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by Lenise Willis

For most performers, getting laughed off stage would be a nightmare. But not for a standup comedian—that’s the best applause one could hope for. During its 40 years of operation, High Point Theatre has hosted a wide range of performances, from traditional plays, to concerts and even comedy sketches. And this season is no exception, with the return of stand-up comedian James Gregory this Saturday.

“We have everything from Amy Grant to Sweet Honey in the Rock, from Soul Street Dance to Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, and Jimmy Webb to Black Violin,” said David Briggs, High Point Theatre director about this year’s line-up. “Our goal is to provide quality, affordable entertainment to our audiences, and stand-up certainly fits that bill.”

“Much of stand-up evolved in the club scene, however many of today’s patrons don’t want to sit in a smoky room; they prefer the more comfortable surroundings of a performing arts center theatre,” Briggs added about the importance of including stand-up comedy in the theatre genre.

To bring home the funny, the theatre is once again hosting stand-up comedian James Gregory, who will be giving his third consecutive performance at the theatre this weekend.

“I’ve presented and seen James many times,” Briggs said.

“What I like about James’ down-home style is that he takes everyday events and finds the humor in them. He’ll poke fun at his family, church groups, funerals, yuppies; almost anything is fair game.”

Gregory got his start back in the 1980s during an open-mic night in a club in Atlanta, Georgia, and has spent more than three decades touring and sharing comical tales about “life from the front porch.” He’s had much success, and has even been the featured entertainer for more than 200 corporations, including Coca-Cola.

Some may recognize him from his weekly syndicated radio shows, such as Rick and Bubba, John Boy and Billy, and Bob and Tom.

Gregory describes his humor as relatable because he draws it from everyday life, and though he’s from the South, he doesn’t base his sketches in it. Whether poking fun of diet, exercise, gun sensitivity or animal rights, he makes jokes that everyone can appreciate, regardless of age, background and region. “I don’t make redneck jokes and I don’t make fun of Yankees,” he said. “Anyone, of any age, can enjoy it. It’s about real life.”

After performing in 38 of the 50 states, Gregory can confidently say that he believes, “people are people,” which means funny is just funny, no matter who you are and where you come from. “You can do a comedy routine about anything if people can relate to it,” Gregory said.

While Gregory’s routines do, in fact, include some Southern topics, like covered-dish suppers and the healthy aspects of fried foods, he still doesn’t consider himself a regional comic. “To me, Southern comedians are guys who get onstage and talk about pickup trucks, rifle racks and cow tipping,” Gregory said. “I don’t talk about the South; I just deliver my material with a Southern accent.

“My comedy is based on real life – the people I grew up with. My notions about food came from them. They all eat fried foods and many of them are in their 80s. Meanwhile, you read in the news how some health-nut kicked the bucket jogging on the way home from the health food store.”

“He’s always consistent and provides a terrific PG-13 show.” Briggs added. “James’ humor hits people where they live. While it has a southern flavor, he doesn’t just settle on making fun of southerners.

“If you appreciate the warm-hearted humor that comes from taking an honest look at our lives and the people around us, then you’re in for an evening of real fun.” !

WANNA go?

James Gregory, stand-up comedian, will perform at High Point Theatre, 220 E. Commerce Ave., High Point, Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-$35; limited orchestra pit seats are $50. For tickets and more information visit highpointtheatre.com or call 887-3001.

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