South magazine [82] HEALTH & WELLNESS 2019 - Page 40

S MOVIN’ SOUTH A BREATH OF FRESH AIR P Sick of political correctness and being told you’re using the wrong pronoun for someone? Spend a few minutes with legendary stand-up and freshly minted Southerner Nick Di Paolo. You’re nowhere near as sick of it as he is. ERCHED OVER A SIDE table at Ordinary Pub, Nick Di Paolo pulls a cigarette out of his pack and nervously taps it on the side of the box. He can’t smoke it in there, but he remembers a time when you could. Not necessarily at Ordinary Pub – he and his wife Andrea only moved South a few months ago – but in smoke-hazed bars across the country where he honed his act as one of the most ruthless comics of his generation. “I was just in Vegas where I could smoke. I smoked 10 cigarettes a show. I just started smok- ing and I love it,” he says, playing the cigarette across his fin ers. This launches into one of his gut-busting stories, delivered with the cadence and timing of a battle-hardened comic, of trying desperately to find a place to smo e in Charlotte airport. The story is told in a way that’s so undeniably Di Paolo we won’t bother to go into it here. But if you’ve seen his act live, or caught his latest special, “A Breath of Fresh Air,” free on his website, you’ll know that it was deeply funny in a way that some- times has you asking yourself, “should I really be laughing at this?” It’s a decidedly anti-PC style that crosses the line left and right, but mostly left. “In this busi- ness if you lean right on two of 50 issues, you’re a Nazi. It’s an ultra-liberal business,” he says. “I don’t know how anyone can be in this business and be a comic or any kind of artist and agree with what’s going on today.” What’s going on today, according to Di Paolo, is a shift in the culture war that has seen the culture and counterculture slowly trade places. “We’re the counterculture, which is what comedy is supposed to be,” he says. “This country has the mentality of a 12-year-old fat girl with acne. Can you think of anything more sensitive? That’s the zeitgeist right now.” Even going back to his time on the Comedy Central show, “Tough Crowd,” where Di Paolo traded barbs with comics like Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal and the late Greg Giraldo, he was the right-leaning one. With the culture shifting around him, he leaned hard into his more conservative material and has found a huge and underserved audience for comedy that has had enough of the PC cancel culture. “There are sacred cows everywhere. I’m loving it.” And that, in turn, brought him South. Away from the liberalism of New York City where you can get fined for using the wrong pronoun. “That’s what I like about being down here. Guys are guys down here,” he says. “But you got enough lawyers down here? Jesus Christ. Every com- mercial is a guy saying, ‘Barry Saulman got me $50 million for slipping in a Kroger.’” That, again, launches an extended riff on S van- nah’s fixation with personal injury l wyers that has everyone at the table asking, “Should I really be laughing at this?” But it’s a moot point, because whether they should or not, they’re all rolling. by Barry Kaufman • Photography by Blake Crosby 38 SOUTH December | January 2019