David Fee and Jim Hedrick have been friends and business partners for over three decades. The duo first met in 1980 at Magic World in Pigeon Forge, TN. From Tennessee, they headed to New York and juggled in the streets for tips while auditioning for various shows. While in New York, they performed at the Village Gate Theater, as well as road shows in New York and Connecticut.
When the snow starting falling in New York, the two moved to Las Vegas and were guest performers at the Sahara Hotel and Casino.
In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee, which was the perfect venue for David Fee to perform his Houdini-style escapes. Afterwards, both Fee and Hedrick traveled across the nation executing magic and thrill escapes. They perfected the upside down straightjacket escape while the suspension rope burned, performed the table of death, and Fee was even buried alive for 48 hours to raise money for St. Jude’s hospital.
During the next decade, the duo amazed the guests of Carnival Cruise Lines where Fee was Senior Cruise Director.
In 1995, the two chose to settle down on dry ground and start their own families. They decided the Great Smoky Mountains was the place to be. It was there that they found the former Archie Campbell’s Hee Haw Theater, which had recently closed and was available. It was here the team first opened The Comedy Barn Theater.
The original Hee Haw Theater was in the shape of a barn, which is how Fee and Hedrick came up with the unique name “The Comedy Barn Theater.” On April 28th, 1995, the Comedy Barn held its very first show. It was a success right from the start. Hedrick remarked, “I knew we had a winner when I came across a couple in Gatlinburg. I recognized them from the show. They had been sitting in the audience three nights in a row. As we were chatting, the man took me aside and told me that his wife had suffered a stroke two years before, and her visit to our theater was the first time she had laughed since the stroke.”
That first year, the Comedy Barn troupe performed for sold out -- or nearly sold out -- houses every night . Due to the phenomenal response from the guests, in 1996, Fee and Hedrick took a leap of faith by beginning construction on a brand new state-of-the-art theater.
Fee and Hedrick were a little apprehensive at first, wondering if a clean comedy venue would be embraced by the public. The local residents as well as the tourists soon put their minds at ease with their overwhelming support.
Now The Comedy Barn Theater is celebrating its 20th anniversary, having performed over 9,000 shows for over 5 million guests.