Don't ask for a laugh, get it naturally: 5 questions with local comic Hunter Roberts

Jessica Fuller • Dec 10, 2018 at 9:18 AM

When he was younger, Kingsport native Hunter Roberts found his footing in comedy by listening to albums.

Retelling those stories to family members and friends made him realize he wanted to be a performer. Before long, those jokes evolved into his own at parties, then to the stage. And so began a six-year career as a local comedian.

Because of the inconsistency of the comedy scene in the Tri-Cities, Roberts began touring regionally, then nationally. You can still catch his stand-up locally, though – he’ll be headlining Freshly Brewed Comedy’s next show on Dec. 27 at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in downtown Johnson City.

Fast Facts 
1. Favorite movie: I’m probably most known for my love of Disney movies (Lilo & Stitch is my personal fav in that category), but my favorite film of all time would be Wes Craven’s Scream. It hasn’t aged great (mostly due to the technology then vs. now), but it was the first time I had seen a film reference other films. Kevin Williamson’s script was so smart and so self-aware. When the movie ended, I immediately rewound it and watched it again. Yes. I said rewound. Remember what I said about technology then?
2. How long have you been a doing stand-up?  The short answer is 6 years. The longer answer is 11 years with a 5 year break in the middle where I was a professional wrestler and helped my family open The Family Bakery in Gate City, Virginia.
3. What is one of your pet peeves? I’ve tried to be a little more calm about things in the last couple of years, but I really hate when restaurants call a dish Macaroni & Cheese, but they use penne or some noodle other than macaroni. I don’t know why this is the hill I chose to die on, but it is.
4. bacon or sausage? Definitely bacon. Unless it’s Chorizo. But if I’m at Waffle House at 3 a.m., I’m getting bacon every time.
5. Upcoming shows:  In recent years, I’ve tried to take it easy in the month of December. I have a niece and two nephews that I want to see over the holidays, so I only have a couple of things this month. One of those is headlining at Willow Tree Coffeehouse in Johnson City on December 27th as a part of Freshly Brewed Comedy.


Q. What’s rewarding about doing comedy to you?

A. Of course, there is the instant gratification of making a crowd listen to your every word and making (the audience) laugh. That is awesome. But I’ve also gotten to meet and work with some amazing people all over the country that I get to call my friends now. 

Q. How do you use social media as a comedian?

A. Poorly. I use my Facebook and Instagram (@hunnahh) mostly. I will share about events that I have coming up, but I also try to use my social media as a platform to shine light on mental health. I suffer from bipolar disorder and social anxiety, and it's very important for me to attempt to de-stigmatize these disorders. I try to show people that I suffer from these things on a regular basis, and that they aren't alone. I am a big advocate of showing more than just the glossy parts of your life on social media. Yes, I have been very fortunate with some of my opportunities in recent years, but that hasn't made my disorders magically go away. 

Q. What’s something you wish someone had told you about stand-up when 
you first started doing it?

A. There’s a few things that I tell other comedians when they ask me for advice. The first thing I tell them is that I’m nobody and they shouldn’t listen to me. The second thing I tell them is to find out who they want to be onstage. And the third thing I tell them is a pair of tips I got from the old Aaron Sorkin show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” The gist of that advice is basically, “Don’t ask for a laugh. Get it naturally” and “No comedian you admire has ever been afraid of silence.” Sometimes, jokes don’t work. That’s fine. Be calm. Keep your head, and keep moving forward. 

Q. How would you describe the comedy scene locally?

A. The local comedy scene is weird, it kind of ebbs and flows. There used to be several shows, and then those went away, and then there was nothing. And then there were more shows, and then those also went away. And then there was nothing again. But recently, more shows have started to crop up. I’ve had some success hosting shows in Kingsport at Model City Tap House. There are random shows at The Hideaway. There’s a new monthly show at Willow Tree. Hopefully, all of these shows stick around this time. The best way for that to happen is for people to go out and support those shows. When I ran shows at Sleepy Owl, I brought in several comedians that have since appeared on national television. The huge comedians of tomorrow are already performing today. So . . . long answer short? Support local comedy.

Q. How did you transition into becoming a touring comedian? What are 
some of the challenges that come with touring?

A. Because of that previous mentioned lack of local shows, I was kind of forced to go out of town to do shows. First, Knoxville. Then, Asheville. Then, Nashville. I just kind of kept going a little further each time. Then, Jeff Black (I now refer to him as my road wife) and I did a small little jaunt from Louisville, to Cincinnati, to Columbus, to Pittsburgh, and it was just the best. I love being on the road. Seeing my friends all over the country. Touring is pretty great, but the biggest challenge would definitely have to be when I had my car stolen while I was in Cleveland, Ohio. It kind of threw my life into upheaval, but that night, I got on stage at the Accidental Comedy Festival and talked about the whole ordeal and made people laugh, which is another reason why I love comedy. I can take something that nearly ruined my life and turn it into something that makes people happy. Also, the amazing comedians in Cleveland all chipped in and made sure I got home safely. I really love being able to do this.

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