Motivational humorist and entertainer who has earned the title "America's Funniest Professor".
Carl Hurley, drawing from his roots in the tradition of such other American humorists as Andy Griffith and Garrison Keillor, delights audiences with his reflections on life as viewed by a native of Appalachia with a singular sense of the absurd. Part of a family of natural-born storytellers from the hills of Laurel County, Kentucky, Hurley combines his innate skills a yarn-spinner with the expressiveness of a great comic actor. With an impish giggle on his lips and a benign twinkle in his eye, Hurley spreads an infectious form of fun that is often outrageous yet always good-natured and clean. His unique comedy style, coupled with a background in public education, has earned him the title of "America's funniest professor."
Carl Hurley was born in 1941 in a two-room cabin built by his father on a three-acre farm in the Appalachian foothills of Laurel County, Kentucky, near the Rockcastle River.
Carl came from a family of "talkers," and he spent endless hours listening to aunts, uncles and cousins swapping yarns that were richly embellished after years of telling. The idea of "making people laugh" was a fascinating but far-flung idea for the young Hurley. Little did he realize that a career in higher educaton would eventually lead to a career in speaking and entertaining.
The idea began to germinate at age eight when his dad bought the family its first radio and set it to WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. Every Saturday night young Carl listened to the Grand Ole Opry, and his world opened up.
"I remember listening to Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield," he recalls. "They were the first people I can ever remember making people laugh. I thought, 'how great it would be.'"
Hurley's first audience was at his one-room country church when he was called upon to recite a Scripture verse in front of the congregation. "I walked to the edge of the pulpit and said, 'Jesus fed the multitudes with three fishes and five loaves of light bread."
"For a minute, I didn't realize why they laughed, but I knew I enjoyed it," Carl says.
At Mount Zion Elementary School, Carl was active in school plays and speech contests, and he fondly recalls that the only award he ever won as a youngster was in a contest for would-be radio announcers.
In the fifth grade, the young Hurley transferred to nearby Hazel Green School where he proudly became a Hazel Green Bullfrog on the school's first football team. "I played in the first football game I ever saw," says Carl. "We didn't know much about football in the beginning; we thought it was a basketball that had laid out in the weather."
After graduating from high school, Hurley headed to Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and enrolled in the summer session. "Tuition was $37.50, and I had $50 that I had been saving up for a while. My dad said, "Son, you'll have enough money left over to buy a book." To help meet expenses, Carl worked on the school's dairy farm seven days a week beginning at 4 o'clock every morning.
In 1965, Carl received a bachelor of science degree from EKU; in 1966, he received a masters of arts in education. His studies continued, and in 1971 he was awarded a doctorate in education from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
In 1972, Carl was selected by the U. S. Jaycees as one of the "Outstanding Young Men in America," and he seemed destined for a successful career in education. For eight years he was a professor at EKU and coordinator of secondary education programs. His speaking career began by accident when in l971 he decided to "liven up" an otherwise boring school conference. One of the men attending the conference, impressed by Carl's ability to wrap humor around a message, invited the young professor to speak for his company.
Other invitations followed. In 1982, Carl decided it was time to pursue speaking and entertaining full-time. His appearances range from standup comedy to convention keynotes to seminars and workshops. Whatever the platform, Carl is known for his infectious laugh, twinkling of eye, wide grin--and the use of humor as a carrier for his message.
"I try to encourage people to look for the humor in life," he says, "to take life seriously but not too seriously. Humor brightens the load, makes life more interesting and more enjoyable. "The best compliment I can receive is someone coming up to me and saying, 'That was real funny and there was a good message there also.'"