Nashville Comedy Longread: Sean Maloney in Splitsider

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Nashville’s comedy scene has long been dwarfed under the shticky shadows of Hee-Haw and Larry the Cable Guy, but with so many creatives moving from under-the-radar misfits into mainstream cultural juggernauts, it was only a matter of time before Nashville comedians followed suit. But do they have the chops to back it up? Scene writer Sean Maloney dug into the local comedy scene in a recent article for Splitsider, a sister website under The Awl's cultural umbrella.

Here are some of the story's highlights:

Nashville is the sort of town where nobody can name a city council member but everybody knows the dumpster Taylor Swift throws her fan mail in.

“Comics get to a certain level here and then they move. [Nate] Bargatze went to Chicago and then New York. Billy Wayne [Davis] moved to Seattle, ya know, at some point people have to move,” says Riden. “We don't have enough comics that are on the road and working that are still here and committed to the scene. If I'm the senior guy in the room, that's fucked.”

It's a transient city,” interjects Corrie. “It's central to everything, it's close enough to Chicago, close enough to New York that it makes sense to say 'that's the next step'.”

“So we hemorrhage talent once it gets to a certain level” says Riden.

“Nashville's just a weird place. If anything, people are used to things being awesome,” says Anundson.

“There's not a lot of forgiveness.”

“People here are conditioned to high level talent”, says Riden.

“For everything,” points out Corrie.


There is a weird tension between Nashville's comedy and music communities. Well, “between” might not be the right word — there is a weird tension projected towards the music community from the comedy camp. It's the nerd/cool kid dichotomy played out on a city-wide scale, the ninety-pound weakling showing up at the the beautiful people's private beach. There's a tinge of resentment in Nashville comedy that seems to be saying 'we would be musicians if we could, and we'll mention that. A lot.' It feels like a scapegoat for poor attendance at hole-in-the-wall shows, but to most people in Music City, comedy starts and stops at the front door of Zanies.


In this sentiment Fletcher sounds like his peers in the music community: conquering Nashville is not necessarily the point. The point is to use the city as a whetstone, so that you can venture in to the wild prepared to shiv some motherfuckers. As Nashville's cultural cache increases — author Ann Patchett, chef Tandy Wilson, filmmaker Harmony Korine are all bringing home previously unseen levels of non-music renown — it makes that shiv go in a little easier, helps pierce the tough exteriors of bigger, burlier entertainment centers.

“People are looking at [the city] in a different way, so when they hear 'Nashville comic' they don't automatically think Larry the Cable Guy type stuff. All the attention on Nashville has helped us to not appear as dumb rednecks to the rest of the world.”

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