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COMEDY : Henley Gets His Humor At Home

June 25, 1992|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who regularly covers comedy for O.C. Live!

Vic Henley couldn't help chuckling. He'd just gotten off the phone with his mother back home in Oxford, Ala., "the redneck capital of the world."

"My whole family's insane," he said. "I love calling them just to laugh."

Momma had been updating him on the latest family happening. Seems that Henley's stepdad had driven up into the woods to get some dirt for the back-yard vegetable garden and his truck got stuck in a big hole on an old logging road. He'd been missing half the day before he finally was able to get to a phone to call Momma to come get him. She enlisted a neighbor to drive her up into the mountains. But the neighbor is a notorious drunk, which didn't make finding the logging road all that easy.

"He was (blank)-faced drunk," Henley said, still laughing. "He kept saying, 'This is it! This is it!' "

Henley, who's headlining at the Brea Improv this week, finds a constant source of material in the doings back in Oxford. ("It's between Birmingham and Atlanta on I-20. It's not a town, just an exit.")

"I call every two or three weeks," he said. "My mom, she talks a lot. When I describe her to people I say, 'It's a nonstop flight; it's just not direct.' She'll start out at one point and 30 minutes later you're going, 'What was the story about?' "

Henley, who earned a degree in finance from Auburn University, got into comedy seven years ago after he moved to Phoenix. A job as a stockbroker there had fallen through and Henley, who used to entertain his classmates in elementary school with Bill Cosby routines he had memorized, wound up going to a local comedy club on an open-mike night. It's been comedy ever since.

A two-time "Star Search" winner, his TV credits include "Comic Strip Live," "An Evening at the Improv," "Caroline's Comedy Hour," Showtime's "Comedy Club Network" and a stint as a VH-1 cable network personality.

He said he tries to do as much topical material as he can, especially in an election year. Still, that family of his makes up a good share of his act.

"A lot of the family stuff really plays well regardless of where I am," he said. "I think everybody can identify with a crazy, eccentric family because I think everybody pretty much has that."

"I hate going to see the family," he says in his act. "You got people in your family you don't like to drink with? My brother gets a little whiny. Everybody else is in a good mood, a little cheer going around the house. Two beers and he's laying on the couch: 'Daddy never loved me.'

"So I'm sitting next to him going, 'That's because he wasn't your real daddy. . . . You need another beer. I haven't told you about Momma yet.' "

Another frequent topic is his own thick Southern accent. "There's no credibility associated with a Southern accent," he'll say. "There are certain things you don't expect Southern people to say. 'Checkmate.' That'd be one of them, wouldn't it?"

Actually, Henley likes to set aside certain misconceptions people have about the South.

Everybody up North, he observes, "thinks that everybody down South is sitting around barefoot, wearing overalls, eating grits, watching 'Hee Haw,' listening to country music, drinking Jack Daniels, going to tractor pulls, wearing trucker caps, dipping Skoal, picking cotton, driving around in pickup trucks, having sex with their relatives and looking for UFOs."

But that's not true, he says. "I've never seen a UFO, and second cousins don't count."

Who: Vic Henley.

When: Thursday, June 25, and Sunday, June 28, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, June 26, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 27, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Where: The Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Brea.

Whereabouts: Take the Lambert Road exit off the Orange (57) Freeway and go west. Turn left on State College Boulevard and right on Birch Street. The Improv is in the Brea Marketplace, across from the Brea Mall.

Wherewithal: $7 to $10.

Where to Call: (714) 529-7878.

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