Landscape | Spring 2023 Issue

“A Lighter Look” — Country Humor

Rick Meyer’s regularly appearing column takes a lighter look at politics and public affairs around the world. This month: Country humor

By Richard E. Meyer

I GREW UP IN THE HILLS. One of the first jokes I heard was a warning: “They’ll know you’re a hayseed if you tell ‘em you know how to use a weed whacker indoors.”

It wasn’t entirely a joke.

Country humor is my favorite kind. It usually contains a kernel of truth. Two stand-out collections are:

Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit: And Other Country Sayings, So-Sos, Hoots and Hollers.

Laughter in Appalachia: A Festival of Southern Mountain Humor.

In Butter My Butt, Allan Zullo, a writer from the hills of North Carolina, and Gene Cheek, his colleague, applaud country humor because it is clever, colorful, endearing, vivid and funny.

Sometimes, they say, it makes you ponder. “As Maya Angelou once said, ‘Listen carefully to what country people call mother wit. In those homely sayings are couched the collective wisdom of generations.’ “

In Laughter in Appalachia, Loyal Jones, a longtime director of the Appalachian Center at Berea College, and Billy Edd Wheeler, a songwriter, storyteller, singer, playwright and poet, say country humor has this important quality: It belongs to everyone.

Good laughs, they say, “make the rounds and become the property of those who appreciate them.”

For example, some pearls of wisdom from Butter My Butt:

“Never kick a cow patty on a hot day.”

“You’ll sit a long time with your mouth wide open before a roasted chicken flies in.”

“Excuses are like backsides — everybody’s got one.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they sure do make it even.”


Some trenchant descriptions:

“He was so drunk he couldn’t see through a ladder.”

“He’s about as sharp as an egg.”

“He’s been baptized so many times every crawdad in the creek knows him by name.”

“Are those your legs or are you ridin’ a chicken?”


Now a story from Laughter in Appalachia:

“The country preacher awoke one morning to find a dead mule on the highway in front of his home.

“Calling the county health department in the county seat, he said, ‘This is Reverend Jones. There’s a dead mule on the road in front of my house, and I’d appreciate having it removed as promptly as possible.’

“The young clerk who answered the call thought he would have a little fun. ‘Uh, Reverend Jones,’ he said, ‘I always thought you preachers took care of the dead yourselves.’

“The preacher caught the kidding in the young man’s tone, but he didn’t let on. His reply was serious.

“‘We do. Yes, but in the case of jackasses we like to speak to the next of kin first.’”


Humor doesn’t get much better than that.

Yes, I’m a hillbilly. And if you don’t like it, kiss my grits.

Richard E. Meyer

Richard E. Meyer

Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.

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