The side-splitting 90-minute Triangle appearance of the Southern Fried Chicks Leanne Morgan, Karen Mills, and Etta May last Friday night at The Carolina theatre in Durham, NC was a red hot and sometimes blue affair, and a fitting way to kick off the theater’s 2005-06 season. This talented trio of first ladies of down-home Southern-style standup comedy had their Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill fans in screaming with laughter for most of the evening.

Billed as a comic of the “Suburban” South, University of Tennessee graduate Leanne Morgan provided a first-person report on the hijinks on the home front perpetrated by the desperate housewives of rural middle Tennessee. A tall, blonde, buxom mother of three, with an “anal retentive conservative Republican” husband, Morgan currently calls San Antonio, Texas home.

With a squint and a wry expression that she wore for most of the evening, Morgan confessed at the outset: “I prostitute myself to my husband for spending money.”

Morgan, who celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday, said, “When you turn 40, you don’t have to take crap off anybody anymore.”

Most of Morgan’s humor centered around herself, her husband and family, and her husband’s mobile-home business. For example:

“I saw a family driving up [to the mobile-home sales center] in a Gremlin, with a nine year old hanging out the window smoking a cigarette. She lit it off her Me-maw.”

“My husband and I met in college while he was stalking me. He was so tickled with me he was so on fire for me that he bought me presents for no occasion…. Now, I have to give birth to get a pair of earrings.”

“My butt is really big; and I know it’s really big because my children like to play in it.”

“There’s a size zero at The Gap. I think if you don’t get a number, you don’t need to be in there.”

“My next husband is going to be a gay man,” Morgan claimed. “I’ll tell you why: I’ll leave him alone, he’ll leave me alone, and we can look for fabric together.

Karen Mills, whom the playbill characterized as a comedienne from the “Urban” South, was one slick operator. Short, blonde, and urbane, the Cleveland, Tenn. native and former basketball All-American at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is a former contributing writer for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”

The well-traveled comic who lives in Chattanooga said that when a panhandler approached her before Friday’s show, “[a bystander said], ‘Don’t give him money, he’s just going to spend it on alcohol.’ I said, ‘That’s what I was going to do with it.’”

After admitting that she acts like a Southern belle when she needs to act like one, Mills recalled seeing 1960s British singing sensation Tom Jones in Las Vegas, where his aged fans were throwing Depends not panties at him.

While traveling, Mills says, she keeps an eye out for roadside stands, such as the Kentucky vegetable stand that offered “sweat potatoes” for sale. Mills says the farmers’ motto should be, “If you can’t spell it, don’t sell it.”

‘The other day,” she said, “I saw half a mobile home going down the highway. You know what that means: Divorce. You take the kitchen, and I’ll take the bedroom.”

Other choice Mills observations include:

“The only thing wrong with Atlanta is, it’s surrounded by Georgia.”

“A radar detector is a handy device. It lets you know the moment you are caught!”

“Barbie’s in her 40s. I want to see Menopausal Barbie, with sagging breasts and chin hair. Pull her chin hair and her boobs pop out. And I want to see Pot-Bellied Ken.”

“If ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was filmed today, we’d have Otis in a 12-step program; and the season finale would be Gomer’s coming out. ‘Surprise, surprise, surprise!’”

“They wanted to do ‘CSI: West Virginia,’ Karen Mills claimed, “but it didn’t work, because all the DNA’s the same and there are no dental records.”

Etta May, who lives in Lexington, KY and is dubbed “Plain White Trash” in preshow publicity, lived up to her label as a rough-as-a-cob representative of that remnant of the Plain Folk of the Old South who still live in not-so-genteel poverty and drown their sorrows in an ocean of Budweiser. Tall and stocky in a shapeless dress, with a handkerchief covering her latest bad-hair day, Etta May carried on a constant conversation with members of The Carolina Theatre audience.

A sampling: “If you weigh 300 lbs. in South Carolina, you are cheerleader material.”

“Oprah Winfrey said, ‘Don’t eat two hours before you go to bed.’ I haven’t slept in six days.”

“Remember the good old days before gravity got us. I used to wear 36B, now I’m a 38 Long. I don’t mean to brag, but I can breast-feed you from right here [on stage].”

“If we dropped our panties, half of us would look like we slept on a waffle iron.”

“Putting a ring on a woman’s finger is like pulling a ripcord on an inflatable raft.”

“You know you’re fat when you sit in your bathtub and the water in the toilet rises.”

“My kids remind me of my hemorrhoids. Every time I sit down, they start irritating me.”

“Before we were married, my husband told me that on our honeymoon, he was going to take me on a cruise. It turned out to be a bologna sandwich on a bass boat…. That’s okay. I hit him when he’s sleeping. He just thinks that he has lower back trouble”

“Frederick’s of Hollywood is Victoria’s Secret without the secret. The first present that I opened was edible underwear. We are still making sandwiches out of the leftovers.”

“I used to be a school bus driver, but it put a damper on my drinking. If [the kids] gave me any trouble, I’d just Armor-All the seats, and touch my brakes all the way to school. I call it bowling with children.”

Of the multiple piercings of her son’s teenaged friend whom she dubbed “Tacklebox,” Etta Mae said, “He’s got so many piercings that he looks like he was shot with a nail gun, like somebody from Home Depot did a drive-by.”

The Carolina Theatre: Southern Fried Chicks: [inactive 10/05]. Leanne Morgan: [inactive 10/05]. Karen Mills: Etta May: [inactive 11/07].

PREVIEW: The Carolina Theatre: Southern Fried Chicks Comedy Tour Stars Leanne Morgan, Karen Mills, and Etta May

by Robert W. McDowell

The Carolina Theatre of Durham, NC will open its 2005-06 season Friday evening with Southern Fried Chicks, starring Leanne Morgan, Karen Mills, and Etta May. This trio of Southern-born and bred stand-up comics has headlined comedy clubs, casinos, performing-arts centers, and corporate events from sea to shining sea.

In its news release on this comedy tour, The Carolina Theatre writes:

Southern Fried Chicks is the story of three women all from the South yet totally different. One’s Suburban, one’s Urban, and one’s Plain White Trash. It’s where the ‘New South,’ ‘Old South,’ and ‘Deep South’ come together for an evening of non-stop laughter….

“Revealing the soul of the South, Leanne Morgan, Karen Mills, and Etta May take three solo comedy acts on different journeys down the same road exploring the hilarity in everyday life stories and making audiences burst their seams with raucous laughter….

“Connie Campanaro, president and CEO of The Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc. said: ‘We are delighted in having these three talented women kick off our new season. Their takes on life from three distinctly Southern perspectives are rich in cultural humor that resonates with our cosmopolitan audience. There show is a real treat in that blue-collar-comedy tradition.’

“Leanne Morgan (Suburban) is a University of Tennessee graduate and exudes Southern charm. She is Scarlet O’Hara turned soccer mom. With her June Cleaver looks and plantation accent, she has quickly gained popularity in the comedy world. She was a finalist at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and runner-up for Nick at Night’s Best Mom in America television competition. She was featured on ABC’s ‘The View’ in their hilarious-housewives segment. She now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., with her three beautiful children, her anal-retentive conservative Republican husband, and a Dachshund named ‘Puddin’ exemplifying the ‘Old South.’

“Karen Mills (Urban) first started entertaining crowds in the sports arena. She played college basketball at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she earned All-American honors and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Mills is a veteran comedian and has worked with Jon Stewart, host of ‘The Daily Show’ on Comedy Central and was a contributing writer for ‘The Rosie O’Donnell Show.’ She grew up in the small town of Cleveland, Tenn.; but after graduating from college, she moved to Atlanta, where she went from catfish to sushi. Thanks to good books, good therapy and, of course, ‘Oprah,’ this one-time country bumpkin has evolved into an enlightened, forward-thinking woman of the world. Her attitudes now reflect the ‘New South.’

“Etta May (White Trash) has a master’s degree from the University of Hard Knocks. As she puts it, ‘I’m not white trash, I’m financially challenged.’ She has been described as Minnie Pearl with a migraine. She was born in Bald Knob, Arkansas, as the youngest of 10 kids (that means nine older brothers). She is the winner of the prestigious American Comedy Awards: Stand-Up Comic of the Year. She’s appeared on ‘CBS Sunday Morning,’ giving out her common-sense commentary. She’s hit homeruns on ‘Oprah,’ Showtime’s ‘Aspen Comedy Festival with Jerry Seinfeld,’ Comedy Central, and MTV. May stole the show with her hilarious performance on NBC’s ‘The Comedy Store’s 15th Anniversary Special.’ She is an audience favorite on the ‘Bob & Tom’ and ‘Rick & Bubba’ syndicated radio shows. She will take you on a white-trash ride through the ‘Deep South.’”

The Carolina Theatre presents the Southern Fried Chicks Friday, Sept. 30th, at 8 p.m. in Fletcher Hall, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham, North Carolina. $22-$25. 919/560-3030 or via at the presenter’s site The Carolina Theatre: Southern Fried Chicks: [inactive 10/05].