By day, he tints windows, and, by night, he can usually be found delivering jokes in venues across the Hub City.
His name is Joe Carlisle, and he is a recovering globetrotter and generally funny human being.
Carlisle pays his bills through his full-time gig at SPF Window Tinting, but his part-time role as a comedian – and member of Hub City Comedy, an organization of local comics – keeps him sane and grounded, even with the strangeness of life in 2020.
“Comedy keeps me happy, and not just comedy on stage ... but trying to be funny and make people laugh and smile in daily life,” said Carlisle. “Even in my regular job, I interact with a lot of people every day, and if I can get them to smile or laugh, it’s my version of a good deed. I get a lot out of that.”
Carlisle said he is generally a jokester, and he uses his comedy to try and brighten up an often bleak world.
“My biggest thing I do is ... I try to say things to people that they wouldn’t be expecting to hear from a total stranger,” he said. “One of my favorite things to do is with someone I have just met, someone I don’t know at all, is to, whenever I leave them, say ‘bye, I love you.’ It always, almost always, gets a reaction. Hearing that little giggle – or seeing that smirk – is a great thing for me, and I know they’re always going to remember me.”
Carlisle was born in Oxford, and he spent the first years of his life in Tupelo.
He has also lived in Dallas, Texas, and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and he event spent three years living in New Zealand.
“In 2012, I got divorced, and I just packed up, sold everything ... and bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand,” he said. “People would ask me if I’d ever come back to the United States, and I’d say no, but if I did, I was going to be a stand-up comedian. I started doing that when I was 16, and I just never really, really followed through with it.”
He said his three years of life in the island country were mostly spent on a journey of self-discovery.
“After three years of trying to find myself and not being an adult, I decided to come back,” said Carlisle. “I moved to Austin, Texas, and I didn’t do anything but stand-up comedy while I was there. I drove Uber, and I did stand-up, and I tried to make it.”
Those years of his life were like a vacation of reality, he said, and the vacation eventually had to end.
“I’d lived in Hattiesburg before, and I came back through one day and realized that the Hub City had a really good comedy scene for the size town it is,” he said. “I was like, ‘man, this seems fun to me,’ and the best people I’ve met in life all live in Hattiesburg. I decided to stay again and make this my third time living in Hattiesburg.”
His third stint in the Hub City has been a success, he noted.
“I’m engaged to a great girl from Hattiesburg, and I have a great job,” said Carlisle. “I’m still doing stand-up, and I’ve done more with stand-up comedy in Hattiesburg than I ever have anywhere else.”
Carlisle is a major player in Hub City Comedy, which was founded 10 years ago by Jamie Arrington, a Hattiesburg native and another generally funny human being.
“Hub City Comedy started as a group of guys just trying to do stand-up and putting on an open mic every week where anybody could come,” he said. “The organization started hosting big events, and pretty much any time a well-known comedian comes to town, they come through our group to get a show here.”
The group has produced a number of big-name acts, said Carlisle, and they continue to do so.
“We’ve done shows at bars all over town, and we’ll load up sometimes and do what we call a Hub City takeover, where we’ll take five or six guys out of town to Meridian or Natchez, maybe Mobile or Picayune, and just put on a show there and get paid for it,” he said.
He said his particular brand of comedy focuses on absurdities.
“I like to describe my comedy as absurdities, and there’s not much truth to anything that I say,” he said. “It’s mostly just wacky, false stories, things that never really happened. They can sometimes be influenced by real events, and I’ve kind of started to do that more. As you get older and start to grow as a comedian, you really try to learn your voice, your style, and you can be all over the place while you’re learning.”
He said that his acts usually avoid current events.
“When things are as absurd as they are now, you really just have to leave it alone ... because all of the big guys, the big comics, have those bases covered,” he said. “I try to avoid things about Trump or coronavirus or race relations and leave those topics to the late-night television hosts. They’ve got that covered. I try to dig into something that people aren’t going to hear when they go home and turn on the TV.”
Carlisle said he considers himself to be a comedian in training.
“I’m what I’d call a four-year comedian, even though I’ve been doing it for a while,” he said. “I don’t put in the type of hours that some professional comics do, and Hattiesburg doesn’t have enough people to support an open mic every single night of the week. So, I’m still trying to figure out what kind of comedian I want to be.”
He said his comedy can sometimes be risqué, and there is always a chance someone will be offended.
“Sometimes, when you’re so focused on making people happy, it can absolutely backfire on you, like when you accidentally offend someone,” he said. “Some people want you to be offensive, and you want to be risqué. You want to be a little on the edge. But when people completely misinterpret the message you’re trying to get across, it’ll absolutely backfire on you and have the opposite effect of generating happiness.”
Carlisle said those moments – along with the moments where his comedy bombs or fails to get a laugh – can be damaging to the ego.
When asked how he deals with such difficulties, he immediately replied, in a deadpan matter, with “drugs, mostly a lot of drugs.”
He laughed and continued his train of thought.
“No, one of the biggest things, especially in Hattiesburg, is that you can talk to your peers, talk it out with them,” said Carlisle. “We’ve got a real tight-knit group of guys here, and if they saw it happen or if you explain it to them, they’ll definitely be there for you. Of course, they’ll also tell you if you just sucked and if you were terrible. They’re known to say things like, ‘everything you did tonight, you should just scrap it, start over and move.’”
He said he loves his colleagues in Hub City Comedy, and several of those comics now work with him at his day job.
“With my job at SPF Window Tinting, I’m on the road every day, doing flat glass work, big commercial, residential and government jobs,” he said. “It’s a great company to work for, and I’ve gotten two other members of Hub City Comedy hired on. As you can imagine, it is quite the racket up there when you get the three of us together.”
Carlisle said he is happy to live in a place that is so receptive to comedy.
“Absolutely, comedy is on fire here,” he said. “That’s quite typical of college towns, but the turnout that we get from college-age kids is not as good as you’d expect. But the city still has that same vibe and same energy that a normal college town would have. And yeah, we have good turnout for events, and that can run the gamut. We’ll have one type of crowd come to Southern Prohibition or Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg, and then we’ll have another type of crowd at, say, Sidelines out in Oak Grove. Still, we can do well in both spots, and everybody tends to have fun in both spots.”
When he is not working or performing, Carlisle can be found at home with his two Nigerian dwarf goats.
“I adopted them because I thought it’d be funny,” he said. “We don’t live on a farm, but we just live in a neighborhood out in Oak Grove, and we’re the only people who have goats. It’s not funny at all, though. They’re jerks. If anyone wants two goats, please come get them. I’ll pay you.”