JOPLIN, Mo. —
Every once in a while, the Internet will be abuzz with videos of comedians taking down hecklers. From clever parries to angry ejections, comedians employ a wide variety of ways to deal with someone trying to take the stage away. Most of those ways include a lot of profanity.
So, how does a comedian deal with a heckler if they are known for a squeaky-clean, family-friendly act?
Chonda Pierce has her ways.
"I'm ready for them," Pierce said. "Usually it's a smart-aleck man, someone that wants to be heard. I've been around the block with 'em."
But Pierce, dubbed "The Queen of Clean," has a bigger audience problem: Instead of hecklers, she gets letters.
"I get emails that say I'm gonna burn in hell," Pierce said. "I'd rather get heckled. I'm jealous of the drunken yells that the others get."
Pierce will perform Thursday at Taylor Performing Arts Center, on the campus of MSSU. Her appearance is part of her Girl Talk tour, featuring special guest Nathan Tasker.
It will be part of a tour that has taken her from coast to coast and across the Midwest, according to her website. She performs in a variety of locations, from churches to civic centers.
There's not a lot of comedy clubs on her tour, though. And that may be why she doesn't have the same heckler problem, she said Ñ for about 18 years, she has gone through comedy backwards.
She said that her manager, who recently started working for her, said he was surprised that Pierce had eight gold- and four platinum-selling comedy albums, yet he had never heard of her.
"He was intrigued by how I gained such a huge audience yet stayed under his radar," Pierce said. "So the first thing he wanted to do was put me in a comedy club. I've been to five of them in my whole life. So, to get Hollywood notice, I have to go be funny for 50 inebriated people in a club somewhere? I'm gonna have hundreds in Topeka next week. Can't they come and see that?"
Pierce got her start in comedy because she couldn't dance. A performer at Opryland USA, she was cast in the role of Minnie Pearl and performed as the sassy Southern belle for six years.
That role was the first time Pierce appreciated making audiences laugh, she said.
"I had never been interested in comedy," Pierce said. "But I was glued to the TV whenever Carol Burnett was on. I can see how my tastes evolved, now. As I look back, at the time I wasn't even thinking about comedy, but from that (Minnie Pearl) role, I learned how to love laughter."
She makes a lot of people laugh these days. In addition to her tour, she has appeared in movies, TV shows and gone on USO tours. Her audience has grown and grown up, she said.
"I have acquired a beautiful demographic," Pierce said. "Our kids have kids now. I've gone from fussing with teachers to menopause, and just had a blast. Each show is almost like a family reunion."
Want to go?
Chonda Pierce will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at Taylor Performing Arts Center, at Missouri Southern State University. Tickets are available from For-All Bible Center and range from $18 to $25. Details: 417-624-6778.