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The Fourth Annual Homeboys for the Homeless Comedy Showcase, sponsored by the Curtis Media Group and Budweiser Select Beer and performed Dec. 28th in the Meymandi Concert Hall in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC, saved the best for last. Chapel Hill, NC baritone Keith Henderson may have followed five terrific Tarheel comedians to the stage; but it was his award-winning “Illusions of the King” Elvis Presley Tribute Show, performed with the assistance of his daughter Lauren, that electrified the modest but enthusiastic audience for this annual fundraiser for the Raleigh Rescue Mission.
Coifed like The King and flamboyantly dressed in sequined blue jumpsuit with cape, Henderson was the very image of Elvis in his halcyon days as a Las Vegas headliner. The charismatic entertainer sang his heart out in a stirring 11-song set that featured delightful duets with Peace College student Lauren Henderson on “Squeeze Me In,” a Delbert McClinton song never recorded by Presley but done as a duet by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, and two Elvis staples: “Faded Love” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Henderson also strolled into the audience several times, and handed out scarves to thrilled female fans. He even brought one fan onstage to dance with him as he sang “Johnny B. Goode.” The rest of Elvis’ greatest hits, as performed to perfection in the big booming baritone of Keith Henderson, included “That’s Alright Mama,” “Let It Be Me,” “Hurt,” “It’s Now or Never,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Blue Christmas,” and “My Way.”
Cary comedian Paul Pittman opened the show by cracking wise on diets in general and his latest diet (“If it tastes good, spit it out!”) in particular. One Pittman target was the Atkins Diet: “Any time they can say, in a diet, that fruit is bad and pork skins is good, it is a good diet.” Pittman scored another bull’s-eye on the Richmond, VA-based Phillip Morris Companies, when he suggested that Phillip Morris should change its slogan to, “Come for the nicotine and stay for the wet, hacking cough.” In describing an unexpected side effect of a recent bout with the flu, Pittman cracked, “Even Adam Sandler movies are funny when you watch them with a very high fever.”
Dave Bailey of Raleigh kept the audience chuckling as he described the panic that strikes so many Triangle residents whenever local TV weathermen announce snow is even a distant possibility. Bread and milk almost immediately disappear from the grocery-store shelves. “Who buys milk,” Bailey asked, “when they think the power’s about to go out?” The diminutive comic also got guffaws when recounting his trip to a fitness center, where he pretended to jump rope with an imaginary jump rope while hulking muscle-bound fitness fanatics gawked. His patented pickup line — “I’m like saccharine; I can be sweet and I could be bad for you — also proved a winner.
Fellow Raleigh resident Art Church cracked wise on Big Lots (“That is the home of broke stuff”), Las Vegas (“Prostitution is legal in Vegas … I made six grand”), and Wheeling, WV (“There was baby there not more than four hours old, and it already had three tattoos and a mullet”). Other prime topics included divorce (“It’s a shame to see two rednecks who used to be so in love fighting over the contents of a single-wide mobile home”) and Jessica Simpson (That girl is as dumb as a soup sandwich, but she’s so fine her sister has got a career”). Church’s major snafu during his appearance on “Wheel of Fortune” four years ago also provided grist for his comedy mill: The answer to the $34,000 question was “Six Flags Over Georgia,” but Church blurted out “Six Flags Over Yonder.”
Jerry Carroll, a.k.a. the Willow Spring Wild Man, more than lived up to his rowdy reputation as he lambasted the light-rail system proposed for the Triangle (“[That’s] so they can bring everybody over here from Durham, so they can steal stuff and go home”) and the fact that the Tarheel State is first in highways and 47th in education (“We don’t know nothing, but we can go anywhere we want to as long as we don’t have to read maps or ask directions”). Other juicy targets included speeders on the Beltline (“I’m doing 65, and people are coming around my butt like I’m tied to a stump”) and law-enforcement officers trying to catch lawbreakers on Interstate 40 (“I’m pretty sure that you’ve got to hit a cop on 40 to get a ticket”). Also: “I’ve got a terrible computer. It’s like a Windows 74.”
Raleigh’s Ronnie Bullard, who works the cruise-ship circuit, also proved to be one slick customer. While describing a trip to the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City, he wondered whether it was appropriate to name an airport after such a well-known airplane-crash victim. What’s next, he wondered, “the Janet Reno Beauty Academy, the Jeffrey Dahmer Cooking School, [and] Michael Jackson Daycare Center.” Bullard added, “Last week, I did a show for 400 Jehovah’s witnesses, and all they wanted to hear was knock-knock jokes.” In recalling his Army days at Ft. Bragg, Bullard said, “My sergeant said, ‘You’d like to [urinate] on my grave, wouldn’t you?’ ‘When I get out of the Army,’ I told him, ‘I’m not going to stand in line for anything!’”
Donations: To donate to the Raleigh Rescue Mission, Inc., mail a check to the Raleigh Rescue Mission, Post Office Box 27391, Raleigh, NC 27611. For more information about the mission, and/or to donote online, visit http://www.raleigh-rescue.org/.