Jennings Compton talks going from tour manager to budding comedian
[Photo credit: Darious Smith]
Jennings Compton is the real name of a road pirate who has been swashbuckling across American interstates for about a decade. This Southern moustachioed-Belle hustled for a living, managing merchandise and tours. If you’ve purchased a piece of merchandise from Four Year Strong on Warped Tour in the past year or two, you’ve likely crossed his sultry path. Currently, though, you might spot him side-stage as Tiny Moving Parts’ tour manager on the Real Friends North American run. He’s a blossoming comedian, too: He uses every opportunity earned and connection he’s made through touring to shine some light on his shtick.
Under rapidly setting suns and infinite starry skies, Compton (or “Yenny,” as he’s known by those lucky enough to get that close) and his shallow whistle mean business. The following is straight outta his noggin.
When and how did you start touring?
In 2010, I was 16. I did my first tour playing bass in my own band. We self-booked all of the tours and did most of them in a Ford Explorer. Most of the shows either got cancelled or we didn't get paid—typically how that type of thing goes.
A couple members of that band went on to play in a band called Brigades. Brigades hired me on for my first crew work in 2014. Been working in crew world ever since then.
Being from South Carolina, has touring affected the way you look at your own state? Do you think you'll always feel “at home” there?
After touring for a while, I have just realized, even more than ever, that I truly appreciate having grown up in Upstate South Carolina.
There aren't very many of us South Carolinians out touring right now, so I am able to kind of make up my own style out here and get it over with people as being a “South Carolina Thing.”
I can't say I will always live in the Carolinas, but it will always feel like home: I love being from South Carolina.
Have you ever done any post-secondary education?
I did two semesters at the University of South Carolina majoring in Middle Level Education. I also played ice hockey for the [USC] Gamecocks. Then after I got hurt and couldn't play, I dropped out. My happiness was more important than a degree. Of course, my parents were bummed out, but they completely understood and supported my choice.
What would be one or two of your maxims for touring?
You're never too old to learn.
There are a lot of great people out there that can help you learn and grow. You just have to be receptive and appreciative.
When did you start performing stand-up comedy?
I told my first jokes over a microphone about two years ago during a local show in Greenville, South Carolina, at the Radio Room. I would just get up in between set changes and do a couple minutes each time.
I've been writing and performing comedy more and more ever since then.
What about comedy resonates most with you? Why do you do it?
People want to laugh and now more than ever, we all need a good laugh. A lot of people need to lighten up!
It's a very straightforward thing for me. I get to go up in front of a room full of strangers and be hopeful in something I've worked on and believe in. Hopefully they all laugh and don't take themselves too seriously. But if not and I bomb the set, I still didn't pull any of my punches and spoke my mind.
Do you find that the touring lifestyle is cohesive with your budding comedic career?
Touring has given me a great place to brainstorm new ideas and a lot of experience to pull content from to write about—a lot of situational stuff that I would have never experienced at home.
If anything, my touring has done nothing but help my comedy career. I get to watch my friends go out and perform to their audience every night and it just intensifies the drive for my own spotlight.
My dream is to actually start opening tours with bands and work the tour at the same time. There are very few comedians that have dipped their feet into the music world and since I have already embedded myself into a touring lifestyle, I have a pretty good jumpstart on a fairly untapped market. So why not try to create an appeal for a music/comedy hybrid tour?
What's the funniest thing about America?
People's unironic interest in the internet. The average person on the internet takes themselves way too seriously and has lost any sort of sense of humor they may have ever had. All over worrying about what others may think or how many likes a post is going to get.
It think it is a very funny thing that anyone would just give up on and change their own feelings and interests just to please some stranger they will probably never encounter in person.
Get off your goddamn phone once in awhile and be real!
There it is, folks. If you see Yenny on Warped Tour this summer, ask him to tell you a joke; I dare ya.