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Cledus T. Judd is ready for his first stage dive. He stands on the lip of the stage inside Nashville's 12th & Porter nightclub, preparing to leap into the crowd.
"I need the big boys up here!" warns Cledus, confronted with a group of spindly, male-model types. "I'm gonna come off this stage backward as hard as I can, and y'all just catch me!"
A representative from Cledus' record label voices concern: Is this safe? But Cledus isn't worried. He shakes his head determinedly. "Let's shoot it!" he shouts.
The cameras roll, the music pumps, Cledus makes a spirited leap into the crowd and ... they catch him - and jubilantly hold him high in the air. When he finally comes down, there are whoops and high-fives all around.
The occasion is the filming of his new video, "Plowboy." The song is a parody of rap-rocker Kid Rock's hit "Cowboy."
"It's unlike any video I've ever done," he says. "We've got 60 scantily clad men and women in a big mosh pit, and I'm running around in a fur coat in 95-degree weather, pretending to be a Kid Rock wannabe."
The sight of all those scantily clad women, their skin glistening with sweat in the sweltering heat, isn't lost on Cledus. "I'll put it like this: Right now, I'm not missing my hairdressing days at all," chuckles the country funnyman, who snipped hair for a living before comedy success found him. "If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be doing something like this, I wouldn't have believed you."
Cledus also probably didn't imagine that one day he'd be the emcee for Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show, 2001's top-grossing country tour to date - but he recently finished doing just that. He's also readying a new album, Juddweiser: King Of Jeers, which Cledus promises will parody songs by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Billy Gilman, Phil Vassar and others.
But for now, it's time to get back to the stage, where some heavy-duty fireworks are about to go off. "This is gonna be just like Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercial," frets Cledus, afraid his hair will go up in flames like the pop star's did years ago.
But Cledus shrugs off the danger. "I just hope the record blows up as big as the stage is going to," he laughs. "Besides, I'll get out of here before it burns me up, I promise!"
- Chris Neal