Subjective Christianity

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The benefits to being self-employed are obvious at first glance.  You can set your own hours, pay yourself what you are worth, hire or fire whom you please or simply work by yourself.  But a successful entrepreneur must balance two important factors.  They are staying true to yourself while building your customer base by giving them what they need, and by extension pleasing them in the process.

I wish that stand-up comedy was like this in all the aspects I just mentioned, but it isn’t.  The hours aren’t the greatest at times, and sometimes you will have to take a real job or two in order to get your expenses met for the month, and maybe have something left over.

When you start out doing open mics and that’s the majority of the shows you do, there aren’t a lot of the headaches you have to worry about like most self starters trying to run a business, since there are usually no paychecks coming in and the expenses keep piling on.  But the one thing comics have in common with entrepreneurs is they identify their target audience while targeting their products (material) to them.

When it comes to Christian comedy, it can be problematic or a welcoming challenge, depending on how you look at it.  At the end of the day, the comics job is to get laughs however they see fit.  Comedians can say what they want, when they want and through whatever medium they want (parody, character or regular stand-up).  Comics can be jerks on stage but if they structure their act properly they will get the laughs.  Business owners don’t have that luxury to be jerks to their customers and be successful.

Attending Faith Alive has taught me many valuable lessons over these last two years.  In many a sermon, our pastor will reference how some Christians think or feel about what their Christianity should look like.  In many of those instances they fit Christianity into a box, thereby restricting the true freedom that comes from really understanding for what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m far from perfect.  I’d love to sit here and tell you that I’ve got this Christian thing figured out.  But the truth is that I don’t.  I have been baptised but I do not feel that my faith is anywhere close to where it could and should be.  Life has kicked me around enough these past several months.  Lately, the only time I pray is for the young lady I asked out from my church, asking God to grant her wisdom and strength to make it through her day as she pursues her education.  I have faith things will turn around because they have to, right?  It’s not like somebody with my ability will stay unemployed for the rest of their life.  I just don’t have the strength to pray and praise God for it.  I hope this cloud of darkness, hurt, disappointment and low feeling of self-worth can be lifted off of me soon in order to support myself once again.  I feel like I’m just running on auto pilot lately while attending church.  That isn’t the place I want to be, not if I want to be an attractive option to an employer or to somebody for a relationship.

Having said all that, if you ask ten different Christians what they believe Christianity to be, you will get ten different answers.  The same holds true for Christian comedy, as I am finding out.

I started cleaning up my act after the embarrassment I felt when one of the mothers at Faith Alive said she knew I did comedy and saw some of my act on video.  Instantly I knew the material she watched at that point wasn’t the cleanest, nor did it help paint me in a positive light whatsoever.  Also, if I’m attending a church for two years, and people know I do comedy, I wouldn’t want people at church coming up to me and telling me they disapprove of my material because of its content.

Some may look at me doing Christian comedy as a cop out, or maybe just pandering to the church crowd so I will be liked.  That’s a fair statement to make, but one that falls short of its mark.  I look at this new chapter in my comedy career as being held accountable by the church body.  Plus, there isn’t anybody in the province that I’m aware of who does Christian comedy so this is a market I am trying to break into and maybe, with a little luck, monopolize.

I would like to tell you that I have the Christian material figured out, as far as the direction I will take it or the point of view or theme I am trying to get across.  But in reality, it’s still very much a work in progress, although it’s one that only gets done in front of non-saved audiences.  I am doing this blindly and somewhat on-the-fly.  Until I get come Christians to come out to a show (good luck with that one) or record every set for them to listen to, it will be ever evolving.

I mean, really, in the end what do I do?  How do I accomplish this?  What is my end game here?

I have a few bits that I currently do about me and church that fall in line with my regular material about being awkward and not getting it right or fitting in.  There are about ten pages of material I have that are at the crux of what I wanted my Christian material to look like in the first place.  But I haven’t really dived into it because I simply haven’t been motivated enough to edit what I have.  It’s me being lazy and that’s true.  But creative types sometimes suffer from the blues or periods of time where they simply don’t care.

These ten pages have stories and characters from the scriptures with compelling stories.  They remove me completely from the equation whereby I simply hold these stories up against the world in 2019 and offer my opinion on them.

In the meantime though, how do I work through this?  Should I read Jim Gaffigan’s interviews and see what he says about how he approaches Christian comedy?  Do I need to watch YouTube videos of every Christian comic and try to follow their patterns of using their material to glorify God in the end?  I mentioned before that someone once told Gaffigan that his material wasn’t an accurate reflection of the scriptures and he replied by saying I’m a comedian, of course it won’t be completely accurate (as comedians rely on exaggeration as part of the story telling).

Or maybe I just need to tune out all the chatter around me and focus on what I feel is right.  When you tell people you are a Christian comic or doing Christian material, people automatically have assumptions about who you are and what you’ll talk about.  They also wonder how you can make it funny.  Therein lies the challenge.

These ten pages could constitute a half-hour of Christian material, which is my goal.  I would like to have a half-hour set in my back pocket of straight Christian material where every bit is about God, Christians, Jesus or of the scriptures.  It’s a tall order and will take more time to craft and hone than my regular material because I feel a responsibility to find a way to make Christian material funny in my own way.  It has to be accurate.  It has to be funny, and the stories have to be compelling.

Can I just do material from the Bible without glorifying God?  Do I do material treating God & Jesus like they are authority figures that need to be knocked down a peg?  (this is referred to as attacking up, setting our sights on people who are better than, or above us in terms of stature or responsibility).

I get introduced at one particular open mic as Saskatoon’s only Christian comedian.  That still makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, like I have something that I have to live up to when I get to the mic.  Then again, for a guy who has always tried to break new ground and push the envelope at times with the decisions I make, maybe this is the right place for me to be.

I do know one thing for sure.  I won’t lobby for spots at the professional club in Saskatoon (at the ParkTown Hotel) or enter any competitions just yet.  That won’t happen until 2020.  The Christian material I have in the aforementioned ten pages will blow what I have done now, out of the water.  The stories are fresh, compelling and in some cases are maybe ones non-saved audiences haven’t heard before.  It was my goal when I started this Christian comedy thing to talk about Christians, God, Jesus and the bible, and make it funny.  Somebody will walk away from my set talking about my Christian material.  It might lead them to open up a bible and read parts of what I talked about as a point of reference.  It might lead somebody to Christ, or church.  It might cause them to check out Faith Alive.  Somebody might ask me at a show to pray with them and help them accept Jesus into their life.  Is that a stretch?  How do you know?

I said that I started comedy originally because I knew that I already had the ability within me (gifts from God) to be able to do comedy.  I’ve gone through lots of garbage to get somewhat good and find a level of consistency with my act.  Wouldn’t it be crazy if my Christian material got noticed and thrown into the mix for a comedy competition where people from across Canada had to vote on it?

This is still very much a work in progress with no ending in sight.  But I do have a penchant for big moments that defy common sense or logic.  There will be a big stage for me to perform Christian material.

I don’t know where.

I don’t know when.

I don’t know what the material will look like.

But I guarantee you it will make an impact.  Just wait and see.

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