An interview with Christian Comedian Bob Smiley.
How did you come to know the Lord?
My parents were Christians…in fact, my entire family is Christians…even the ones in prison. And they say prison ministry doesn’t work. Anyway, my parents were great about not making their faith my faith. So they took me to church but didn’t really force me to dive in. They weren’t they way with school by the way. But my parents wanted me to make a decision to follow God because I wanted to. So I grew up always knowing about the Lord….just like I always knew coconut wasn’t really supposed to be consumed. You chew on that stuff for days. But when I really came to follow the Lord was around Junior high/ early high school when I realized that the God was very real and the Bible made sense. I knew it to be true. I’d seen God work in my life and knew He needed to be Lord of my life. All though He never really helped me with my homework.
What made you turn to comedy?
In 2nd grade, this kid named Elliot was at the chalk board. I’ll pause while the youth of today look up what a chalk board is. Ok. That should be long enough. He was trying to solve a math problem. 5 birthday candles plus 2 birthday candles is how many? He couldn’t get it. The teacher asked if anyone could help him and I raised my hand. I went up there and said, “It’s easy, you have 5 birthday candles and then you just add 2 more birthday candles making 7 birthday candles. Come on, Elliot (Prepare for cheesy 2nd grade humor) It’s a Piece of CAKE!” The crowd didn’t laugh. None of the kids got it. But my teacher giggled a bit. After class the teacher stopped me and said, “Bobby, thanks for the cake joke. I was having a bad day and that cheered me up.” I still remember that moment as I stood there realizing that comedy was a very powerful tool. It could be used to influence people. It had the power to change people’s lives. And that’s when I decided that no matter what I did in life; comedy was going to be a big part of it.
Do you look at what you do as ministry, entertainment, or both?
It depends on which show I’m at. 90% of the shows I do are ministry. I’m telling my testimony or sharing the Gospel in some way. The other 10% are shows I do so we would have enough money to build our pool.
Does your schedule allow you any time to pursue roles or positions with your home church?
Yes…but in strange ways. There are months that I’m never home on a Sunday or Wednesday. Then I’ll hit a stretch of time where I’m home all the time and at church. Of course, the elderly keep reintroducing themselves to me as if I’m a visitor but that’s good outreach so I’m fine with that. But when I’m home, I’m very active in my church doing announcements or serving on the communion table or leading a prayer or teaching a class. We actually just changed churches but at my old church we had a great lady that did videos and I would shoot a lot of videos for the church service so that even when I wasn’t there, I was still active. The new church, I think, has just purchased a VCR so I’m not sure they do a lot of videos yet. But being active in church is a great way to keep up your spiritual act of worship. Its keeps your fire going.
Is it true that you graduated with a degree in elementary education?
Yes…barely. But I have the student loans to prove that I went all 5 years!
Do you use your educational background in any venture or ministry that you are a part of?
During my show I fight the urge to say, “Now class, settle down.” Other than that, I don’t really use my elementary education degree when I’m doing stand up. I rarely read Dr. Seuss from the stage. I once taught an Elder’s class at my church and I used some of my elementary ed. to keep them intrigued. We did flannel graphs.
Where does your material come?
Everyday stuff. If anyone follows me on twitter, they know I see about 20 funny things a day. There’s material all around us.
Have you ever experiences comedian’s block (writer’s block for comedians)?
Not really. I have a ton of material to pick from now so I’m not feeling a huge pressure to write a bunch of great comedy all the time. And because of that, I’m actually writing more comedy than ever. I think it’s because of the lack of pressure that I feel that allows to me write more. That doesn’t make sense as I’m reading it but basically, if I don’t feel like everything I write has to be great right away then I end up writing more stuff that later turns into great bits. That still doesn’t seem to make sense. Man…this is so hard to write an answer to this question. I just…I just can’t think of what to say here. I’m totally stumped.
When you have an event, is it all pre-written or do you do improvisational comedy as well?
Yes. I go on stage knowing I want to tell a few certain stories. But I also know my mind is going to wander around and talk about other things and I let it. So you get both when you see me.
Who have you been most blessed to be on stage with?
I would have to say every band I’ve toured with that is reading this interview was amazing! But if I have to narrow it down….When Peter Furler and Phil Joel were still with the Newsboys, they were my favorite band to tour with. They were funny, crazy and dedicated to God. Plus their show never got old. There was a point where I saw them sing “Take Me To Your Leader” 103 times in one year and I never got tired of it…maybe it was because I was listening to other stuff on my Ipod. But they were a great band. I also loved doing shows with the OC Supertones….for the same reasons. And I definitely can’t leave out Third Day mostly because I know Mac Powell will read this.
Is there anyone you’ve yet to tour with you’d like to?
Electric Mayhem (the band from the muppet movies) Their drummer is amazing! Also, there’s this foriegn band from England or the UK or somewhere in a country I don’t know about because I went to public school. They are called “U2” and I think it’d be fun to tour with them for a bit. Other than that, I’ve been real fortunate to have toured with all the bands I wanted to. Toby Mac, Audio A, Jeremy Camp…all of these guys and more were people I wanted to tour with and got my chance. And I’d do it again. Seriously, Jeremy, stop blocking my calls and do the Christian thing!
Do you have any advice for those looking to get into Christian comedy?
Do it! Just get up on stage and try it. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go well right away and don’t quit just because you have one bad show. That’s going to happen. I just opened for Toby Keith…a country singer for those of you who have good music taste and don’t know a lot about country music. (That’s just a joke! If you love country music, please don’t find someone who knows how to write and get them to send me a hate letter). Anyway, I’ve been doing this for 14 years and when I opened for Toby Keith, it was in front of 45,000 drunk cowboys. It did not go well. But the next night, I opened for Travis Tritt (another country singer) and it rocked! So you have to just keep working at it and If God wants you to do it, then you will make it.
Why do you think traditional comedians focus on vulgarity & profanity?
Because it’s so easy, and writing good clean comedy takes a lot of work. Saying something shocking or dirty is so easy and it usually gets a laugh. Especially in comedy clubs or Baptist conventions where people have been drinking a lot. (again…just a joke, Baptist!) But seriously, which is a word I rarely write, it’s so easy to write dirty material. In fact, I’m surprised that there’s not more secular comics in the world because it’s that easy. It was either Seinfeld or Cosby that said, “When I see a comic start getting really dirty, I know he’s out of ideas and is taking the easy path.”
Do you have any other ventures you are currently a part of?
I mow my lawn once a week. I also have been writing humor articles for magazines for the last 10 years. 5 years ago I started writing a column for Clubhouse magazine (a magazine for Junior High kids). The column is called “The Adventures of Average Boy”. Average Boy is basically me, but as a modern day junior high kid. So there’s tons of funny stories that, in the end, helps kids learn how to deal with life at that age. In fact, Average Boy was getting so much fan mail sent to Focus on the Family (the company that puts the magazine out) that 2 years ago they had me write “Growing Up Super Average” which is a comedy/devotional book about the same character. The book actually has sold over 10,000 copies so this year they released it in Spanish…which is funny because when I was in school, I did not do well in Spanish 1 or in Spanish 2 (both times I took it).
Would you ever consider making a Christian / family comedy movie?
If it was the right script and had a good message, I’d do it. I’m not really interested in movies or TV. Mostly because I don’t watch either. I use my TV to stack books I’m reading on. I kind of just like doing stand up shows. Plus I’d have to get in better shape if I was in a movie because all movies have that part where the guy rips his shirt off and I don’t think anyone wants to see that right now…especially not in HD.
What’s the greatest reward in what you do?
The emails or comments I get. I’ve talked people out of suicide. I’ve helped parents and kids communicate better. Youtube has helped me be there for kids that are living in a horrible family life and just want to escape and laugh for a few minutes. All those stories I hear about or am involved with is the best part of what I do. Second on the list is all the free hotel shampoo bottles I get! If I ever start using shampoo, I’m set for life!
Tell us a little bit about your family.
I have 3 tax deductions…all boys. Colter is 9, Trent is 7 and Zander is 5 and my wife is a smoking hot Christian girl.
What do you do to keep your marriage strong & to protect your family from immoral influences?
My wife and I have amazing communication. She listens to me for hours. 🙂 Seriously (there’s that word again I rarely use), we talk. I think a lot of couples have problems because they stop talking to each other and start playing the roles of parents or adults caught up in the rat race. But my wife and I are dedicated to each other. We still date. We still make out all the time. Yes…our preacher says it distracts from his sermons but I don’t think he’s reading his crowd right. My priorities in life are to honor God, be a great husband, be a great dad and then be a comedian. And in that order. Everything else that takes up my time are things that help me be better at the above list. So my wife and I stay strong by staying in love. As for my kids, we do daily Bible devotions. We eat together. Even when I’m on the road, Ichat has allowed me to still be with them at the table. To read to them at night. We all pray together. Basically, spending time with each other honoring God is the best way to gear up for any attack that is on its way.For more information on Bob Smiley go to www.bobsmiley.com