Branson comedian loves to laugh, have fun with audience

30 Nov

When Jan Frisk decided to pick up a pair of tickets at the Pierce Arrow Theater in Branson, she wasn’t really sure what kind of show she was going to see.
“I’m more country, but gospel is nice, too,” the 73-year-old McLeod, N.D., resident said during the intermission of an afternoon matinee. “I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I’d like the singers, but they really can harmonize.”
While Frisk said she and her husband liked the country and gospel music performed by Pierce Arrow, the theater’s namesake quartet, the comedy is what made them want to come back for the evening show.
“I just sent (my husband) back up to the box office to get tickets to tonight’s show, “she said. “The comedian is hilarious. He kept me in stitches, for sure. It’s worth the money. It’s a really good show.”
That’s just what Jarrett Dougherty likes to hear.
The 42-year-old comedian laces the Pierce Arrow show together with character-based comedy, funny stories and improvisational humor during two shows a day, six days a week at the Pierce Arrow Theater, 3069 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.
Lifelong comedian
“I always loved to laugh and have fun,” Dougherty said. “I was always the class clown in school. I was in the principal’s office so much, half the time they thought I was the assistant principal.”
Dougherty explained that while growing up his family always had a good sense of humor, even though they might not have had many material possessions. He is from Ava and his wife, Dena, is from Joplin.
“I had a funny family,” he said. “We had a lot of love and laughter in our house. I remember Mom saying, ‘Lord, some times we had to laugh to keep from crying.’”
The youngest child in a family with four older sisters, Dougherty said growing up had its challenges, but that has given him an interesting point of view.
“It wasn’t all that bad, but the hand-me-downs were awful,” he said, laughing. “I was the only boy on the baseball team who had to cinch up his skirt to slide into second base.”
Competing for attention in a big family, full of loud and funny people, helped him find his comic voice.
“Any time we get together the volume is wide open,” he said. “You just got to jump in or it’s one of them ‘lose your breath, lose your turn’ type deals.”
While his family contributed to his comic inspiration, it was watching his comic idols on television that made the biggest impact on his career.
“I loved watching the ‘Carol Burnett Show,’” he said. “She was hilarious. Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, that’s the top of the line. Thinking about them I get tickled.”
Comic inspiration

—- Watch video of Jarrett Dougherty as Brother Cecil Watkins here —–

One of Dougherty’s comic creations, Harry Pitts, shares a few characteristics with Tim Conway’s slow speaking — and even slower walking — “old man” from the classic ‘70s comedy variety show.
“(Harry Pitts) comes walking out on stage like Tim Conway used to do,” Dougherty said. “He would do that ‘barely scoot his feet walk,’ and get a long laugh. It took him forever to get where he was going. I don’t have that much time.”
Another character Dougherty brings to life during the evening show is Brother Cecil Watkins, an old-school, fire and brimstone preacher, who often — to the amusement of the audience — gets his Bible verses a little confused.
“He’s a mess,” Dougherty said. “He is the main preacher man at night. I’ve seen a lot of that stuff, being raised up in the church. I took many of the movements from those guys. I throw my hands up and wave a hankie and kick my leg and get excited.”
Dougherty said he learned much from the old-time preachers he heard when growing up.
A lot of people, he said, relate to his Brother Cecil character and the mess he sometimes makes of the scripture from the Good Book.
“Having the Bible all messed up you can tell who (in the audience) knows their Bible and who don’t. They are laughing and the people who don’t really know (the Bible) are just setting there looking at you like a mule at a new gate.”
Floyd the Janitor, another of his character creations, keeps the audience laughing during afternoon matinees.
“He’s the janitor at the theater,” Dougherty said. “He’s No. 1 at cleaning up No. 2.”
Two shows daily
Between the two daily shows, Dougherty brings six or more characters to the stage, complementing the music performed by the Pierce Arrow quartet and the female vocalists who keep the audience singing along.
“The (band and quartet) guys are great. They are great singers with vocal abilities,” Dougherty said, bragging. “Tim Storms, the bass singer, holds two world records. One for hitting the lowest note. He also has a record for the widest vocal range, which is six octaves. The other guys are just as talented. Gary Koreiba is great and his wife, Kim Boyce, sings in the night show. She’s had 11 No. 1 songs in contemporary Christian music.”
Quartet member Casey Ellison is from Willard, and Scott Fraker, another singing cast member, is from Niangua. The band’s keyboard player is a Branson native.
“It’s pretty nice to have some local people in the show,” he said.
His wife is the daughter of Richard “Butch” and Nancy Allen, of Joplin. He said his wife is “pretty crazy, herself.”
Dougherty said he hopes many Joplin-area residents will head south and check out the shows.
“They will have a blast and laugh themselves silly,” he said. “If they are not feeling good, don’t go see the doctor. Come down to the show. They say laughter is the best medicine, so you’ll either get better or die laughing.”

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