Comedian Al Ernst has always had a lot to laugh about.
But recently, he added a new topic of conversation to his repertoire: parenthood. At the age of 52, Ernst is one proud papa.
"We've adopted a child and now have a 5-year-old in the house," he says. "That's brought a whole new perspective. When you're 52 years old and never had kids, talk about a new perspective!
"Most people have kids when they're really young and can't handle it," Ernst says. "Now we've decided to have kids when we're really old and can't handle it."
Ernst's son's name is Javier.
"People ask me how it can work with him being Hispanic and me being a redneck," Ernst says. "I say, 'Haven't you ever heard of Tex Mex?'"
Age is relative for Ernst.
"I may be in a 52-year-old body, but I'm still a guy who'd rather put together a Hot Wheels track than have any intention of wanting to go to work somewhere," he says.
"Now, instead of looking like a creepy guy going to the circus and Disney World and wearing funny hats with ears and being crazy, with people looking at me and calling child protective services, now I actually have a child and have an excuse to act like I've always acted.
"We're having a grand time," Ernst says. "This year, I had reason to dress up in a Halloween costume and not be the guy everyone stared at. I've got to do it for my kid."
Javier isn't the only addition in Ernst's life.
"I've got a brand-new comedy album that's getting a lot of play on radio stations and Sirius," he says.
"It's called 'Jesus Take the Wheel 'Cause I'm Trying to Text.' It's a convergence of my one-man show of the same title and a guy reaching the middle of life and trying to hang on.
"It's all the different things between my wife and kid and just life and work in general," Ernst says. "It's one of those things where it's a regular guy's perspective on how to make it in an ever-changing, crazy world."
There's plenty to work with, he says.
"When I was growing up, the greatest thing was getting cable with 30 channels," he says. "Now we're in a world where 30 things come out every 30 seconds."
Ernst is proud to say he provides humor for adults, not adult humor. While his comedy isn't blue, it's not kiddie humor, either.
The creator of the E Man Nation comedy blog, Ernst's carefree style of comedy has brought him the unofficial title of "the Jimmy Buffett of funny." Although it's clean, his comedy is edgy.
An only child, Ernst enjoyed making adults laugh. He has been heavy his entire life and used humor to deflect bullies who wanted to make fun of him.
Although Ernst is originally from Chicago, his parents were sent to rural Georgia as medical missionaries when he was an infant. His father died when he was just a toddler, and the family moved back to Chicago, then to Florida.
Although Ernst was selected to host events throughout his life, he didn't consider comedy as a career. While he was the director of a YMCA in Baton Rouge, La., he and his staff went to a local comedy club to see Gabe Kaplan.
The people with Ernst told him he needed to do comedy, so he went to an open mic and was immediately hooked. Twenty-three years ago, he decided to try doing comedy full-time and has never held a day job since.
After college in North Carolina, Ernst's YMCA career took him to rural sections of Georgia, the Carolinas and Louisiana. Today, he lives in Atlanta, where he survived the Jan. 28 ice and snow storm that shut the city down.
"Luckily, none of my family got stuck in it," Ernst says. "I had a friend who spent the night in his car. He sat out on the perimeter for 14 and a half hours. From the way we heard it, he got off light."
But Ernst has been able to recover from the cold.
"I'm getting on plane to Cozumel, Mexico, for a show on a cruise ship before I head to Savannah," he says.
A storyteller rather than a joke teller, Ernst has opened for major stars from Jay Leno to Drew Carey in front of thousands of people. He's also been on national television.
Ernst's comedy is based on all the funny things that happen in life.
"I'm one of those guys who believe we have to rise above the normalness," he says.
"We've all got a lot of the same challenges. What makes it fun is how we decide to rise above it."
Having played Savannah in the past, Ernst is looking forward to his return.
"I've got all brand-new material since that time and I'm looking forward to coming back," he says. "I love playing Savannah."