His travels across America take him through one-stoplight towns and skyscraper-lined cities.
But no matter his surroundings, there’s one constant for stand-up comedian James Gregory.
“The four most powerful words in the English language are ‘All You Can Eat,’” said Gregory. “If I’m driving down the interstate and I see a billboard that says ‘All You Can Eat,’ I will pull over every time. It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not.”
Gregory will have a chance to introduce himself to the all-you-can-eat buffets in McMinnville as he’s performing Friday night at the Park Theater. The show sold out Monday afternoon.
Gregory is not known to shy away from a knife and fork. During an interview with the Standard, he admits, “I can’t think of any food I don’t like.”
He’s been known to quip, “If you want me to be concerned about endangered species, you need to convince me we’re about to be out of chickens.”
Gregory’s brand of clean, family comedy doesn’t revolve entirely around food. He says he doesn’t rattle off one-liners as much as he tells engaging stories.
“After shows it’s common for people to come up to me and say you must have grown up in my neighborhood,” said Gregory. “I’ve had a bunch of people tell me that we must be related because their family acts exactly like mine. That tells me I’m talking about the kind of things people can relate to. I’m more of a storyteller and you can start laughing before I ever get to the punchline.”
Gregory says his humor comes from real-life situations such as his fear of flying, which is a legitimate source of anxiety, not just part of his routine.
“I tell people I make it a point to fly at least once a year so I can catch up on my praying and my drinking,” said Gregory.
Gregory says he got his first taste of stand-up comedy back in the early 1980s. Back in those days, he said stand-up comedy clubs were extremely rare and only in five big cities: New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
It was in 1982 when his hometown of Atlanta got its first stand-up comedy club. He would visit on amateur night to hear the other comedians and was eventually persuaded to take the stage himself.
“Tuesday night was amateur night, which was basically an open mike night,” said Gregory. “So I would go with a group of my friends to hear the comedy and my friends, thinking I was a funny guy, dared me to go up there. To make a long story short, that’s how I got my start, there on Tuesdays during amateur night.”
It’s blossomed into a full-time career that’s spanned nearly 30 years. Gregory typically travels 46 weeks a year and has performed at venues across the country. And yes, sometimes he does have to fly.
“When I finally get on stage, it’s the best part of the day,” said Gregory. “The bad part about getting somewhere is you have to pack up and go.”
As far as finding inspiration for his humor, Gregory says he’s not a great writer. He’s not going to whip out a blank sheet of paper and produce jokes all day. Instead he looks to everyday occurrences.
“I have to hear something I find humor in, or see something, and then I embellish on that,” said Gregory.
If you didn’t score tickets to Gregory’s sold-out show Friday night, he says don’t fret. He regularly makes return trips to communities where he’s performed and said the Park Theater could be one of those spots.
“I just performed in Newberry, S.C., for my 18th consecutive year,” said Gregory, whose show lasts about 1 hour, 35 minutes.