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Chris Womack, JMU kinesiology professor, takes the stage to perform stand-up comedy in the community alongside his wife and fellow comedian, Dawn Davis Womack.

Kinesiology professor Chris Womack spends his days teaching at JMU and his nights in front of a different audience — as a stand-up comedian. 

Womack’s wife, Dawn Davis Womack, started X2 Comedy in March 2018 — a clean comedy pop-up club spreading laughter throughout Harrisonburg and Rockingham. After a few years cut short due to COVID-19, X2 Comedy will be back in full swing this year.

Dawn, a podcaster, actress and producer, began her stand-up career in 2016. After finding work “everywhere but here” and noticing a lack of comedy acts in Harrisonburg, Dawn decided to create X2 Comedy and grow the local scene herself. X2 Comedy partners with businesses and organizations for events and features stand-up, comedic skits, monologues and pageants.

After a few years of success and surviving the pandemic, X2 Comedy introduced a new stand-up comedian last May: Chris Womack made the jump to get on stage and tell some jokes after a lifelong love of comedy.

“[I’ve been into comedy] since I was a kid,” Chris said. “I had almost as many comedy albums as a kid as I had rock ‘n’ roll albums.”

Chris came to Harrisonburg in 2006 after taking a faculty position in the kinesiology department. He credits some of his on-stage success to his long-time career of lecturing, and he said stand-up comedy has allowed him to feel more relaxed in the classroom and be more flexible with his students.

“You’re in front of a crowd of non-receptive people sometimes,” Chris said. “I’ve only used humor in the classroom to loosen things up and stuff, so that helps immensely … You just vibe with a crowd [on stage, and] I started just bringing the same approach to the classroom.”

Chris said he’s had a number of his own students come out to see his and the other comics’ performances, though he and Dawn hope to see a broader student audience.

“The word needs to get out so when we do run into the JMU community, they’re like, ‘Oh wait … there’s a professor that does comedy?’” Dawn said. “Once the word gets to JMU, they’ll probably take over Court Square Theater where we do a lot of our shows [and see] the funny JMU professor.”

The Womacks said they enjoy laughing and learning from popular comedians like Richard Pryor, John Mulaney and Lachlan Patterson. 

Patterson headlined an X2 Comedy performance live at Harrisonburg’s own Melrose Caverns. While Chris hosted the show, Dawn opened for Patterson. At the same event, there was live music, activities provided by local axe throwing business Beards & Broads and a full food and beverage garden — “a comedy-music-axe throwing festival,” Dawn said. The Womacks have already planned next year’s “Cave Fest” for July 15-16, 2023.

Other exciting upcoming performances include a comedy pageant with stand-up acts, improv troupes and comedic monologues live on Oct. 8 at Court Square Theater. New & Improv.’d, JMU’s student improv troupe, is expected to perform.

Lucien Anderson, a senior geology major and member of the group, said the group is excited and grateful for the chance to work with X2 Comedy. 

Dawn often provides New & Improv.’d with a variety of opportunities.

“Sometimes she’ll wrap us in and have us be a part of the events — whether we’re an opener or something along those lines — just to kind of get the crowd going and add a little bit of goofiness and humor into any event they put on,” Anderson said. “It’s really cool to have a JMU professor do stand-up … We are always really appreciative to be able to work with them.”

The Womacks’ presence in the JMU comedy community has brought a fun- and laughter-filled environment to Harrisonburg. They said they’ll be hosting comedy classes at Hotel Madison later this fall, always seeking out talent in the area.

“We don’t put anybody up there that’s not funny,” Dawn said, “including ourselves.” 

Michael Russo contributed to this report.

Contact Tag Hilliard at hilliatm@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.