Friday’s Kings of Cowtown comedy show at the Waco Hippodrome isn’t quite Blue Collar Comedians with White Cowboy Hats, but there are influences on both ends of that phrase for Cowboy Bill Martin and partner Chad Prather.
Martin opened for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour in 2002-3, part of a 19-year résumé in stand-up comedy that also includes innumerable comedy clubs, ocean cruises and opening for country stars George Strait and Brad Paisley. The cowboy hats? That’s how the two met, when Prather once helped out with Martin’s Cowboys Who Care Foundation, part of whose work includes handing out cowboy hats to kids with cancer.
Despite varying backgrounds in and approaches to comedy — Martin a folksy stand-up, Prather winning his fans online and on social media — the two Fort Worth-based comedians hit it off and in time decided to try their luck together as the Kings of Cowtown. “We’re both funny people, but from different styles,” said Prather. “We’re also so humble, which is why we threw the Kings in there.”
Intending to build a base in Texas then branch out, the Kings so far are ruling. Their show at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth sold out in two hours and earlier shows in Tyler and Corsicana were so successful, they aim to go back. The Kings of Cowtown’s Waco debut promises more of the same: By midweek, the show was nearing sellout status with fewer than two dozen tickets still up for sale.
Martin and Prather come to their comedy show already with an introduction to thousands of their fans. Martin created and paid for a one-hour “Let The Laughter Roll” special for CMT, which pulled an audience of more than 1 million viewers. Prather hosted “It’s My Backyard” on the cable television channel/website RIDE-TV, but found a huge following through Facebook with his video “Rants in the Truck.”
As Martin saw it, that television and online interest could mean people who’d want to come out to a live show. “America’s looking for something new,” he said.
Prather took a little convincing as he’d never done stand-up, but the two realized their show didn’t have to be pure stand-up. Prather sees his contribution as “a little bit of story-telling with humor” and throws some music into the mix. The two also have brought on other comics as openers and Friday’s Waco concert will feature Quinn Patterson, an African American comic.
The night will have much more than cowboy jokes — Martin admits his “Cowboy Bill” monicker was his grandfather’s nickname for him — and sometimes salty language and material means it’s a show for grownups and not the kids.
What characterizes Kings of Cowtown are comics who “feel comfortable in their own skin,” Martin explained. That comfort enables them to call things as they see it — Prather’s first viral “rant in the truck” was about being Southern unapologetically — and that is a major appeal to fans. “The No. 1 response we have (from audiences) is ‘You say the things we wish we could say,’ ” he said.
While that comic honesty and sincerity scores points with their listeners, the Kings of Cowtown find it’s also freeing as a career choice. “Making a living being yourself is a whole lot of fun,” Prather said.