Veteran comic Stuart Huff raises questions at Cellarmen's
Stuart Huff approaches comedy like a secular preacher, sermonizing from the pulpit of sharp wit.
The southern comic doesn't tell one-liners or zingers; instead he tells tales that have funny parts that cause laughter at the moment, but they're sandwiched between phrasing that will make you think two days later.
He'll wax about the power of knowledge, human interaction, respect for others, racist relatives, nature, history and more with smart quips woven in and out, all delivered with a southern drawl and a contradicting demeanor that goes from cool and calm to smoke-out-the-ears riled up, kind of like a pastor on Sunday. He swears, but he's not vulgar.
Huff, who appears at Cellarmen's in Hazel Park Saturday, has a style that enrages some people, and his goal is to make the most angry person in the room laugh.
"I, on a regular basis, have people come up to me that say you sound like a preacher," he said. "And what's funny to me is some of the time they'll say it in a positive way, and sometimes the exact same words, but they're saying it negatively. It's so funny."
People have "rarely, but occasionally" gotten mad to the point of getting physical at his shows. He's also had a room of people silently hanging on his every word, some with tears in their eyes.
"I don't have anything against jokes, they're great. But I don't want to drive 10 hours to make 13 people who are drinking Bud Lights and eating nacho dip laugh," he said. "I want to write something that means something to me."
He said in order to do that, the Kentucky native had to figure out what rooms will accept him, and how to make people laugh while expressing himself. This is why there are only a few traditional comedy clubs in the country that he performs at regularly.
"My attitude is I don't make a lot of money doing this, so I'm going to do exactly what I want to do," he said. "I find the pleasure in this in the writing and presenting of my thoughts. If a club wants me to change ... then I'm just not going to work there any more."
That's happened before, too, he says. Most of the time he gets booked at independent spaces like the tasting room of Cellarmen's, a 12,000-square-foot cidery, meadery and brewery that also hosts metal shows.
"I walked in there the first time and thought, 'what the hell is going on,'" he said of the former lumber store that opened as a cidery in 2015. "I was immediately intrigued ... you have death metal posters, they're into craft beers and all that goes along with that but then they have that Cracker Barrel-looking thing, and they're also into bluegrass music?"
"This is what I want America to be," he said of the melding of cultures under one roof. "This is the society I want to live in. I want to live in a place where someone has eclectic tastes and there's nothing wrong with that."
"I would rather be playing at Cellarmen's than at an improv somewhere that is paying me more money and putting me in a nice hotel and it's just a whole bunch of people that get mad when I tell them my beliefs."
Based in Atlanta now, Huff has been traveling the country performing stand-up for more than two decades, largely as his full-time job. He's released five albums of comedy material, and also has a podcast titled "Stewart Huff's Obsessive Curiosities."
He says he doesn't need people to agree with him and his beliefs — folks have gotten angry with him for saying he's an agnostic on stage — he just wants to make them think.
"The way I performed just happened over the years. I'm stubborn and I'm just going to say what I want to say," he said. "I don't want to be the type of comedian that stands on stage and yells at everybody and says I'm wright and your wrong. I don't believe that. But I'm still going to say what I want to say. I'm not trying to change anybody's mind I'm trying to raise curious questions."
with EJ Watson, Zech and Laura Witkowski
9 p.m. Saturday
24310 John R, Hazel Park
$10 in advance, $15 at the door
Get tickets through Eventbrite.com
Ages 21 and up