By Donna Cornelius
Her real name is Cassandra King. But she’s better known by another name by her many friends and fans who have ridden her party bus, watched her TV show and gotten dining tips from her video blogs.
She’s Comedienne Joy – and she has her finger in quite a few pies.
Joy, as she likes to be called, appears on WABM TV every Saturday at 11 a.m. As the host of “Dining out With Comedienne Joy,” she tells viewers about her favorite restaurants. She has a video blog with food-centered features. Her always-hopping bus tours, Birmingham Eat Drink Ride, take riders to some of her favorite spots.
If her schedule wasn’t full enough, the self-described “Queen of Clean” serves up more fun with her comedy shows, mostly for churches and corporate events.
A native of Mobile, Joy also has lived in Montgomery, where she attended Alabama State University and then graduated from Auburn University at Montgomery.
“I worked in Fort Myers, Florida, for the CBS affiliate there,” Joy said. “But I missed my family.”
She returned to her home state to take a job with CBS 42 in Birmingham.
“About five years ago, I got involved in food when I was on the radio with Joe Lockett at WYDE,” Joy said.
She said that when the show expanded from one hour to two hours, she added food segments to help fill the time.
“I’d read about Birmingham food and would always see the same names mentioned,” Joy said. “I wanted to highlight others and to find new places to eat.”
She was led to her next venture after doing a food segment from a party bus.
“I knew I needed my own bus, and Tony’s Hot Dogs sponsored it,” she said. “Our bus has a pole – people just love to spin around on it – and bench seating. I use our TV to put up photos of birthday honorees and for marketing.”
Many of her tours are centered on birthday celebrations and girls’ night out groups.
“Guys will come – but they’re typically dragged on by the ladies,” she said, laughing.
The usual schedule is to go to five different places, where riders sample small plates and a variety of food.
“The tours cover metro Birmingham, from Leeds to Alabaster and everywhere in between,” Joy said. “My vision is to let them experience locally owned restaurants within four hours. We might do a tour with hamburgers, Mexican food, dessert – and I try to do different experiences, like maybe going to Hotel Indigo for their smoked cocktails.”
She said the tours are for “adults who want to go out and have a good time in a safe environment.”
“You don’t have to worry about driving or parking,” she said.
You can visit her website, diningoutwithcomediennejoy.com, to buy a ticket for a tour or to schedule a private tour.
“My bus can hold 18 regular-size people, 32 super-skinny folks or nine plus sizes,” Joy said. “I can do tours any day of the week, but most are from Thursday through Sunday. I’m about to do a lunchtime tour.”
She said the lunch tours will be shorter and thus nice alternatives to a potluck Christmas party at the office.
Riders don’t know where they’ll be going when they arrive at the Grille 29 parking lot near Brookwood Village to board the bus.
“I choose the restaurants for each tour, because where we go depends on several factors – the size of the group or if the restaurant is having a catering event that night,” Joy said. “You have to trust me. I try to keep a list of who goes where so that regular riders aren’t going back to the same places.”
She said the hardest thing about her job is “the scheduling – and not gaining extra weight.”
In It for the Fun
Her career has far more positives than negatives, she said.
“The people I work with are awesome,” Joy said. “I’m always sad when I hear that a restaurant closed. And I love it when people tell me they can’t wait to ride the party bus again for their birthday. Or when they say, ‘I can’t wait to go back to that restaurant we visited,’ that’s an even bigger high.”
One regular rider is Coco Burton, who said she’s been on six of Joy’s tours.
“I moved to Birmingham from Montgomery, so I didn’t know where a whole lot of the restaurants were,” Burton said. “I read about the tours on Facebook and Eventbrite. I went on a tour for my birthday, and it was really, really fun.”
Thanks to Joy, Burton has discovered new places to eat. Although she lives in the U.S. Highway 280 area, she’d never visited Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar at The Summit until it was a stop on a tour she signed up for.
“Joy likes the element of surprise,” Burton said. “She’s a great host and full of energy. That’s what makes it fun.”
Jason Booi, another rider, also said Joy’s personality is a highlight of the tours.
“She is super friendly,” Booi said. “If you’re by yourself, she introduces you to other people so you don’t feel like strangers.”
His first ride on the party bus was at a friend’s invitation.
“I’m from Aruba, and we have something similar there, and I’d heard these party buses were fun,” said Booi, who lives in the Homewood area. “I’ve lived in Birmingham since 2006, but I hadn’t been to any of the places on the tour except for our last stop. We had pizza, steak and went to a winery and a brewery in Alabaster, which I didn’t even know existed.”
The final stop was a place he was familiar with – Western Market in Mountain Brook – but the tour experience there was very different from grocery shopping.
“It was National Beef Month, and we got to go inside the freezer and see the process of how the beef reaches the shelves,” Booi said.
While Joy wears several different hats, a chef’s toque isn’t among them. She frankly said she doesn’t like to cook.
“Do you know how many friends I have? I eat plenty of their leftovers,” she said. “I always go home to Mobile for Thanksgiving, and we all bring food – but I order something from one of my restaurants, like a sweet potato pie from JaWanda’s Bakery in Hoover and a banana cream pie from Johnny Ray’s BBQ.”
Her favorite food? She doesn’t have to think twice: fried chicken. Among Birmingham restaurants, she thinks Yo’ Mama’s has the best fried chicken wings and Five Bar has the best fried whole chicken pieces.
Joy said she has three rules for the party bus.
“First, you’ve got to have a good time,” she said. “If you’re going to be stuffy and boring, I give you an opportunity to get off. Also, you can’t waste alcohol – somebody has to consume it.”
Her most important rule, she said, is No. 3.
“What happens on the party bus stays on the party bus,” Joy said.
To find out more about Eat Drink Ride and about Comedienne Joy, call 482-6999, follow her on social media, or visit diningoutwithcomediennejoy.com. Look for information about special holiday season tours and about gift certificates on the website.