Christian Comic -- A Prophet's Voice?

Apr 12, 2003 05:08 PM EDT

"A comedian's job is to say what everybody else is thinking but no one is saying; there is a prophetic role in that they are truth-tellers.” The well-known Christian comic Thor Ramsey said after his performance at the Vineyard Church in Anaheim, Ca. Ramsey is among the new wave of Christian comedians that is sweeping through America.

"For years the idea of 'Christian comedy' was literally a joke," says Mark Anderson, a Christian and part owner of The Improv comedy clubs in Dallas, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. "Christians were viewed as overly somber people with no joy in their lives."

That perception has slowly begun to change. Christian comics take their stand in mainstream openings as audiences begin to react against vulgar, secular humor.

The sold-out monthly Gospel Komedy Slamm at the large Los Angeles church's theater is evidence of this rising wave; The West Palm Beach Improv in West Palm Beach, Fla. Also runs a sell-out Christian night.

Christian comedy has shown unprecedented growth in the last several years. Five years ago, there were only handful of Christian acts including those of Mark Lowry and Chonda Pierce. Many more emerge onto the stage with rollicking repartee to personal testimony, even acts on altar calls.

Clean Comedians is a loosely knit organization of comics, ventriloquists, humorists and impressionists that books corporate meetings, school programs, private parties and other non-church events. "The core of my vision is to be salt and light in a secular arena," says president Adam Christing.

"People say, 'Why do you keep it clean?' and that gives us a chance to give our testimony. Comedy always has a balloon to pop. We want to make sure it is delivered in a spirit of fun. Jesus never attacked an individual."

Born out of an e-mail list started in 1992 by Mike Williams, a Florida-based church comedian and former writer for comic Carrot Top, the Christian Comedy Coalition now has 80 members.

Meanwhile, the Trinity Broadcasting Network has hooked up with impressionist Phil Snyder for a pilot featuring Christian comedy acts, and another show on the network regularly features pastor-turned-comic Dennis Swanberg.

Sherri Shepherd, who plays Ramona on the ABC sitcom "Less Than Perfect," started in secular clubs long before she became a Christian, but will now she says she will "talk about my journey as a Christian and make it funny," when she performs. By avoiding Christianese "a lot of times I find ways to get God in, and they do not know they are getting the gospel."

By Pauline J.