WOSU-TV presents the tenth installment of the Columbus Neighborhoods series. This latest documentary profiles the city of Bexley.
Ohio Farmer Turned Comedian Regales Agriculture Crowd
Licking County native Jay Hendren grew up on a farm near Johnstown and still puts in an occasional 15-hour day. But eight years ago he began to pursue a new line of work. He turned his farming experience into a comedy routine.
“So a lot of people here have a farm background?” Hendren asks. “Give me a show of hands of people who grew up on a farm. See it’s good to be here. You’re people who understand that John Deere is not a letter from a dyslexic girlfriend!”
They may not be familiar with his name, but this Union County audience can appreciate the humor. By his own admission 36 year old farmer-turned-comedian Jay Hendren has a tough row to hoe to reach stardom. Even with his movie star looks Hendren knows his audience appeal is limited.
“There’s a few others out there doing it and it’s a fairly nice niche market; probably not the best niche to get into with agriculture being 2% of the population now. I know how to pick my niches, I guess,” Hendren says.
“The country’s a great place to grow up in – small towns and all that. You go in the big cities, they say, ‘Don’t go down that road that’s a bad road, you might get mugged.’ In my hometown, a bad road means it’s got a bunch of potholes that needs to be paved.”
Hendren got his start in the big city at Columbus’ Funny Bone comedy club. That led to an appearance at a Pioneer seed company Christmas party. Now he’s entertaining around Ohio at Future Farmers of America meetings, tractor dealerships and at functions for cattle and milk producers. He’s even drawn crowds in California, South Dakota and Montana. But regardless of the setting, Hendren says he keeps his humor family friendly.
“Even when I do the comedy clubs I always try to keep my stuff fairly clean,” Hendren says. “I always try to keep it TV ready so if I ever do get on TV I actually have an act. For farm groups you actually get a lot of older people and younger people and people bring their kids so I try not to offend anyone. You always offend someone but I try not to. People get offended by every little thing nowadays. I should say I don’t offend people by my language.”
“I’m from Johnstown. Does anyone know what Johnstown’s mascot is? We’re the Johnstown Johnnies. Makes butterflies look really good right about now, doesn’t it? Someone researched it and said, ‘We’re the only school in the nation that has that as a mascot. We’re the only ones!’ And I’m like, ‘Maybe ‘cuz it’s really stupid!’”
“And we go to other schools for games and stuff and they have big banners up that say Flush the Johnnies.”
“People say, ‘Where’s your school spirit?’ And I say, ‘It’s in the toilet, that’s where it’s at.’”
Hendren’s new career requires him to travel, something he says he couldn’t do growing up on his family’s central Ohio farm. But he scoffs at the idea that he’s making any meaningful contribution to the agricultural way of life. He says he’s only relieving a little of farming’s day to day tension. After all, Hendren says, who needs a laugh more than a farmer?
“Probably my favorite thing about growing up in the country was the county fair. There’s a good county fair here, right? Five people think so! My county fair was great; I’m from Licking County. We had a great county fair. I loved the animals; the brown cows, the corn dogs, the elephant ears!”
“Trick-or-Treat for Halloween. There’s only about three houses on my whole road and it’s a mile between each house. That’s a lot of walking just to get some candy. I was actually the only kid in my class that was burning off more calories than I was taking in for the night,” Hendren says.
Jay Hendren’s web site: www.JayHendren.com