By Linda Ray
“People ask me, ‘What’s the difference between a comedian and a humorist?’” Michael Perry says. “and I always say, ‘I don't know, but I think it has something to do with NPR.”
It’s no surprise that Perry’s fans often suggest that he should do standup. His books, newspaper column, blog and podcasts are often funny. But his book readings, storytelling and one-man show are hilarious.
Perry, a Wisconsin native and New York Times best-selling author, joins Tucson’s Dave Fitzsimmons and NPR’s Amy Dickinson in the “Humor” category of events at the Tucson Book Festival this weekend. The schedule can be found at http://tinyurl.com/HumorTFB.
“I write humorous things, and I write heartfelt things,” Perry says, “But for my live performance. I tell stories. There are payoffs and punchlines, just not in the standup comedy sort of way. People laugh just as hard and I do have people laughing and holding their sides and that sort of thing.
But he wants to stress, “Standup comedy in my mind is the single hardest form of performance there is. I'm cheating because if you show up at a book reading to see an author and he or she turns out to be funny, that's a lovely surprise.”
Perry’s background sounds like a setup for a “fish-out-of-water” improv scene. He put himself through nursing school by working as a cowboy, having been born to the horse-and-cow business on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. He still raises a pig now and then, but after a long career in nursing het gave up the day job in 1992. By then he had discovered writing was his passion.
His first book, Population 485, established him as a chronicler of small town and country life, in the context of big ideas and literate prose. His latest, which he’ll be pitching at the book festival, is Roughneck Grace, a compendium of his newspaper columns.
Perry says his comedy LP, “Never Stand Behind a Sneezing Cow”, is named from personal experience. So is his website, sneezingcow.com, where we find his blog, his bio and all nine of his books for sale. There are also links to his weekly Tent Show Radio show, which includes special guests and monologues based on his newspaper column. A recent episode featured, Kris Kristofferson and a live performance by Taj Mahal.