As a standup comic, television personality and tour guide, Cassandra “Comedienne Joy” King has never been afraid to speak her mind. Her blunt, observational schtick has become her moneymaker and often a meal ticket.
Looking back, the seasoned talent said she’s always been a hilarious character, adding that friends found her funny, even though she was just being herself.
“My comedy is everyday life — everything you’re thinking, everything you would say among your friends. Being the comedian, you get to say it out loud and people laugh at it,” King said over drinks recently at the Pizitz Food Hall in downtown Birmingham. “I think it’s cool because you get to laugh, I get a check and usually I get to eat. I have the best of both worlds.”
As the host of “Dining Out with Comedienne Joy,” which airs Saturdays on WABM-TV My 68, she explores the Magic City’s eateries. Dubbing herself the “Guy Fieri of Birmingham,” she combines her love of food and comedy on the program.
“On my TV show, I’m funny because sometimes when I eat food it makes me lose my mind,” King said. “I don’t know about you, but when I eat food that’s so good, I’m like, ‘Man, I need to put my nightgown on.’ There’s some food you just want to eat by yourself because you want to make noise when you eat it. That’s what food does to me on the TV show. When I’m eating that food, it’s so good. I must show people how to eat that chicken. If you can’t clean the meat off the bone, you can’t be trusted.”
Since last October, King has launched a series of brunch and dinner tours. Patrons spend four hours on a party bus, visiting some of Birmingham’s hidden culinary gems. The tour incorporates restaurants throughout the metro area and neighboring cities, making stops at many of the locations featured on her show. The tour also serves as a platform to bridge the invisible partition between the stage and the audience.
“I’m right there with them,” she said. “They’re getting Comedienne Joy from TV. Comedienne Joy from the stage is right there on that party bus. We’re on that bus for four hours and we’re going to be best friends afterward.”
“Queen of Clean”
Comedienne Joy’s venture into stand-up bordered on divine intervention. She recalls a former pastor’s sermon on the concept of entrepreneurship, during which it was suggested that the congregation “pray and ask what our talents are.” Though the preacher’s message struck a chord, it was a late-night episode of BET’s “Comic View” that triggered a revelation. She would be a comedian — a clean comedian.
A devout Christian, King knew her material had to be appropriate for not only church but also her daughter, who is now 22.
“I didn’t want to be a dirty comic,” she said. “I wanted to be clean. I wanted to be an example for my daughter, who was young at the time. I said, ‘If I tell clean jokes, I get to mess up Bible verses, talk about preachers — and there’s no shortage of churches in Birmingham — so that was a niche for me. I just coined myself the ‘Queen of Clean.’”
“Kept getting fired”
Despite her royal moniker, King still had her share of 9-to-5 jobs to keep the bills paid. She always had a job. Keeping one was the problem, she said.
It wasn’t until 2014 that she took the big leap, quitting her job with the American Heart Association to pursue comedy full time. The timing just seemed right. Months prior, her mother had died and her daughter had graduated from high school. And after a lifetime of regular jobs, King was ready to have a career.
“After my mom died in 2014, I realized that the world is going to go on, so why should you be miserable? I knew I was probably going to be fired anyway,” she joked. “That’s how I became a comedian: I kept getting fired.”
The church is King’s true comfort zone. While she’s been known to perform at traditional venues, including The StarDome in Hoover, she prefers her audience in the pews rather than at a table with a two-drink minimum. After nearly two decades performing comedy, she’s found the church is the easiest and most comfortable venue for her style of entertainment.
“When I go into places late at night, when the show is starting people are drinking,” King said. “That’s not my comfort zone because when you perform at a certain time with so much alcohol, people want to hear stuff I don’t talk about. I can’t relate to smoking weed. I can’t relate to going to jail. I can’t relate to doing promiscuous stuff. That’s not who I am.
“For me, you must be able to relate to your audience, so I love performing for women groups because we have a whole lot of stuff in common. Men are crazy. Your kids are crazy. The whole world is crazy.”
Performing for a religious crowd also enables King to provide therapy.
“The Bible tells us that laughter is medicine; it does the body good,” she said. “There are so many times that we have problems, or we go to these churches where the preachers trying to send everyone to hell. Don’t send everyone to hell. Give them a good laugh. If you’re gonna go to hell, at least go to hell laughing.
“We need more laughter because everyone is so tense. We are so uptight. If I can get people to laugh for 30 minutes and forget their problems, for me, I feel like I’ve done something.”
Visit www.DiningOutWithComedienneJoy.com for more information about King or follow @ComedienneJOY on Twitter.
This story originally appeared on The Birmingham Times’ website.