Slayin' the South

Words by Blake Ells
Photos by Maisey-Ella Redman

Comedian Dusty Slay insists that his childhood wasn’t much different from any of the other children growing up around him; he simply grew up with an inferiority complex because of the stigma associated with his home. The problem wasn’t his lifestyle—it was his address.

_DSC0017.jpg

Dusty grew up in a trailer park in Opelika, Alabama, a city of just over 30,000 people situated between Auburn and LaGrange, Georgia.

“Trailer parks are always going to carry a stigma with them,” Dusty says. “It’s the trailer park itself. Your address is Lot 8, Moore’s Trailer Park.”

He never had a real plan. He didn’t take the ACT; he didn’t take the SAT. If it wasn’t a required test, he didn’t take it.

“I went to Southern Union State Community College in Opelika for two days and decided pretty quickly that I didn’t like that,” Dusty says. “So I’ve just been going with the flow. I had a couple of jobs that could have turned into careers for me, but I just followed the path of being happy. And when something didn’t make me happy anymore, I tried to find something that did. So far, comedy keeps getting better, and it keeps making me happy.”

Dusty found comedy within his youth. He grew to realize that the things that he found a normal part of growing up were amusing to others—even scary trailer park storms

“We had an ice storm once that froze a pine tree limb, and it stabbed right through the roof of the trailer,” Dusty says. “It knocked over this shelf of ceramic owls that my mom had. That’s always the most trailer park thing to me—that a frozen tree limb stabbed through the roof knocking over a shelf of ceramic owls.”

“If you live in a trailer on land, you’re fancy—you have your own land,” Dusty says. “You get the right kind of tin around the bottom of your trailer and you might not even know it’s a trailer. I was always envious of the double-wide. That’s two trailers right next to each other, you know? You’ve got two homes.”

After deciding that college wasn’t for him, he left Alabama for Charleston, South Carolina. He spent a decade in Charleston, before settling into his new home in Nashville, where he remains with his wife, fellow comedian Hannah Hogan.

He deliberately stays out of politics, insisting that he doesn’t think that anyone wants to listen to him. He insists that there are topics that should be left to someone that, unlike him, hasn’t drank gas out of a water hose. Comedy finds itself at a crossroads in 2019; much of what’s on television is reliant on political satire. But many audiences just want a break from that discourse. Dusty paraphrases the Ryan Bingham track, “Dylan’s Hard Rain,” citing, “Careful what you say if they ain’t gonna listen anyway.”

“I think I have fans on both sides of the political spectrum,” Dusty says. “I want to keep them both.”

In recent years, Dusty has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Last Comic Standing. Now, a developmental deal is in the works for an ABC sitcom from Dusty and Chadd Gindin, the writer and executive producer of Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet. The story will be centered on a blue-collar single mom, and it will be based on Dusty’s childhood.

“The character is me,” Dusty says. “The whole show is my family, and I like to think that the character that I play is me if I had never left Alabama.”

The sitcom was a bit late to the game for the upcoming pilot season, but the team remains hopeful that it makes it into the 2019 fall lineup. If it doesn’t, there is still hope for next year.

In the meantime, Dusty will remain on the road. He also continues to host a podcast with his wife, called “We’re Having a Good Time,” which chronicles their separate road adventures working comedy clubs across America. The couple rarely appear on the same bill and find the podcast a way to connect and share stories from their travels while touring different parts of the country. It can be found on iTunes, and they hope the show can give aspiring comics advice for how to bolster their careers in the business.

Dusty described the sitcom as “the most fun because I’m Southern. I get to walk around and play this Southern guy—and I don’t have to play it—I just get to be this Southern guy in the middle of the big city. I like to beef up the Southern accent when I’m in L.A., you know? I don’t know what they expect me to be, but I like to play it super nice, and I find that they really like me.”