‘Pork and Punchlines’: Yellahammered! brings ‘world-class’ comics, Southern grub to Saturn

Wes Van Horn, Rivers Langley and Joe Raines are Alabama natives and professional comedians who, in the summer of 2014, were living and working in Los Angeles and found a unique venue in the world’s show-business capital where they could host their own comedy showcase.

It was the house where Van Horn and Raines lived.

“Joe and I had just moved into an empty house that had been converted into a triplex near MacArthur Park,” Van Horn said. “When we saw the carport in the back, we immediately thought about how we could start a show there.”

Van Horn, Raines and Langley started presenting a monthly series called “Yellahammered!” that would feature such well-known comics as Roy Wood Jr., Nate Bargatze, Iliza Schlesinger, Kyle Kinane, Karen Kilgariff and Rory Scovel.

They also brought their own dose of Southern hospitality to Yellahammered! by cooking out Alabama-style and feeding the attendees.

“We figured we’d do our best to try and turn our city carport into a Southern backyard BBQ, but it wasn’t always ribs and pork sandwiches,” Van Horn said. “Rivers would fry up chicken tenders or we’d make biscuits and gravy. As long as it felt like something we’d eat in Alabama, it could make the menu.”

The three men went on to present Yellahammered! in Los Angeles about 20 times, said Van Horn, who moved back to Birmingham in 2016. They also presented Yellahammered! at a series of clubs in Birmingham a total of four times between 2014 and 2017.

And now — for the first time in five years — Van Horn, Langley and Raines will host an installment of Yellahammered! at Saturn in Avondale on Thursday, Dec. 22. Doors will open at 7 p.m. The show will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

In keeping with Yellahammered! tradition, food will be served prior to the show, thanks to Van Horn’s long-time friend Nicholas Pihakis, a partner in Pihakis Restaurant Group in Birmingham, which counts Rodney Scott’s BBQ among its eateries.

The featured performers at Yellahammered! will be well-known stand-up comics from Atlanta: Yedoye Travis, who is also an actor and writer; Katherine Blanford, who recently appeared on The Tonight Show; and Shaunak Godkhindi, who performs regularly around the United States.

Van Horn, Langley and Raines are excited about the return of Yellahammered!

“With me raising my family in Birmingham, I only get to see these guys once or twice a year now, so that’s obviously something we look forward to, but also some of our favorite memories in comedy and beyond have happened at these shows,” Van Horn said. “As a holiday show, it’s always nice too because it can serve as a central event and reunion for old friends and family where everyone can get together in one room and let loose and laugh.”

“It’s the first one we’ve done in a few years, so it’ll be a reunion of sorts,” Raines said. “Also it’s our first show at the legendary Saturn venue, which is exciting.”

Saturn is “just the best,” Van Horn said. “It’s what every performance venue should be. They just get live performance, and they have a genuine love for artists and audiences alike.”

“I absolutely love coming back and doing shows in Alabama,” Langley said. “I’ve always found the crowds to be very receptive and appreciative of an event like this just because it’s very different from what is typically offered.”

“I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 10 years but Birmingham will always be home,” Raines said.

In addition, the headliners for this installment of Yellahammered “are some of the best comics in the country,” Van Horn said.

Travis released a half-hour Comedy Central special, “Bury Me Loose,” earlier this year, and he was featured in the EPIX stand-up series “Unprotected Sets” in 2021.

He has also been a headliner at numerous comedy festivals in the United States and Canada, appeared on NBC, TBS, CBS, and Netflix and written for DC Comics, MTV, IFC, Viceland and Crunchyroll.

“My favorite thing about Yedoye’s comedy is that he is a very smart yet very silly man, so he can speak intelligently on important matters but he can also be a silly goose,” Raines said.

“He’s highly intelligent, absolutely hilarious, and is able to touch on the personal and the social with razor-sharp insight and imagination in equal measure,” Van Horn said.

Blanford is currently headlining clubs across the country and has played such festivals as Limestone Comedy Festival, Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, 10,000 Laughs, Burning Bridges Festival and Red Clay Festival. Her debut album, “Salt Daddy,” was released in June, and she She hosts a weekly podcast, “Cheaties,” with fellow Atlanta comedian Lace Larrabee.

“Katherine is one of my favorite storytellers around,” Raines said. “I loved her set on [‘The Tonight Show’] and am pumped we were able to get her on this show.”

Godkhindi, known for his fun, spontaneous style, has been featured at SXSW, High Plains Comedy Fest, Laughing Skull Fest, Red Clay Comedy Festival and New South Comedy Fest. He has opened for such comics as Kinane, Scovel, Joe Zimmerman, Nore Davis, Sean Patton and Aakash Singh. The second season of his web series, “I’ll Take It,” was released earlier this year.

“Shaunak is a riff monster,” Raines said. “Few things can get an audience going more than an engaging performer who is quick on their feet. When someone can consistently pull huge laughs out of the ether, that’s special.”

“I met Shaunak at a show in Tuscaloosa several years ago where he tore the house down and we have shared the stage many times since,” Van Horn said. “Shaunak might be my favorite comic to watch live at the moment. He brings an amazing, friendly vibe to every show he’s on, but he’s also so loose and quick that every set seems different and special because he’s not afraid to get lost in a silly riff or engage the audience a little.”

In addition to hosting Yellahammered! Van Horn, Langley and Raines will also perform.

“We usually all come out together at the beginning and welcome everyone, set the tone, possibly reminisce and riff a little, then we will each do a solo set throughout the evening,” Van Horn said.

“My absolute favorite part of the show is going up on stage with Wes and Joe and just kinda clowning around at the beginning of the show,” Langley said. 

“Wes and Joe were literally two of the first 10 people I met doing stand-up so we’ve always had a great rapport and great chemistry together on stage,” he said.

Van Horn, who is also a writer, has been seen on “The Josh Wolf Show” on CMT, as well as “This Is Alabama” and playboy.com. A featured performer at The High Plains and Red Clay Comedy Festivals, he hosts The Upstairs Comedy Series at Avondale Brewing Company, which brings touring national headliners to Birmingham each month.

Langley moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and has co-produced numerous popular comedy showcases there. He’s  a member of the sketch group, Hush Money. Langley also hosts a podcast, “The Goods From The Woods,” and appeared on “Food: Fact or Fiction,” a TV show on The Cooking Channel hosted by comedy legend Michael McKean. 

Originally from Birmingham, Raines has done standup for over 15 years. Selected to be a part of the very first Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta, he’s also been featured at Hell Yes Comedy Festival in New Orleans.

The vibe and atmosphere of the Yellahammered! events in Los Angeles and Birmingham have always been important to the organizers.

“I think we want this show at its core and at its very best to feel like the warmest, funniest family reunion picnic you’ve ever been to, a place where everyone feels welcome and free to be themselves,” Van Horn said.

“When it’s at its best, the show feels like a cross between Thanksgiving and a homecoming event and then an amazing comedy show breaks out in the middle of it,” Langley said. “We always book the absolute best comics in the region to do the show so we just kind of know that part of the event is gonna be killer. That lets me just relax, eat some food and hang out before the show with tons of people that I never get to see.”

“I think the atmosphere has changed over the years but when we started we wanted it to feel like a giant Southern block party,” Raines said. “Like a church potluck but instead of God we worshiped pork and punchlines. A huge silly event with all the things that make life worth living — food, laughter, friends, family and a nice buzz.”

“I think it’ll just be exciting to get to do this weird goofy wild show we created in the back parking lot of a more than likely haunted and assuredly condemned house in one of the most dangerous parts of Los Angeles,” Raines said. “Against all odds, somehow people got the joke and ran with it as fast as we could take them. In comedy sometimes, most times, things don’t always mirror your dreams but in this instance it really became nearly everything we wanted it to be so when we get to do it…it’s a party. A wild one at that.”

“We’re giving people world-class comedians and incredible BBQ for $15,” Langley said. “Who wouldn’t love this?”

For tickets, go to saturnbirmingham.com, and to see photos from previous events, go to facebook.com/YELLAHAMMEREDCOMEDY.

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