Performing on a late-night show was something Dusty Slay always hoped for, but wasn’t sure how to make happen.
After performing at a comedy festival in Portland, Oregon, he received an offer to audition for Just For Laughs, a comedy festival in Montreal. He didn’t get the gig, but a booking agent for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” saw his set and invited him to the show.
“It was pretty nerve racking, but also really fun,” Slay said about performing on the show. “But the nerves get you really pumped up. That’s what it’s all about. To me, the bigger the nerves before, the bigger the payoff when it goes well.”
From Opelika to Hollywood
Slay, an Opelika native, marked his television debut on Jan. 2 when he performed on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show on ABC.
After moving to Charleston, S.C. in 2004. he saw an ad in a newspaper for comedy improvisational classes and thought it would be a fun way to meet people.
“I didn’t really know what that was, but it was comedy so I thought I’d give it a shot,” Slay said while in Opelika on Tuesday visiting family.
The improv classes led to stand-up comedy, which didn’t go well. He gave it up for a while and took it back up in 2008. From 2008-2012, Slay said he "mostly messed around" in comedy, but in 2012 he quit his full-time job for a part-time job, quit drinking and really focused on comedy.
In 2014, Slay moved to Nashville to pursue comedy full-time.
Slay described his comedy as "dry" and mentioned comedian influences that include Todd Barry, Mitch Hedberg and Ron White.
"I’m not animated, not physical … it’s all about the jokes for me and it’s about the voice and how you deliver the joke,” he said.
Slay said that his appearance on the show has already helped his career. He is booked every weekend through March. But he added that even if he’s never on television again, he will continue to pursue his comedy career.
“I was already having a great time,” he said. “I used to sell pesticide and for the last three years I’ve been doing comedy for a living. So, for me I already feel great. So, whatever happens from here just helps keep that going.”
Not 'cheesy' Southern
Slay’s comedy covers issues that include growing up poor and living in a trailer park, all while wearing his signature trucker hat, but he said although he is from the South, he doesn’t like that to be the focus of his comedy.
“I am Southern. I am country. I don’t mind being those things, but I also don’t feel like I need to throw it in your face,” he said. “I am Southern. I don’t need to pretend to be Southern.”
He added that people tell him that he does a good job of doing Southern humor without being cheesy.
“I want to talk about trailer parks because it’s an experience for me, but it doesn’t need to be this cheesy thing,” he said. “It also doesn’t have to be a sad thing, or you don’t have to be making fun of people. But a lot of people that grew up in trailers, they always come up to me after shows. They love it. I feel like it’s the one moment where people get to be proud that they lived in a trailer park.”
Slay has performed in venues in places like New York and Chicago, but said he plans to stay in Nashville for the foreseeable future.
“I like living in the South,” he said. “I like to go visit other places, but I like the weather in the South. I’m Southern, I like being around Southern people.”
For more on Slay, visit Dustyslay.com.