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Southern Fried Chicks bring comedy tour to DL on Nov. 2

Need something to do while your spouse is off celebrating the start of deer hunting season next weekend? Then why not enjoy a healthy helping of laughter, served up southern-style.

The Southern Fried Chicks Comedy Tour, starring Etta May and featuring Trish Suhr and Sonya White, makes a special appearance at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes this coming Friday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m.

The Southern Fried Chicks Comedy Tour is the top-grossing all-female comedy tour on the road today. The four women featured in this show, who hail from the Old South, the New South and the Deep South, each have their own take on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

And while Beth Donahue, the fourth member of the group, will not be participating in this leg of the tour for health reasons, the three remaining comedians promise to provide a full evening of entertainment.

"Each of us performs separately," says Sonja White. "Sometimes we do a little improv together, toward the end of the show... if we have time to squeeze in a little extra stuff, we do. We'll see how it goes that day."

Though she has been a professional comedian for many years, White, a Virginia native, says she was originally headed for a career in television journalism.

"I went to college and got a degree in TV and radio journalism," she says. "I thought I was going to be an anchor person."

But White quickly found that the TV newsroom was not a good fit for her.

"I got involved with an improv troupe called Comedic License," she says. "I got started by having to warm the crowd up before we did our ensemble show. Eventually, I broke away from doing (work with an) ensemble cast to doing standup.

"In standup, you have to rely on yourself in so many different ways," White says.

And even though she's back to working with an ensemble cast on this tour, White says, "We each do our own individual standup (routine) within the comedic ensemble. We're kind of like Neapolitan ice cream -- you can be entertained by whichever flavor suits you."

The Southern Fried Chicks tour was the brainchild of Etta May, a Lexingon, Ky.-based comedian who likens its content to "The Blue Collar (Comedy) Tour on PMS."

May has seen a few cast changes since she founded the tour three years ago; in fact, she is its sole remaining original member.

"When CMT (Country Music Television, which broadcast one of the tour's shows in July of this year) got involved, they wanted casting rights," she explains.

When CMT originally signed the contract to air the show, they had yet to see the tour's full lineup, which at that time included just three women instead of four.

"They auditioned the girls, and one of them passed, but another didn't," May says. "The one who did pass the audition got a sitcom (situation comedy series) deal. So I'm the only original cast member left."

May says she draws much of the inspiration for her comedy routines from the everyday lives of her own family.

"I just wait for my husband or kids to do something stupid and I write it down," she says. "They never fail to write new bits for me."

And while many comedians choose to rely on the same, well-rehearsed routines for their shows, May says she likes to keep her material as fresh as possible.

"I know comics who haven't changed their show for 20 years," she says. "I don't see how they can do the same thing continually."

Not that she doesn't understand the reasoning behind it. "The whole thing about standup is it's not safe," May says. "What comics have a tendency to do is they have an hour (long) show, and once you get all that material together and you know it works (i.e., makes the audience laugh), it makes a safe place for you.

"Some comics like that because it is such a crazy business -- they kind of rest back on their laurels (comedically), because they have so many other variables to deal with."

But May doesn't like the idea of working with a safety net, so to speak. "You have to keep it fresh, for yourself and for the audience."

She likens a comedy show to a music concert: "When I go see Barry Manilow, then yeah, he'd better sing 'Mandy,' but I'd also like to hear some new songs."

The problem, May says, is that whenever she adds new material, she has to take out something as well -- and that doesn't always sit well with the fans.

"You only have a certain amount of time up there (on stage)," she says. "If you don't do something new once in a while, your audience starts to fall off. But then I invariably have someone come up to me after a show and say, 'Why did you take such-and-such out? It was my favorite.' So basically, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

May does take the time to polish up new material in comedy clubs before incorporating it into her theater shows, however.

"You don't want to try it (new material) out in a theater... people have paid a lot of money to be in those seats," she explains. "You need to hit a home run. I go to enough comedy clubs that I can work up the new bits (of material) and get them polished, then put them into the theater show."

May says she became a professional comedian because "I've been fired from every other job I've ever had," then adds impishly, "It was the only job that would allow me to have a couple of beers while I did it. Legal secretaries don't get encouraged to have a vodka tonic at the desk."

May also notes that while much of the humor in the show is of the feminine persuasion, men also love the show because "there's not a lot of tampon jokes and s**t.

"The good thing about it is when men leave this show, they feel a whole lot better that they picked the women they picked, and not me."

Tickets are now on sale for Friday's show at the Historic Holmes Theatre. The "evening of fun and laughter" begins at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a social hour and "spa sampler" starting at 6:30 pm. To purchase tickets, call 218-844-SHOW (7469) or reserve them online at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454