Overland Park, Kansas, native Tim Gaither remembers how he caught the stand-up comedy bug.
Unsure of what career he wanted to pursue in college, a friend gave him an album by the snarky, subversive comic Bill Hicks.
“The next morning I changed my major. I went to my counselor and I said, ‘I’m going to be a comedian for a living. That’s what I’m going to do,’” he said.
Since deciding that, things have worked out pretty well for Gaither. He moved to California almost a decade ago and has been able to perform fulltime, at least until COVID-19 hit.
“I was onstage a couple hundred times a year, at the very least. Since March, I’ve been onstage six times,” he said.
Looking to make people laugh again, Gaither will headline “Aunt Shelah’s Variety Show” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at Cafe Acoustic Concert Hall, 1918 Frederick Ave. Kris Grimm, Becca Schaeffer, Dave Ledden and Nick Scott also will perform.
Since falling in love with stand-up, Gaither has headlined shows in Las Vegas and at legendary comedy clubs like the Laugh Factory and the Ice House. While comedy clubs are shut down in California, Gaither said that he’s happy to be able to perform again, if for nothing more than to hear people laugh for his mental health.
“I’ve been so used to doing it, and that was my biggest relief. When it gets taken away from you, it wears on me mentally sometimes, especially with what’s going on,” he said.
Gaither’s comedy is a mixture of his observations on everyday life, raising a family and race, mixed with his signature playful crowd work. He said part of it is inspired by brash, truth-telling comedians like Sam Kinison.
“When I was about 10 or 11, I listened to an ‘HBO Young Comedians Special’ and Sam Kinison was on there. I was raised Southern Baptist, and some of the stuff he was talking about I knew that I shouldn’t be laughing at it, but I couldn’t help it,” he said.
To thread that needle of joking about racial and cultural differences hasn’t always been easy, Gaither said, especially in the past couple of years. He said all of his jokes are in good fun, with a little truth hidden in them.
“I want to people laugh at things that they’re told is not OK to laugh at. I want it to be so funny that they can’t help it — that’s always been my goal,” he said.
The variety show is free and open to everyone 21 and older. For more information, call 816-671-1141.