Natural comic takes the HART stage for the first time

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Mar 26, 2014

Imagine a grown woman dressed in a full Easter Bunny costume trying to figure out how to smoke a cigarette from behind a massive head.

That’s the first image audience members will see when attending “Most Improved Camper: The Real Life Adventures of C.J. Deering” this weekend at HART. The one-woman show will feature Deering on stage telling her hilarious real life stories, including her first job as the Easter Bunny and the time she received a made up “Most Improved Camper” award at summer camp.

Deering has a natural story-telling ability and her self-deprecating and dry delivery make for a great comedy act. Without a script and only her memories to guide her, Deering will improv her way through the show.

“This is all Barbara Bates Smith’s fault,” Deering said about doing her first-ever live performance on stage. Deering said she had gone on a trip to California and came back to find her name on the list of events for HART’s 2014 season.

Smith, a local actress, said she met this funny lady two years ago when Deering moved to Waynesville from California. When Smith asked her “Why Waynesville,” she said she was in stitches as Deering told her the story of how she got here.

“I laughed and laughed as she regaled, thinking ‘oh my gosh, this woman's a natural standup comic’” Smith recalled. “I'd been trying ever since to get her onstage somewhere to share more of her story. Finally Steve Lloyd at HART helped me sign her up for HART's Studio season.”

Originally from New Jersey, Deering said she grew up as the only child with crazy parents — raised more so by her pet boxer.  She was voted “Class Wit” in high school because of her quick sense of humor, though she didn’t know why.

“I did know I was funny — I thought I was just like everyone else,” she said.

Without her free-spiritedness, Deering wouldn’t have half of the stories to share with others. She majored in art in college but throughout her lifetime she has worked a myriad of jobs outside the art world, including copyediting for Time-Warner, being a radio disc jockey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Houston, Texas, and a TV news reporter in San Diego, California.

“I moved around a lot and went to college in Rhode Island before I moved in New York City. I was a flight attendant for a year, then I moved to Atlanta for three years and then I moved to L.A.,” she said. “Then I fell into the music industry because I was cute and wore mini skirts.”

It was her career working with Jethro Tull’s tour that introduced her to the beauty of Asheville and western North Carolina. She was here in the 70s helping with Tull’s “Bungle in the Jungle” tour for six weeks and fell in love with the area.

But not everything in life is funny — like the story of how she finally came to settle in Waynesville.

While still in California, her daughter died, her friend died, her dog died and her husband lost his job after being in the hospital for several months. Her husband never fully recovered after coming home.

“He just wasn’t the same person he wasn’t happy,” she said.

It got to the point where Deering said she was tired of being sad — she wanted to be happy again. So she worked with a Realtor in the area and found a place to rent on Jonathan Creek in 2011. She didn’t know anyone when she came here, but after three years she’s met plenty of friends and is enjoying every minute of it.

“For years people have been telling me to write a book or do stand up comedy but the truth is I’ve never had the courage to do it,” she said. “But Barbara and Steve had me on the play bill when I got back from L.A. — she just believed in me so much,” Deering said. “So I figured I’d give it a shot.”

When asked why people should come to see her show, she said, “Don’t come because you’ll be grossly disappointed watching me humiliate myself.”

The show will run at 7:30 p.m. March 28 and 29 and at 3 p.m. March 30 at HART. The show may be held over to the next weekend. For tickets, call 456-6322 or visit