For years, Natalie Caylor had listened to her husband, Ed, say he wanted to be a comedian. He talked a lot about it but did little to make it happen.
Then, for his 30th birthday, she gave him a gift that would change his life and help him fulfill a dream: admission to a comedy-school class.
In the 16 years since receiving that gift, Caylor has left the 9-to-5 world behind. He now spends most weekends performing. He paints houses on the side, but most of his income comes from being a comedian. He works under the name Big Ed Caylor, and he’s a regular performer at The Comedy Catch. He works primarily in clubs up and down the East Coast.
Q: How did you get started in comedy?
A: My wife bought me a comedy-school class for my 30th birthday. They were at The Comedy Catch. I’d always wanted to do it and was basically just chicken. When the class had graduation ceremonies, I was asked to be the headliner. I started doing open mike and got the bug. Then [Comedy Catch owner] Michael [Alfano] asked me to start hosting shows.
Q: Do you work mostly clubs, or do you also do corporate shows and cruises?
A: Mostly clubs. I have done some corporate shows, but the bulk of what I do is clubs. I average between 40-46 weeks on the road.
Q: What type of comedy do you do and have you tried others?
A: I tried props once in the very beginning and it just wasn’t me. I’m kinda glad because I’d hate to carry that all over the place. I have friends in bands and I told them after traveling with them that they’d earned their money before playing a note. All I need is a mike and what’s in my head.
Basically what I do is tell stories about things that have happened to me and the way I view things.
Q: You do some shows with Ricky Peardon on the Hicks Gone Wild tour. How has that worked out?
A: Great. We met at the Comedy Catch doing open mike 13 years ago. Our comedy is real close in that we are both Southern and country as can be; but Ricky is mean and hateful and cranky and I’m the good guy. It’s a blast. Plus, having a traveling buddy makes it a whole lot better.
Q: Do you guys shares ideas and criticisms?
A: We critique each other and we’ll give each other down the road. After a show, you are all wired up and you can’t go to sleep so we’ll sit up till late with a pen and notepad and write or critique each other.
Q: What have you learned over the years of doing this?
A: I’ve learned you can’t please everyone and I’ve learned a lot about traveling. When I get on stage, I go up there and have fun. I’ve learned to read a crowd. Some want it cleaner than others and you have to know within the first few minutes. A lot of comics are bothered by hecklers, but as long as they’re not hateful I try to play along.
Q: Do you enjoy being a comedian?
A: I love it. I do enjoy being on stage. I’m having just as much fun as people in the audience.
Q: Would your wife say she’s happy she bought you those classes?
A: I think she’d say yes. We’ve had a lot of fun. Plus, I don’t think I’d be alive today with the job I had before. I can load the family up and we go to the beach and shop when we want to. We love to shop, especially at the antique shops. One time I was in Indiana trying to figure out how to get an Amish screen door tied to the roof of my car to get it home.
Q: What are your long-term goals?
A: My long-term goal would be to actually work the name brand clubs like the Improv and maybe to do a couple of cruise ships. As long as I can make a dollar and pay my bills, I’m OK.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...