Talking to Leanne Morgan on the phone is like connecting with a long-lost friend you didn’t know you had.
“Aren’t you an angel?” she says to me after apologizing for being late. Her podcast, “Sweaty and Pissed,” where she talks about menopause and other afflictions of being a middle-aged woman, ran over. “We were talking about vaginal infections and I was just so surprised that some of these young women were having sex with so many different men. I don’t even want to have sex with one.”
With a Middle Tennessee drawl, Morgan has talked about her life and the lives of her family for more than 20 years. And people across the country are loving it.
Growing up in Adams, Tennessee, a town of about 600 near the Kentucky border, Morgan says her family came from hard-working farm people. Her father had a farm, ran a postal route and built a meat processing plant in his backyard. Her mother was a farm wife and kept the house, not even learning to drive until she was in her 40s.
Even though she had a small audience in rural Tennessee, Morgan says she knew she was going to be in show business one day.
“I was a ham. When the insurance man would come, I’d get up on the coffee table and dance like Cher,” she said. “Even when we had assemblies at school, the principal would ask me to get up and do something before it. I knew from an early age I was going to be in show business, I just didn’t know how.”
After graduating from high school, one of a class of 42, Morgan headed to the University of Tennessee where she focused on child and family studies and crisis counseling. Her plan was to do child therapy, she says. But it wasn’t always easy. Her distinct Middle Tennessee accent and rural education sometimes hampered her.
Instead, she got married and started having babies. To help her out, a good friend got her into selling jewelry in people’s homes.
“Now, Liz,” she says to me, “I didn’t care a bit about that jewelry. But I’d go into these people’s homes and they’d make a dessert and some dip and all these women would be gathered around… I was supposed to be talking about the jewelry, and saying things like ‘Well, this clip you can put on your shoes and it will brighten them up like a new pair,’ but instead I was talking about breastfeeding and hemorrhoids.”
She didn’t know it at the time, she says, but she was developing her act. Women all around Morristown area were asking her to come do their jewelry parties. She knew she was funny when one woman laughed so hard she peed on a couch.
Next she was doing Rotary events and Kiwanis clubs. When her family moved to San Antonio, things started to take off. She got a shot at the Cap City Comedy Club, where management encouraged her act. In no time, she was on ABC’s talk show The View.
“I think I was just unique,” she says. “A lot of comedians, they have a persona or a character they do. I had a bunch of little kids, and my husband was gone all the time… Honestly, I was just too tired to stand up there and be anybody but me.”
For years, business ebbed and flowed. Sometimes, she says, she was busy and touring on the weekends. Other times, it was so quiet, she says “I couldn’t even get arrested.”
She met with Hollywood producers about possible comedy series, but those things didn’t pan out. She was on Nick at Night as a contestant in World’s Funniest Mom, coming in second.
And she continued her stand up, first as part of Southern Fried Chicks, and later with Dry Bar Comedy.
It was with Dry Bar that she found her people.
“I remember them shooting video of it and when I saw it all I could think about was my thyroid,” she says. “One of my nodules on my thyroid was swollen and I had on a choker on and that choker was all off… my spray tan had rubbed off. I just looked awful. That’s all I saw every time I watched that video.”
But then, her social media team put the video – a bit about old people going to see Def Lepard – on Facebook and things just took off.
“I remember thinking nobody’s going to watch this,” she says. “From the time I was selling jewelry I knew I had something special, I just didn’t know who to reach my audience… when that video came out… I knew I had found them.”
The video, and many of her others, went viral. Now, with more than a million followers on social media, Morgan is talking to her fans through social media and Facebook and working on plans for touring in 2021.
“We had plans for a 100-city tour, the Big Panty Tour, this year, but of course we had to cancel it because of the Covid,” she says. “I do feel confident it’ll still go on, I just want people to get over the Covid first and be safe.”
Those fans, women in rural areas, urban areas, northern states and southern states, flock to her take on things like competitive cheering (and their tiny shorts), her “mean” daughter, church Bible camps and lock-ins, and what it’s like being a mom entering menopause.
But it’s her rural upbringing that really shapes her humor, she says. There’s no cussing in her act. No off-color jokes. No edgy topics.
“Being from a small community where people take care of each other shaped me. My people are polite and kind and they’re always taking care of one another,” she says. “My great grandmother, Big Momma we called her, she would say there’s no reason to use that kind of language. And my momma and daddy would say people who use that kind of language did it because they didn’t have anything else to say. But I think, being a mom, I wanted to be an example. I didn’t want to say anything I wouldn’t want my kids to say.”
And while she doesn’t talk much about her childhood growing up in Middle Tennessee, she says she might revisit it.
“My grandmother, she was a pistol,” she says. “And she had a shot gun. She’d put her panties out on the line to dry and the crows would come along and land on that line and poop on her panties, so my grandma would pull down her window and shoot right out of it at those crows… I grew up with lots of funny stories, but I think I’ve just only ever talked about what I was going through at the time.”
Now, with her son and daughter-in-law expecting a baby, she’s ready to see what life holds next.
“I tell everyone I’m having a baby,” she says. “I want to be a memaw… you know, the grandmothers who are always helping out and changing diapers and making soup beans and cornbread. That’s what I want to be – a memaw. They may call me something else, but that’s what I’ll be.”