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March 2, 2013

‘Last Lecture’ to feature Drye humor … and Moon Pies

Jerry Drye was just 8 years old when he first experienced the powerful feeling that comes from making others laugh. A hyperactive kid with a speech impediment who struggled with his emotions following the death of his mother a year earlier, the young Jerry was in a barber shop and asked a bald patron if he was “going to get a little taken off the top.” The man laughed; the others in the barber shop laughed and a comedian was born.

“I’ve been a student of humor ever since,” Drye says.

Drye, an assistant professor of communication at Dalton State College, will present “Talking Funny: The Power of Being Amazingly Amusing in Life and Work” in a Last Lecture on Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Goodroe Auditorium of Gignilliat Memorial Hall. The free program is open to the public.

“Humor is essential,” Drye asserts. “Over the last 20 to 30 years there has been increasing emphasis in research of how humor affects health.” As an educator, Drye has particular interest in the correct and appropriate use of humor to engage the adult learner, a topic that will be the subject of his doctoral dissertation.

He has worked in radio and television and performed some stand-up comedy and motivational humor, but says he always wanted to work in the classroom. “Getting people to laugh and learn is the coolest job in the world,” he says.

“I like it when you can use humor to connect to some deeper mission, like helping someone develop a new skill, be better in their job, or improve their résumé … that’s pretty cool,” Drye said.

As a child, Drye’s favorites were Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Jonathan Winters and Flip Wilson. He enjoys the literary humor of Mark Twain and James Thurber and says current favorites include Kevin James and Bill Engvall. “I like cerebral stuff and wacky stuff,” he says.

He grew up on the stories of Cosby and questions whether kids raised on digital media would have the patience for long, winding stories. “It needs to be hip to tell stories again,” he says, calling storytelling “relational, connectional and powerful.”

“You have pathos, ethos and logos all wrapped into one,” he says. “A story can shine light on a truth and illuminate a point and connect us all together.”

Drye says his Last Lecture will be part stand-up concert, part academic lecture and part motivational speech, focusing on how to use humor effectively to develop leadership, ease conflict, relieve stress and as a communication device in conversation and public address.

Of Drye, Andy Billings, the Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting at the University of Alabama, said, “A comic opens funny doors; a comedian opens doors funny. Then there’s Jerry Drye, who manages to do both. Jerry brings energy, insight and a heavy dose of good-natured laughter to any conversation. He’s 100 percent engaging.”

“I am a very enthusiastic fan of Jerry Drye,” says Katherine Hawkins, dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences at Radford University. “He’s one of the most genuinely warm and funny people I’ve ever known. Jerry is the greatest combination of humor and humanity I have ever witnessed.”

His Last Lecture is sponsored by the college’s Fine Art and Lecture Series and the Chattanooga Bakery, which is contributing Moon Pies for all attending. Why Moon Pies? “(Colleague) Kris Barton announced at his Last Lecture that I would have candy for everyone at my lecture. I thought what would be better than candy? Moon Pies! So I called Chattanooga Bakery and they’re providing them.” Drye calls the iconic Southern confection of chocolate and marshmallow “the taste of happiness” and says he hoping one day to be the Moon Pie Endowed Professor of Humor at Dalton State.

So if a little Drye humor with a Moon Pie on the side sounds good to you, plan to attend the Last Lecture on Thursday, March 14. For more information, call (706) 272-2985.

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