Leanne Morgan, Knoxville’s Stand-Up Gal, Hits It Big

How did the Tennessee comedian find stardom in her fifties? It’s kind of a funny story

A woman in a long purple floral dress sips a cocktail at a patterned velvet and floral booth


Loosening up with a Pimm’s Cup in the Lafayette’s lobby.

Night sweats, cellulite, elderly parents: No topic is off-limits to Leanne Morgan, the Knoxville-based stand-up comic who at fifty-eight has only recently broken into the zeitgeist after years toiling at comedy clubs. That attention comes thanks in part to her first Netflix special, Leanne Morgan: I’m Every Woman, an hour-and-fifteen-minute showcase of her flawless delivery—along with the pleasures of granny panties and Jell-O salad—which became one of the platform’s most streamed stand-up specials of 2023. Now she is on her Just Getting Started tour, selling out theaters and arenas nationwide, and will soon appear in Amazon Studios’ Reese Witherspoon/Will Ferrell wedding caper, You’re Cordially Invited. Need a little laugh in between? Morgan’s Instagram videos of her day-to-day life are worth every second.

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Did you always make people laugh?

I was perceived as funny in my little high school, but I only graduated with forty-two people. I dazzled. I did. I get this from Lucille Fletcher, my mama—we get along with people. We have a ball everywhere we go. [My husband] Chuck gets so mad. I’ve been married to him for over thirty years, and he’s like, “You don’t take anything seriously.” And I don’t. I’m a talker. I love to flirt. I flirt onstage with men, even though they know I don’t mean it in an unbiblical way. I’m just up there telling them about my big flesh-colored panties made of the microfiber they play golf in.

When did you start performing?

We had moved to Bean Station, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Appalachians. Chuck had bought a used mobile home business. We were twenty-seven years old, and I had had my first baby, Charlie, and wanted to stay home and nurse him—knowing in my heart I was going to go to Hollywood, which sounds crazy. So I started selling jewelry in women’s houses like Mary Kay. I would schlep this big case. And I was supposed to be talking about jewelry, and I would talk instead about breastfeeding and hemorrhoids and the baby crying in the night and all that. And I developed a kind of act. I was like in my own comedy club. I had them right there on the couch, and they had to listen to me, and they thought I was funny, and they started booking me about a year in advance. I remember saying one night, “You can either book a party with me now, or you can see me in Las Vegas later.”

How did you go from jewelry parties to comedy clubs?

We moved to San Antonio. That’s the first time I was living in a city that had a comedy club. I went to open mic one time. After that, I would drive back and forth to Austin’s Cap City Comedy Club, one of the best in the United States. They believed in me and moved me to headliner. It just kind of took off from there, which, when I say took off, I mean there were big times and low times for twenty-something years—times I couldn’t get arrested, times I’d have a television deal with ABC and Warner Bros. and then it wouldn’t make it. In all of it, I got to raise my children. I got to pick them up at school, take them to school, go to things.

Morgan snacks on pimento cheese in bed at San Diego’s Lafayette Hotel and Club before a show.

You’re from Middle Tennessee, but your comedy doesn’t poke fun at your place or its people. 

I am very proud of where I’m from. I was married before Chuck, only for two and a half years. And [my ex-husband] said to me, “I think people are making fun of you. You need to have diction lessons. You need to change how you talk.” And I never believed that. I think it’s wonderful to be from farming people in the United States of America. I think we’re the backbone.

In my comedy, I’ve always considered what I talk about as universal—being a mama and being a wife and going to Weight Watchers and how I feel in my pants or whatever. But I just happen to have this accent. People go, “She’s putting that accent on,” and I think, Good Lord, do they think that I’ve got the energy to fake this all the time?

How do you develop a routine?

I feel like I’ve got natural timing. But it’s just storytelling. It really is. I’ll be running down the road or doing a load of wash and something will come to me and I’ll think, Oh, that’s funny. When this baby did this, or my grandbaby did this, or Chuck Morgan did this. And now I have to write them down because of my age. But I’ve got to get out and live, because if I go and do yoga, if I go to Weight Watchers, things like that spark ideas. When I’m living a normal, everyday life. That’s when it’s the best.

In 2019, before you blew up, you joked that you wanted to open a hardware store that also sold cheese and charcuterie. Is that still in the cards?

I know everybody wants to be in business with you, but couldn’t we kill, honey, if we had a big hardware store with a big wheel of cheese? I love an old-timey hardware store, because my little mama and daddy, we had our little grocery store. They would get me from school, and Mama would check people out and I would sit in her lap. I was in kindergarten, and she had on a hairpiece that looked like Brigitte Bardot, with a pale pink lipstick. She smoked Winston Lights. We drank Tab. And then they had a meat-processing plant, and I’d come up there and Mom would be sitting on her desk. And somebody would come to pick up their meat, and they’d be telling her their husband left them or whatever, and Mom would be holding onto them. That just feels right to me, to have a small business where people come through and talk. And I like food.

Your first book debuts this September. Tell me about it.

I told my agent I wanted to write about all the sins I committed in the eighties, but he said this first book should introduce you to the world. So it’s funny essays of how I got started raising these babies, moving to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, how I was raised. And I’ve had a ball doing it. It’s called What in the World? Because I feel like I say “What in the world?” every day. I did the Big Panty tour in a hundred cities, and now I’m on the Just Getting Started tour, and then I got a book deal, and I was like, “What in the world?” I’m a big dreamer, but this is bigger than anything I even dreamed.

What do you take away from hitting it big in your fifties?

It’s never too late. I think people see that in me, and they want to see me win. It’s like, okay, she is us. And she made it. She can do it. We can do it. It’s bigger than comedy. It really is.