The Knoxville comedy scene recently underwent a major change as Side Splitters Comedy Zone opened up in West Knoxville, taking over the former Comedy Zone.
And with the new venue comes a new face - the as-of-recently-local comedian Spanky Brown, a stand-up comic who has been featured on BET and Comedy Central and syndicated on Sirius and XM radio, who now hosts a weekly show at Side Splitters.
A former resident of South Georgia, Brown was prominent in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Tampa comedy scenes and worked with the Side Splitters franchise in Tampa. His work with them and his frequent touring through Knoxville led to the venue moving up here. "I thought it'd be a good fit," Brown says.
"The woman I love is in Knoxville; that's why I moved up here," Brown adds, explaining his relocation about a year ago. "I'm going to leave it at that," he says with a jovial chuckle. "She's here and I plan to be here for probably a couple years at the most."
Despite frequent touring all across the Southeast as a member of the "Bob and Tom Comedy All-Stars Tour" and on the "Browns of Comedy Tour" (consisting only of comics with the last name Brown) he manages to make it back each week for his show "Sho Nuff Sundays," which he also funds out of his own pocket.
Baring a similar format to an open-mic comedy show, Sho Nuff Sundays features a variety of comedians in a (roughly) two hour show with Brown acting as host, interlacing each act with his own commentary.
And the show is by no means strictly local or amateur. Brown brings in comics from all over the country. "Lot's of (comics) pass through here," Brown says of their touring and of Knoxville's location on Interstates 75 and 40. On a recent Sunday night Brown brought it comedian Shaun Jones, another prominent BET comedian (who had a small role in Ace Ventura 2).
His connections in comedy enable him to draw in large numbers of friends passing through town who are willing to stop in and perform for a night, oftentimes without being paid. "Anytime (comics) can get on stage on an off-night we're more than likely to try to do it," Brown says. "If it's a packed house or if it's not a packed house, we'll have a good time.
"I'm doing it to bring black comedy to Knoxville on a regular basis to a lot of people who haven't gotten to see a lot of it without the big prices," Brown says. "The only time I remember black comics coming to Knoxville is at the Bijou for upwards of 20 bucks."
Even though Brown refers to the show as featuring "98 percent black comics," comics of all sorts, ranging from young white females to Hispanics and blacks of all ages, make their way into the mix.
Brown doesn't believe it to be just black comedy, but says "it does have an urban feel to it."
"I think Knoxville's ready for it," Brown said of the cultural hodgepodge that is his weekly show. "There were just as many white people here tonight as black people," he said after his second Sunday night performance.
"I'm looking forward to having a good time Sunday nights, and I think a lot of people will be surprised with who they'll be seeing there," Brown says. The performer, who has been doing comedy tours as his sole source of income for the past 11 years (requiring him to be on the road for more than 40 weeks a year), says he's ready to stay at home in Knoxville and focus more on acting. He's got appearances on Letterman, Conan and Carson Daly coming up (which were postponed last year because of the writers' strike).
"I just want to hang out with my friends," Brown emphasizes, laughing.
And he even has a few screenplays in the works, being a member of the Writer's Guild. Which leaves us Knoxville residents begging the question: Are any of these films being filmed or set in Knoxville?
"Not yet," Brown said. "Maybe I haven't lived here long enough."
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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