff! Enjoy yourself, for God's sake! Life is entirely too short!"
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