Meet the Bartenders: Will Tyree and Rusty Penland of Side Splitters

photo by greg wood/special to knoxville.com

Rusty Penland, left, and Will Tyree ham it up with their best 'prom photo pose' at Side Splitters.

photo by greg wood/special to knoxville.com Rusty Penland, left, and Will Tyree ham it up with their best 'prom photo pose' at Side Splitters.

Will Tyree and Rusty Penland tend bar at Side Splitters more often than anyone else. At just about any given time one of the two (if not both) is working.

“We’re like a bartending team,” Will says.

Rusty started at Side Splitters about nine months ago, but he’s been bartending now for 11 years total. “Most of my bartending has been in Johnson City,” he says, but he’s worked at three local venues. “I like to try out different venues,” he says of ending up at Side Splitters, elaborating that he’s always been “a big fan of comedy.” “I actually went up (on a recent) Wednesday for the first time,” he said, performing during the bar’s open mic session.

Rusty also has a signature drink that’s on the Side Splitters menu, but its title is a bit suggestive. “It’s the most mispronounced drink here,” he says, but people frequently order it.

Will’s worked at Side Splitters for 14 months. “I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old,” he says. “I like working here because you get to meet a lot of famous people,” he says, listing off Jim Brewer, Pauly Shore and Bobcat Goldthwait as comedians he’s met.

“It’s our job, so we take it seriously,” Rusty says, “but it’s a comedy club, so if you take it too seriously you’re missing the point.” Rusty gave an example of the two’s goofy nature, saying for the past Halloween they came dressed as a spark plug and a wall outlet.

photo by greg wood/special to knoxville.com

Liquid Marijuana is a specialty of Side Splitters.

photo by greg wood/special to knoxville.com Liquid Marijuana is a specialty of Side Splitters.

Watch the duo make a specialty of Side Splitters, Liquid Marijuana, in a video by Greg Wood at www.knoxville.com. The extremely sweet, fruity beverage, consisting of Captain Morgan Rum, Malibu Coconut Rum, Blue Curacao, Midori, pineapple juice and Sprite (topped with a cherry), is frequently advertised at the venue. Often, it’s the subject of a nightly special, costing $7.

Will and Rusty also work at North Knoxville’s Pint House two nights a week, where they also serve as a bartending team.

— Greg Wood

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