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Savannah Comedy Revue’s Second Saturday to present American Heretics

  • Tom Simmons will perform with Stewart Huff and Jay Whitecotton as the group American Heretics on Aug. 12 at Bay Street Theatre. (Photo courtesy Tom Simmons)
 

Savannah Comedy Revue’s Second Saturday to present American Heretics

09 Aug 2017

Despite what you may have heard, it isn’t easy being a comedian these days.

People have become divided in their political views and intolerant of people who think differently than they do. They find some jokes offensive rather than funny and sometimes overreact.

Comedians Tom Simmons, Stewart Huff and Jay Whitecotton perform together as a group they call American Heretics. They will perform at the Savannah Comedy Revue’s Second Saturday on Aug. 12 at the Bay Street Theatre.

They see their own views and, therefore, jokes as heretical or against the norm. They want to find audiences who feel the same way.

“We’re a group of comedians who are trying to define our audience,” Simmons says. “The idea is, we think differently, we are at odds with what is generally accepted.

“Everyone says this is a great time to be a comedian,” he says. “But people are so divided, they get upset. We do comedy for people who question things, who think differently, who feel like the outcasts at their own Thanksgiving table.”

All three American Heretics have solo careers when they’re not performing together.

Whitecotton has performed at Funny or Die’s Oddball Festival, Las Vegas Punk Rock and Bowling Festival, Moontower Comedy Fest and more. His debut album of 2016 hit No. 1 on iTunes comedy.

Huff has been performing comedy for more than 20 years. He dropped out of college to become a writer and has performed in comedy clubs nationally and internationally, including The Improv in Los Angeles and New York, The Punchline in Atlanta and The Funny Bone in Omaha.

A finalist in the 2006 Boston Comedy Festival, Huff was invited to perform in the HBO Las Vegas Festival, where his act can be viewed on pay-per-view. He also was the 2016 Critics Choice of the Best Comedy at the Orlando Fringe Festival.

In 2009, Simmons won the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. He has appeared in BET’s ComicView, Showtime’s White Boyz in the Hood, and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham.

Simmons has published several podcasts, including “Bully the Bullies!” and “The End Is Not Near.” He has released several comedy albums and a comedy DVD titled “Standup Underground.”

“We want people who are willing to think differently than the masses,” Simmons says. “I feel a lot of people are heretics.

“If you come to our show, you are going to hear jokes,” he says. “It is not religion-based, which is one mistake people make.”

The response to American Heretics has been great, Simmons says.

“To be honest, when we get on NPR or people read about us in the paper, they say there is nothing else like this,” Simmons says. “They’re excited by it.”

But not everyone is on board, including the 70-year-old man who left the show in a huff, yelling out an unprintable obscenity to the comedians.

“We had some shows in Indianapolis where people didn’t know what they were coming for and some got upset,” Simmons says. “It’s weird how when people disagree with a point of view how much they can totally change.

“A whole table can be laughing at what you say, then you do one joke about Trump and the whole table can get up and leave,” he says. “Stewart and I have found in talking to people that sort of agree with us, it’s a different beast.”

Despite the uncertainty, Simmons and the others will persist.

“It makes you a better comic, you explore more, and it leads to a crowd being on your side instead of shouting at you,” he says. “I’ve done the same type of comedy I’ve always done for my whole career — love, peace, question authority.

“I write specifically to keep everyone in the room. I want to keep people in the room and make them laugh.

“Now sometimes, they refuse,” Simmons says. “I never had people walking out of my show, but in Myrtle Beach I do one joke they disagree with, like maybe they should be worried about global warming, and they get upset and leave. It’s the other way, too, I just don’t see it as often.”

In the past, such an instance would have made Simmons feel guilty.

“I would have said, ‘What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?’

“But this is about people who are very upset about hearing an opinion that is different from their own,” Simmons says. “They’ve turned into bullies.”

When it happens, Simmons worries about the country.

“My show theme is to be informed and have hope, but it does worry me,” he says. “I’ve always felt comedy is the way to reach people. That’s really why I got into comedy in the first place.

“When Trump got elected, I got excited at first. I thought, ‘We’re the underdogs, we can try to give people a voice.’ That sort of stuff excites me.

“It does disappoint me that people don’t listen,” Simmons says. “They won’t even give a point of view a listen because they think they hate it.”

At the same time, Simmons is buoyed.

“It has almost re-invigorated me,” he says. “I feel people care now who didn’t before.

“People have awakened. I’m inspired by the nonviolence movement.

“Some of my subjects seem heavy and deep, but I don’t want to give a pep talk,” Simmons says. “At the same time, I can’t stop my mind from writing jokes.”

The three comedians have set the theme that they’re all American heretics and are doing comedy that is less generally accepted.

“If you’re a heretic in your family, a heretic in life, if you think differently than the mainstream, this is the show for you,” Simmons says. “Please come out and laugh and find hope in each other.

“That gives us hope and seems to give each other hope,” he says. “To us, there’s an audience out there that wants to hear it and agrees with it. It’s inspiring.”

IF YOU GO

What: Savannah Comedy Revue’s Second Saturday presents American Heretics

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 12

Where: Bay Street Theatre, 1 Jefferson St.

Cost: $10 stadium seating, $15 VIP

Info: clubone-online.com/shop/savannahcomedy2017, 314-503-9005, savannahcomedyrevue.com

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