The singsong notes of the calliope bob through a perfect fall night as kids squeal with delight and terror. The sweet scent of fried dough hovers and carnies attempt to lure suckers to their lopsided games of chance. At the far end of the New Hanover County Fair and Cape Fear Expo stands a tent. A trio of musicians occupies the stage beneath it, jamming out covers of Dire Straits and America numbers. As their set ends and they cart off their equipment, a hush falls over the tent. Partly due to the entirely empty seating area, the hush continues as a lone figure, clad in black, strides to the stage and plugs in. Moments later, the man grabs the mike and gives himself a Michael Buffer-style intro: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Larry 'The Dream' Weeeeeaaaaveerrrrrr!!!"
Quiet claps go up from around the edge of the tent where a few passers-by have paused to see what's happening. Larry Weaver stands tall on the stage looking confident and poised and launches right into his ode to the traveling beauties of the midway, "State Fair Woman." It's a true moment of rock.
The song, about a guy who meets his "carnie queen" at the State Fair, is especially poignant due to the fact that Weaver is singing directly to the partially toothed lady operating the corn dog booth only a few feet away. As he continues, a bevy of young ladies roll into the tent. They start dancing and gyrating on the sawdust dance floor in front of the stage. They are between the ages of 7 and 10. When Weaver takes a break between songs to deliver a comedic setup, the kids scream out, "Sing! Stop talking!"
Heckled by elementary-school kids at the fair?
To top things off, the operator of the Himalayan ride next to the tent has some bass-thumping hip hop blasting from the speakers. One would think that this is where Larry Weaver might fold. Just throw in the towel or, even worse, phone in the performance and just get it over with. But no. Weaver digs in with both heels and proceeds to plow through songs about a hip-hop grandpa, virtual girlfriends, Little Debbie snack cakes and that bastion of Southern culture, "South of the Border." He also engages the locals who stop by to scream "you suck!" They, seemingly, have walked right into his trap. He delivers a series of verbal assaults that leaves the yokels stunned and unable to reply. He also asks, only half-jokingly, for an escort to his car.
He concludes his set and hawks his new disc, informing the folks "Y'all come back tomorrow. I'm on at 7."
While studying accounting at UNC-Chapel Hill, Weaver discovered that getting laughs came easy for him. Performing standup and playing goofy songs on his guitar, he became a visible campus comedian. Teaming up with four other Carolina funny types, the collective known as Selected Hilarity was born. Brainy, off-kilter and explosive are just a few adjectives that could describe the group's shows. After graduating, they began touring, eventually wearing a groove in the college circuit and earning two nominations for Comedy Act of the Year from the National Association of Campus Activities.
Making their living as professional comedians was a crazy, exciting experience. But as the better part of their 20s fell behind them, the members' respective paths began to veer in separate directions. After their amicable split in 1997, Weaver began to focus on his solo act, releasing a six-song demo called Pack Full of Comedy in 1998 and a full-length disc, Everybody's Crazy But Me, in 2000. The latter features Weaver's biggest hit to date, "Grandpa's Gone Gangsta," the tale of an octogenarian who wants neon put under his Craftmatic adjustable bed and "pour[s] his Metamucil on the block for Biggie."
A Web designer by trade, Weaver assembled a snazzy Web site (www.larryweaver.com) to market his material and keep folks up to date on his latest doings. Last month alone, the site had 55,000 unique users, an impressive number for an independently run Web site. Legendary novelty champion Dr. Demento got his hands on one of Weaver's discs; the next thing he new, he was getting airplay and his songs were appearing on the comedy charts. Since hooking up a page on MP3.com, Weaver's seen his music get nearly 150,000 plays. Eventually he found himself somewhere that only his dreams could have taken him--opening for Weird Al Yankovic. When asked what the "green room" on a Weird Al tour was like, Weaver demurs: "The food was really good. It was like a rock show, but without the groupies."
Since the release of his latest disc, Looking For Fun, Weaver's been a busy man. Playing regional gigs to drum up interest in his material, he's discovered that morning DJs love his stuff. Besides airplay on The John Boy & Billy Show, his music has been heard on the nationally syndicated Mancow show, furthering his image as the thinking man's Ray Stevens. In fact, Weaver has taken one of his concepts, the haunted trailer, and created an entire Web site dedicated to it. The site, www.trailerghost.com, is filled with spooky stories about spirit-filled mobile homes and cars that appear to be up on blocks but are actually levitating. You can even play the game named after his song, "Ghost in the Trailer." With hilarious prompts like "Hold your horses, it's a'loadin'" and "You done got 4!" you can see what Larry and cohort Dave Drake (the game's designer and a former Selected Hilarity member) have been up to.
Looking For Fun is a knockdown funny comedy album. Featuring radio-friendly hits like "Virtual Girlfriend," "Hip Hop Hoedown" and "Sometimes I Forget," (as well as one sure-fire lawsuit producer, "The Unhappy Meal," featuring the lyrics "I went to McDonald's and I got McFondled by Ronald McDonald"), it also includes some pretty hilarious skits, like "Hardcore Weather Channel," where pro wrestlers give you the day's forecast.
And speaking of 'rasslin', Weaver has even dipped his toes into the grappling game, acting as new-age religious adviser Swami Tabouli Von Couscous on the OMEGA Wrestling circuit. Before they became WWF superstars, The Hardy Boys were disciples of the Swami's spiritual path. He even got old pal and WWF tough guy Rob Van Dam to make an appearance on Looking For Fun to deliver a hilarious epilogue.
One gets the feeling that--through all of his parodying--Weaver is sort of poking fun at himself. After all, he hails from Saxapahaw, N.C., so he's certain to have had brushes with trailer parks and Little Debbie's during his formative years. And you have to wonder how many of his characters (which include the quirky, senile Grandma, redneck Uncle Phil, rapper/boy band member Smoove L, Shirtless Rod and the Rappin' Dragon, a hip-hop wrestler) are inspired by friends, family or co-workers. Perhaps he's a victim of multiple-personality disorder and is merely being manipulated by his own brain. Or perhaps it's the fact that there simply is no "off' button on the Larry Weaver comedy machine.