Bob Nelson, a nationally known stand-up comedian, has joined the cast of The Comedy Barn Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Nelson performs year round at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. nightly except for Mondays.
Nelson has appeared several times on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, and various other talk shows such as David Letterman, Regis Philbin, and Merv Griffin. He was the opening act for Rodney Dangerfield for eight years. He was featured in two of Dangerfield’s HBO stand-up comedy showcases that led to two HBO specials starring Nelson. He is also known for his appearances on the “Bananas Comedy” television show that airs throughout the United States and Canada. Nelson also starred in his own show in a Branson, Mo., theater for three years.
“We are so excited about Bob Nelson coming to the Great Smoky Mountains and joining The Comedy Barn Theater,” said David Fee, president and co-owner of the Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group. He is one of the best comedians performing today, has great fans and is a very funny guy.”
Nelson was a theater major and did summer stock at Nassau Community College on Long Island, N.Y.
“I was always the class clown,” Nelson said. “I was always trying to make people laugh in different ways and I did very physical Jerry Lewis type of stuff. It was always in me – a gift from God.
“Right out of high school I was working as an amateur clown with circus acts doing juggling, trapeze and trampoline,” Nelson said. “I almost joined the circus but found I could make more money as an amateur clown.”
One of the first characters Nelson did was Jiffy Jeff Jaworsky, a punch drunk fighter. “I did a lot of characters,” Nelson said. “I came in fifth in a New York comedy competition and they flew me to California to do a TV pilot,” he said. “I then got an agent, a manager and a publicist. I was slotted to do Merv Griffin eight months later.”
Nelson met the late Red Skelton who became his mentor.
“I wanted to be a family comic and not do dirty material and Red encouraged me at a time when the whole industry was tilted against conservatives. He told me, ‘You are a clown like me.’ He praised me for not cursing.
Nelson said, “ I don’t curse. It grates on me when people do stuff that is dirty. Red told me that laughter does good like a medicine and when you curse it is like putting poison in the medicine and it doesn’t have the healing effect it should.
“The Comedy Barn is perfect for me and it is my favorite place I have ever worked,” Nelson said. “I can perform for everyone and I can be a blessing in a clean, family comedy show. I have a lot of fun when people are coming into the theater and I walk around as a character and that is what I love because it goes back to my roots as a clown. I have been having a ball the short time I have been here. I really have.”
At the Comedy Barn, Nelson performs as a farmer who has a confrontation with a duck. Sometimes he does a routine of an unnamed dumb football player.
“At the Comedy Barn a lot comes from improvisation on the stage. I can get in front of an audience and just have fun,” he said. “I like to be challenged and this is a challenge for me because you do so many shows and they are all different,” he said.
What I love the most is coming up with a new joke and the creativity on stage,” Nelson said. “I am trying to get acclimated to the Pigeon Forge area and I am overwhelmed with the beauty of the area and the friendliness of the people.”
Nelson lives with his wife Trish in Sevierville. Their son, Noah, 24, has also relocated to the area.
Now in its eighteenth season, the multi-million dollar Comedy Barn Theater continues to make audiences roar with its nationally-known, family-friendly comedians, ventriloquists, magicians, jugglers, and musicians. The Comedy Barn is located one-half block past light No. 3 on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Ticketing information is available by calling toll free 1-800-29 LAUGH or (865) 428-5222. Rates are $29.95, plus tax, and one child 11 and under is free with each paying adult. For more information, visit www.comedybarn.com to get coupons and updates of the show.
By Michael Williams