COLUMN: Southern stereotypes – I’m fed up, y’all!

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This is for anyone who’s said fixin’ to, tumped over a glass or rurnt something. This is for the person who agrees with a statement by saying, “I heard that!”, calls every soft drink a coke and eats grits without sugar. This is for married couples who think dinner at Waffle House is a perfect date night. For guys who call their friends “Bubba.”. For parents who pick up their kids from school at noon because a half-inch of snow is forecast. This is for grandmothers who make tea so sweet that it’s almost brown glucose, and for her grandkids who wear a Panama City Beach T-shirt to school on picture day. A word to the rest of the country: these are not stereotypes. These are just things that Southerners do – and we have no problem with them.

I’ve been all over the country, so I know that every region has its own peculiarities. But we seem to get hammered especially hard in the South for ours. And I’ve personally experienced that, y’all. When I travel, and people find out I’m from Alabama, some of them look at me with pity, or start with the same tired jokes. It gets old. I’m amazed that so many people in other parts of America believe most Southerners resemble Ernest T. Bass and behave like the Clampetts.

I recall one particular incident that happened to me in San Francisco. I had just finished a nice standup showcase at a comedy club, and when I came off stage, a drunk patron shook my hand, congratulated me on my jokes and then asked me a question.

“So, dude, like uh, I’ve never been to Alabama. Do most of you guys have electricity down there?”

He was serious.

I kept a straight face and responded, “Sure. You don’t think we walk to the outhouse in the dark do ya?”

And to show I wasn’t upset about his blatant show of ignorance, I got his name and address, and when I got back home, I sent him a nice potted plant.

It was kudzu.

I enclosed a note that told him it was a Southern ground cover, and he should plant it in his yard and water and fertilize weekly. I can only hope by now his house looks like a giant chia pet. Like uh, put that in your stereotype file, dude.

Over the years, lots of television shows have shown the South in a bad light. “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Hee Haw,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Gomer and Goober on “The Andy Griffith Show” – none of that helps. Message to America: these are just TV shows. Hello!

Of course, the accent is some of our problem. We speak slowly, and I guess that makes us sound dumb. When I open my mouth outside of the South, it feels like my IQ drops about 50 points.

However, some people find it charming. When I was just out of college, I found myself in a small town in upstate New York for sales training. The first morning I was there, I ordered breakfast in a diner. The waitress looked over her glasses, smiled at me and then said, “Could you say that again?”

“I’m sorry. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Yeah, I did. But I just want to hear you say it again. I love the way you talk!”

I recall when a smug northerner said to me, “You guys in the South have so many words that we’ve never even heard up here.”

I fired back, “You mean like please and thank you, yessir, no sir, yes ma’am and no ma’am?

Of course, the South is rural, and it’s full of contree people – I know, I’ve met a bunch of them at my family reunions. The South has a lot of issues it needs to work on, but so does the rest of America. Rural is not stupid, it’s just another way to live your life. So cut it out!

And here’s a final word to the rest of y’all: the busiest airport in the world is in the South. Pick-up trucks are the most popular vehicles in America.  Country music is a dominant force in entertainment. And there is a James Beard Award winning restaurant in Alabama.

So, get in your BMW that’s made in South Carolina, go home and sip some Tennessee bourbon with a little Coke (you know where that was invented), then think about that vacation you’re booking on the sugar white beaches of northwest Florida (yes, we claim it as the South). And please don’t forget that in the dead of winter when your days are colder than a stare from a study hall teacher, we’ll be deciding what short-sleeved shirt we’re gonna wear to the golf course.

Bless your hearts.

Joe Hobby is a comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: https://mylifeasahobby.blogspot.com. Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian- Writer.