I grew up in a funeral home and did funny things to make sad people smile

May 19, 2018
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I grew up in a funeral home and did funny things to make sad people smile

I grew up in a funeral home and did funny things to make sad people smile

“I have been funny since I was a baby. The first home I can remember living in was in Kosciusko, Mississippi in a funeral home. My dad was a funeral director and embalmer and we lived on the second floor. I was a two or three-year-old toddler and had the run of the place. I got in trouble for shooting my cap pistols off during a funeral. I saw all of these grieving people come and go from where I lived but I didn’t understand why. I learned I could do funny things and sad people would talk to me and smile. That fed my compulsion my whole life to make people laugh or smile. I am not as comfortable around stoic people. We should all have the hope and expectations that God gives us every day.

We moved to Jackson, MS before I started the first grade. I learned then that the bullies in school did not pick on me as efficiently when they are laughing. They couldn’t twist my arm as hard when they are laughing.

Dad worked at a funeral home in Jackson and on the police force. When I was a senior in high school, a buddy of my dad’s opened a funeral home and I got a job there. Back then the funeral homes owned the ambulance services and I rand the 911 police calls and went to the calls. My teachers knew what I was doing and let me tell some of the stories in front of the class to get it off my chest. Spilling my guts about bad things I had seen was the first time I got in front of groups of people and told stories. By the time I was 19 or 20 I had been through an array of things. I went to Hinds Junior College, Home of the Hinds Highsteppers, for two weeks. I discovered I knew everything when I got there and those two weeks of college weren’t very exciting.

I was always a voracious reader from sci-fi to ingredients on boxes of cereal and the saying on the back of the Crest tube. I am also quick-witted. I knew I was funny, I just didn’t know what to do with that because it doesn’t fit into one of the jobs that you are supposed to do. So had other jobs like delivering linens and mashing oil out of soybeans.

I started playing guitar when I was 23 or 24. I am not a good guitarist but I am a killer communicator and a monster lead guitar player. I played blues with a few bands. My last name is Beasly and I have been called Beaz all my life. After a guitar solo at a show, friends in the crowd said, ‘that was killer, Beaz.’ People who heard that thought it was my stage name. So I kept it. My band was terrible but we had fun. One night I heard that they wanted a comedian at the Quarter Note and friends told me I should do it. It never occurred to me in Jackson, Mississippi that comedy is something I could do. I got a knot in my stomach and adrenaline rush immediately. I wanted to do it but thought it was insane. I had no idea how be a comic. I was a Gallagher fan and liked the surprise of props and also liked O. Henry with his twists in stories, so I started there.

I had no material and listened to Steve Martin. He is my favorite comedian because silly. A buddy gave me money and told me to rent a white tux with tails and a red cummerbund. My entrance was roadies carrying me in a garbage can on stage to start my set. I popped out of the garbage can in a white tux. I was horrendous but my props were clever. I did not know the mechanics of being funny on stage but I knew had the gift of funny and creative and those are the things you can’t learn.

I took the stage as many times as possible. I went up between bands or during meals at restaurants. Standup is fragile and the comedy can be killed distractions because you have to listen and immerse with spoken word. I got my heart broke and feelings hurt a thousand times but I was convinced I just had to learn how to do it. I became a pain in the ass to everyone in Jackson to get up and do comedy. I did shows at El Palacio at Metrocenter mall. My first break came from Showtime’s ‘Funniest Person in America’ contest. I won for Mississippi three years in a row. I also worked at a music store and went to Chicago on business and went to Zaney’s Comedy Club for a show. I had done 317 performances by then and had never seen a comedian in person. Jay Leno was the headliner. I could not believe people were seated and facing the stage. They were riveted and he crushed. I discovered there was a place to do what I do and realized Jackson wasn’t the promised land so I had to get a new plan. I called the closest comedy club to try to get on. It was in Birmingham and owned by Bruce Ayers. He tried to tell me no, but gave me a chance when he heard about Showtime. I auditioned in front of Bruce and his grandmother for an open mic spot. I had 324 shows by then and I was strong. Bruce started booking me and when he added a show Huntsville. I had two gigs back to back, I had made it and was on the road.

Zaney’s opened a club in Nashville and they brought me from Jackson and managed me. I hit big there and was even in Rolling Stone magazine. My wife is from Mobile and when we started having kids, we moved to Mobile so her mom, Nana, could help us. I spent a million dollars taking Nana and the boys on tour with us but I was not going to be an absentee dad. We built a house by the Mobile airport because we knew there would be a lot of travel. I looked good rolling baby beds, strollers, formula and toys into the hotels. My boys have toured coast to coast and been on TV since they were babies. My youngest son is a virtuoso metal guitarist. His older brother paints, sings and acts. He has paintings on display in Mobile, does some standup and is a certified hypnotist and is going to do comedy hypnosis shows.

A lot of people don’t recognize me with the goatee. I have to grow it out more before we start taping ‘Moonshiners’ again for the Discovery Channel. I am enjoying my small role and want to do more TV. This season they may teach me how to make moonshine. You never know when that will come in handy.”

1 comment on “I grew up in a funeral home and did funny things to make sad people smile”

  1. Jef Funk says:

    Terrry,

    Good seeing you last night in Mobile at The Azalea Manor show! Thanks for the laughs!

    Jef

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