RAGERSVILLE, Ohio – Farming isn’t always a side-splitting, gut-busting, fall-off-your-chair-laughing experience. Unless you’re Jay Hendren.
Hendren is a unique combination of farmer and standup comedian.
He works on his family’s farm in Johnstown, Ohio, raising corn, soybeans and wheat. When he’s not in the field, he’s on stages across the U.S. giving audiences a humorous view of life on the farm.
Jokes. The agricultural comedian makes rural life particularly amusing by pointing out John Deere is a tractor, not a letter from a dyslexic girlfriend. Those who enjoy county fairs can relate to Hendren when he says he loves the animals there – brown cows, corn dogs and elephant ears.
In his act, Hendren also addresses the issue of urban sprawl.
“One of the fastest growing crops in the area is houses,” he said. “And you can’t rotate those.”
As a child, Hendren was quiet and shy with a powerful aversion to public speaking. However, as he grew up he found he had a knack for making people laugh and he set a goal to do standup comedy by the time he turned 18.
Although it took him a few years longer than planned, Hendren is now getting laughs from people all over the country.
Determination. The Licking County farmer began his standup career about 10 years ago, performing for small crowds in Columbus comedy clubs. Although he said he was “completely out of his element” at first, Hendren kept at it and went on to carve a niche for himself in the world of comedy. He now performs nationwide for farm groups and at comedy clubs, company parties, fundraisers and banquets.
Whether his audience comes from a rural background or hails from an urban setting, Hendren uses a clean, down-home sense of humor to explain the ups and downs of everyday life, including everything from diapers to tattoos.
He tells the story of a friend who has a bulldog inked on his arm. Hendren speculates that in 20 years, the bulldog might look more like a Chihuahua and in 30 years, it will be a Shar-Pei.
Different worlds. Hendren, who earned the title of Funniest Person in Columbus in 1998, said he spends about half his time on the farm and half his time doing comedy. Luckily, the two schedules mesh well. During the spring and fall Hendren can concentrate on farming; in the summer and winter, he focuses on comedy.
However it’s those months when he turns his attention to the farm that his jokes seem to flourish. He said he credits his material to “lots of solitary confinement.”
“I spend a lot of time in the tractor by myself,” he said.
As Hendren rounds the fields over and over, he not only harvests beans and corn, he cultivates his next crop of laughs as well.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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