hen you first hear Tim Wilson's voice - on either of his two Capitol Nashville CDs or as a frequent guest on national morning radio shows "John Boy and Billy" or "The Bob and Tom Show" - it's likely you'll conjure up a mental image of a 60-year-old redneck with a Jethro Bodine-like sixth-grade education. It's only natural. His voice is as deep as the north Georgia woods and sounds just about as uncultivated.
But you'd be wrong. Wilson is only 30-something, and he is a college graduate - English major in fact, and qualified as an English teacher, as he's quick to remind people who try to correct his hillbilly grammar during a live show. He's also one of the funniest and fastest-rising comedians on the circuit, where he talks about everything from the Pyramids to nail guns and sings songs like "Chuck E. Cheese Hell" and "If You Try To Save This Marriage Again (I'll Kill You)."
I called Tim Wilson at his hotel room where he was on tour in Jacksonville, Fla., but he wasn't there. Turns out he was at the Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird Cafe - so you know his redneck credentials are bona fide - and lost track of time. He called back from a pay phone by the side of the road, and that's how we did the interview.
CST: Nice to talk to you, Tim. How have you been?
TIM: Good. I haven't done a show in a coupla weeks, so last night I's a little rusty. Comedy's somethin' you need to do every day. Yer brain don't kick in like it's s'posed to.
"I married an Israeli woman, which pretty much went over like a fart in a diving helmet when it happened. I had to go see a rabbi before I could get married. He said "Do you at least know what Hanukkah is?" I said, "Yeah, I like the dark kind, drink two or three six packs every Christmas - cuz I'm Baptist."
CST: Your wife, Ronit, is from Israel. So, your holidays were probably somewhat multicultural.
TW: Yeah, we did that Hanukkah thing. When you're in a house full of Jewish people, it puts a damper on your Christmas.
CST: Did you have to have to eat hummus ?
TW: Yeah, I ate a bunch of that stuff - chukka, baba ghanoush, a lot of eggplant. Mediterranean people eat a lot of eggplant. But it's actually good if it's done right.
CST: The last time you were on "Bob and Tom" I heard you mention that you were related to Ronnie Milsap.
TW: Well, Ronnie Milsap is from a place called Robbinsville, N. C., and a bunch of my grandmama and my grandaddy's relatives are from there too. I think Ronnie Milsap's mama used to look after my great aunt or something. Ronnie Milsap and I are probably like fourth cousins. But heck, you and I might be fourth cousins.
"Mama made us listen to Pink Floyd and Floyd Cramer/We had three square meals of mushrooms and corn bread.../Born and raised on Acid Country/Eating turnip greens and a handful of Nembutals/Daddy couldn't take it, he had to go/You can't play Hendrix on a banjo."
CST: You knew from an early age that you wanted to go into show business.
TW: Yeah, I was the only kid in my high school invited to the faculty Christmas party three years in a row. I used to do impressions of the teachers and stuff. I was a pretty decent kid, I wasn't a delinquent or nothing. They trusted me to come to their parties and not cuss. That was kinda how I got into standup. I was always the guy they had emceeing talent shows. I used to take a coupla guys with me, and we'd play guitars but that didn't go over as good as the impressions. Which has pretty much been the story of my life.
CST: Because your original plan was to go into music? I mean, regular, unfunny music.
TW: I moved to Atlanta in 1983 to be a songwriter, but there wasn't anybody knockin' my door down to put 'em on records. Probably cuz I was writing syrupy girl songs that nobody wanted to hear. And one night I was taking this girl that I worked with home, and I passed this comedy club, and I thought 'What the hell's that?' I saw they had an open mic night on Tuesday, and I started going there, performing there and never came back.
I put the guitar up till about '89, when I started writing comedy songs with Pinkard and Bowden. We did about seven or eight of 'em together. Then, I started accumulating so many of 'em, my wife told me I ought to put it in my act. I never wanted to put a guitar in my act cuz I didn't wanna be a 'guitar act.' But people liked it. Now when I do an hour gig, it's about 40 minutes of stand up and the rest music.
"I think they made a mistake executing Karla Faye Tucker, I really do. I think she changed as a person. She killed two people with a pickaxe, hit 'em 36 times apiece, left the pick in one of 'em - but she seemed like a good girl. I think they shoulda given her life, and let her dig septic tanks. Put that pickaxe to good use."
CST: I asked my wife what she wanted to ask you. She said she'd ask you where you got that "old man voice" and how come you're not nearly as fat and baldheaded as you sound?
TW: Well, I'm fat. About 230. I don't know where I got this voice from. I had a problem with that when I was in high school. My drama teacher wouldn't let me in a play one time cuz she said I was "too Southern." I thought, hell, everybody coming to the play is gonna be Southern.