Mark Evans knew he didn't want to be a 30-year-old club DJ.
"They're not pretty, but I missed the spotlight," he says. "I heard about a comedy workshop, so I signed up and it turned into doing this."
That was 20 years ago, and today Evans is still working as a stand-up comic. And he wants to set the record straight.
"My slogan is 'Southern, not stupid,'" Evans says. "I'm sick of people thinking we're stupid just because we're in the South."
The perception extends beyond comedy, Evans says.
"Every time you look at a map, there's a big fancy N for North, and a small S for South," he says. "I blame Hollywood, which gave us 'The Beverly Hillbillies' and 'Deliverance.'"
The trend continues with reality television, Evans says.
"Now there's Honey Boo Boo," he says. "Miss Piggy is alive and well and has had a baby with Larry the Cable Guy."
But not all reality television is set in the South, and idiots can be found everywhere.
"My favorite show is 'Dog the Bounty Hunter,'" Evans says. "Here we have a world-class bounty hunter - on an island! If he parks in front of Wal-Mart, he can get them all by lunchtime."
Even those who don't assume a Southerner is stupid can have a lot of misconceptions, Evans says.
"A lot of people think I'm a hunter," he says. "I don't shoot animals.
"And stop calling hunting a sport," Evans says. "You can't call anything a sport until both teams know there's a game going on that day."
Although Evans wasn't the class clown, he always loved comedy.
"If George Carlin or Rodney Dangerfield were on TV, I always watched them," he says. "If I was hanging out in clubs with friends, I was always getting free drinks by saying, 'Give me a category, I'll give you a joke.'"
Jeff Justice, who taught the comedy workshop Evans attended, asked Evans to open for him in Noonan and Columbus at club appearances.
"I was in my early 30s," Evans says. "It paid $100, which wasn't a lot of money, but to do comedy for $100 seemed like all the money in the world.
"It took me five years before I was able to quit my day job," he says. "I started out with a paying gig once a month, then two a month, and it kept growing and growing.
"One day I looked at the calendar and saw it was filled up," Evans says. "I said I can either stop doing comedy or quit my day job."
At the time, Evans was a travel agent.
"I read a quote from Jay Leno, who said the worst thing for a budding comic is to have a job making $30,000 a year," he says.
"It's not enough to get rich on, but it's too much to walk away from. I was making $35,000, so it really took a took a leap of faith to leave it."
Evans keeps his comedy family friendly.
"I like dirty jokes as much as anybody, but I do comedy that is clean," he says.
"It opens so many more doors for you. It's also harder to get someone to laugh with clean stuff.
"Brian Regan and Larry Miller are two of my heroes," Evans says. "Larry Miller is a genius at that. When you get a crowd of drunks laughing without doing dirty jokes, it's a high."
Evans considers himself neither a storyteller nor a joke teller.
"I do material," he says. "I do jokes that turn into a story. One of my best stories started as a one-liner that became a five-minute bit."
In addition to clubs, Evans has performed on cruise ships.
"I've worked a lot of Carnival," he says. "The last one I did was Alaska, which had always been a dream.
"A lot of the old cruise ship comics get complacent," Evans says. "There are actually people who complain they've seen the same show 15 years before."
In addition to cruises, Evans does corporate events.
"That's where the real money is," he says. "When I first started listening to other comics say they couldn't wait to leave the clubs and get the corporate gigs, I didn't understand. Then I got one! I've made as little as $25 in a club and as much as $2,500 at a corporate gig for the same show."
Evans is always agreeable to doing fundraisers.
"I do as many of those as I can," he says.
When Evans gets heckled, he first tries to ignore it.
"If that doesn't work, there are polite ways to put them down that get harsher and harsher," he says. "By then, you hope that the club is going to handle it for you, but sometimes they don't. When you do go after a heckler, you can't get too harsh too soon.
"But I'm 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and if someone yells something out, I'll just turn and stare at them," Evans says. "You know the kind of stare that makes their butt cheeks just tighten up? I'll say, 'You do not want my full attention tonight.'"
Over the years, Evans has worked with people like Jamie Foxx, who went on to win an Academy Award. A career in comedy can have unexpected benefits, he says.
"I've seen parts of the country I never would have seen otherwise, places I wouldn't want to see again, but I'm glad I saw them once," he says. "I've worked with Bobcat Goldthwait and Michael Winslow.
"These are people I saw when I was kid watching movies and now I'm going to lunch with them," Evans says, "You can't put a price tag on that."