Wix Wichmann's father is a city attorney. His grandfather was a mayor. His uncle was a circuit court judge. His sisters are both attorneys.
Wix Wichmann is a comedian. "I'm the black sheep of the family," he says with a chuckle.
It wasn't always this way. Beginning in 1994, Wix worked his way up from an intern job in the mailroom at Sony Music Nashville deliriously happy to be getting six free CDs a month to a highly coveted spot as a regional promotion manager working with one of the label's most successful acts, the Dixie Chicks. Then, in September 2001, around the time of his 30th birthday and the attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington, D.C., Wix was what's the word? Downsized.
By that time, he was already following his inclination into standup comedy. "I'm blessed with the gene of being a fun drunk," he explains. "People would always come up to me and say, Do you do standup?'" Finally, he began taking the suggestion seriously. Profoundly influenced by the groundbreaking work of legendary comics like Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks, Wix had made his own comedy debut at the Red Lion club in Chicago on Feb. 24, 1999. "I'd given it all this great thought, but you've just gotta jump up there and lose your virginity," he remembers. "Your heart beats out of your chest, but you can't find anything better than the high you get coming offstage."
In fact, Wix had gotten himself transferred from Nashville to Chicago to take advantage of the latter city's thriving comedy scene which he did, practicing his craft at open-mic nights and studying at the prestigious Second City, the institution that produced the likes of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. He was a hit that first night at the Red Lion, and never looked back.
Three weeks after Sony informed Wix that his services would no longer be required, fate stepped in. His pals Eddie and Troy from the superstar country duo Montgomery Gentry called to suggest that he join them as liaison for their sponsorship deal with Jim Beam bourbon and, more crucially for Wix's future, to warm up their audiences with a few minutes of comedy.
Wix jumped at the chance. "It was a tradeoff that worked for both of us plus I love to drink," laughs Wix. "I'm lucky as hell, because when I got let go at Sony it was kind of a sucker punch. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be the best."
Between the newfound employment and the free Jim Beam, Wix was lucky indeed but now he had to earn that lucky break every day as both a businessman and an entertainer. Talk about a baptism by fire: every night, Wix was thrust onstage in front of thousands of rowdy Montgomery Gentry fans eager to hear their heroes' potent brand of Southern-rockin' country. He thrived in this new environment, and parlayed his success into a gig warming up audiences for the hit TV talent show Nashville Star (and enjoys an expanded role with the series during the upcoming fourth season). Wix himself became a regional finalist in the NBC TV competition Last Comic Standing in 2004.
Now, Wix has come full circle from working behind the spotlight to stepping fully into it with the release of the CD and DVD package I'll Quit When Willie Quits. Recorded last November at Zanie's comedy club in Nashville, the album finally presents the world with Wix's comic perspective, one born of his "typical suburbia" upbringing in Northern Kentucky, informed by his early aspirations (he planned to be a priest, then a guitar player) and forged in the heat of his intimate dealings with the recording industry. "Travis Tritt used to say that in the music business, you've got to carry a guitar in one hand and a briefcase in the other," says Wix. "Being around artists and in the record business for 10 years, it's amazing, the things I've seen that other people aren't privy to. I think that helps."
Now that he has seized the microphone, Wix hopes to create work that lasts, like his heroes Pryor, Hicks, Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, among others did before him. "If you listen to a Bill Hicks record, it's as fresh today as the day it came out," he observes. "That's a goal for me as a comic, to have material that's going to be around for a while."
But, like those comedy legends in whose footsteps he hopes to walk, Wix Wichmann is not just out to make you laugh. He hopes to make you think as well. "You can be funny and walk away, but I think ultimately you want to influence people's perspectives," he says. "Hopefully, I can make people think twice about racism, homophobia and a lot of other things. If I can influence somebody not to be so judgmental, that would be the ultimate goal." Not bad for the black sheep of the family.