Archive for the 'Clean Comedy' Category

Apr 26 2013

Do Not Bend

The Internet has made nearly every job on Earth easier. Except mine. Connecting the world through instantaneous communication is all well and good, but it makes it really difficult to tell someone a joke they’ve never heard before.

Some well-meaning clean comedian will come up with a wry observation on, say, breakfast cereals. The punch line hardly has a chance to leave his pen before it’s being forwarded to half the country. I’m not sure how the joke gets out, but I believe it’s absorbed into an e-mail through osmosis. By the time the comedian actually gets onstage to tell his joke, all your relatives have sent it to you multiple times, claiming it’s a legitimate discovery by the Breakfast Council of America and that if you don’t forward it on, you don’t love Jesus. Or kittens.

Fortunately, much of my material comes from my own life experiences, so it tends not to be as susceptible to this phenomenon as more general observations. But still, the Internet is a big place, and sometimes even life experiences aren’t unique.

Case-in-point: The other day, I went to get the mail, and wedged into the mail slot was an enormous brown envelope with the words “Do Not Bend” printed across it in big, authoritative letters. And of course, there’s a giant bend, right down the middle.

It occurs to me there might be a joke there somewhere. It’s not exactly comedy gold, but a comedian learns to look at everything as potential material. So I’m picturing some rogue postal worker who plays by his own rules, refusing to be bound by the tyrannies of mail delivery etiquette. No mere letter is going to tell HIM what to do! I file the joke away to work on later.

The next day I’m browsing Twitter when I come across a post by a friend, another clean comedian like myself. It’s a picture of a big brown envelope, virtually identical to the one I got, unceremoniously bent down the middle and wedged into HIS mail slot. With a quip about a Postal Workers’ Rebellion, subverting the system one bent letter at a time.

Thirty years ago, my friend and I could have toured with our respective jokes and hardly anyone would have noticed. But today, his joke is already being retweeted to thousands of followers while mine sits unfinished in the back of my mind. Guess it’s back to the drawing board….

Blessings,
Jeff

No responses yet

Dec 19 2012

Is There Paper In Heaven?

My Life As A Bystander Cover

An inspirational story from Jeff’s book, My Life As A Bystander that has particular relevance given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

I once read that the ultimate sign of love and respect is to listen to another human being.  I love my children and respect them.  They know they’re in my act and love hearing the stories I tell about them.  But years ago I made another one of my mental notes that I was going to listen, really listen, to them.

Like a lot of things in life, that is a lot easier said than done.  If you hung on every word your three-year-old said, your head would literally explode by noon.  In my case, that might not be too large of an explosion; but I’m sure you might have a lot more brains left in your head than I do.

A nice balance needs to be achieved.  It is important to listen to our kids, but if we allow them to blather on endlessly without ever being checked, they can keep us from getting our work done and putting food on the table, and they can also begin to believe that the universe really does revolve around them, and them alone.  In other words, children need to learn manners.

I once read an article about parenting that said teaching children manners is abusive, because it goes against their basic “nature.”  Can you believe that?  What does this writer feel the act of unleashing rude and obnoxious children on an unsuspecting world is?  And merely teaching a child the words, “Excuse me,” isn’t a panacea either.  On the surface, it’s polite, but sometimes kids feel the words “Excuse me” gives them a right to interrupt as often as they please. After about the nine hundredth “Excuse me,” it might be time for us parents to rethink our strategy on this.

Whenever my sons interupt me with an “Excuse me,” I always gave them the stock parental answer, “In a minute,”  This only works after they actually know what minute is over.  My son, Aaron, and I once had a twenty minute conversation while I was on the telephone, covering the receiver and asking him to give me a minute to finish my conversation.

“Excuse me, Dad,” he said.

“In a minute, son.  I’m on phone.”

“Is it a minute yet?”

“No.”

“Is it now?”

“No.”

“Now?”

“No.”

This went on and on until it finally hit me.  The kid has no idea what a minute is!           Aren’t epiphanies wonderful?

Ignoring a child’s prattling isn’t the answer either.

Not long ago, I was at a mall with my wife and our three-year-old.  Trying to keep up with the latest parental technology, our son was on a leash that my wife had attached to her belt loop.  That’s right.  My wife had actually paid good money for one of those things.  Actually, I kind of like the idea of a leash, and as I see it, there is nothing wrong with it if you are just walking through the mall.  The kid just kind of flops around behind you like a long board behind a downed surfer.  As long as we were in motion, everything was fine.  The problems began when we stopped in the middle of the mall to briefly converse about which store to visit next.

Jeff Allen with wife, TamiAs we were talking, our little one began to wrap himself around his mother’s leg.  Eventually, he ran out of leash, and like a dog that’s wrapped himself around a tree, he couldn’t figure out how to turn around and go back the other way.  Now, literally pinned to his mother’s thigh, the lad began to chant the chant.  We all know what “the chant” is, don’t we?  We’ve heard it a thousand times in malls, grocery stores, and restaurants all over the globe.  “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, ma, ma, ma, ma, mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy…”

I believe you get the point.  In case you didn’t, feel free to throw in a few dozen more mommies for your own reference.  The chant is relentless.  The words never change, but like an old campfire song, the verses can go on forever. What my wife failed to recognize that day is that there is not a three-year-old alive who will say to themselves, “Gee, Mom looks a little busy.  Maybe I’ll give it another minute and let her to finish what she’s doing, then we can properly focus on my request.”

Three-year-olds don’t process information like that.  Sometimes, husbands don’t either, but that’s a different chapter.  So the chanting just kept going, and through all this, my wife continued to try to hold a conversation with me. But did she honestly think I could hear her over “the chant”?  Apparently so, because her lips were moving.  Now, both of their voices just sort of blended together and this is what I heard:

“Mommy, mommy, mommy….food court….mommy, mommy….credit card limit….mommy, mommy. mommmmmmmmy.”

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this was for me.  I was beginning to get information overload.  At one point, I started vibrating, and blood began to trickle out of my ears. Thankfully, at this point some guy came to my aid and got on the public address system in the mall and announced, “Please, lady, answer your child!  Please answer your child!”

There was even a mime in the mall that came over and slapped my wife with his padded white glove.  Then he asked, “Is your name Mommy?” (I pause at this point to explain the severity of this mime’s actions.  You see, mimes are dedicated artists.  It takes a tremendous amount of angst to get them to break character.)

Even though he’s a fellow artist, I do feel that my painted little friend was way out of line when he mimed an attempt to maim my son’s mom.  So as a man, a father, and a husband, and I might add, totally against my bystander lifestyle, I went after that mime.

It was the oddest thing, too.  I started to run, but it was as if I was running against a strong wind. I was stalled, but not completely.  Then, just as I began to gain ground and was closing in on him, he somehow locked himself in a box (how do they do that!!!?).  I couldn’t see the box, of course, but I knew where the four walls were because he was showing me.  From off in the distance I could hear the Mommy chant again.  As the vibrations resumed, I  tried to climb in the box with him, hoping it was soundproof, but he wouldn’t let me in!  I thought mimes by nature were compassionate, caring human beings.  But apparently I was wrong.  One more myth destroyed.

Knowing what I had to do, I left the scene of the mime and returned to the scene of the chant.  And this is where I come to the point of my story—the importance of listening to those you love.

As Tami continued to talk over the chant, I finally stopped her in mid-sentence.

“I believe our son would like to talk to you,” I said.

Tami, looked a little annoyed at me, as if she were saying “Okay, let me show you something, Dad.”

Being the loving mother that she is, stooped down and asked the little lad what it was that he wanted to say.

He put his chant on pause for a moment, then said, “I forgot.”

With that, Tami just smiled, looked at me, and winked triumphantly. She knew this

was going to happen long before he ever said it.  Women know instinctively when a child needs to ask something important and when he is merely enjoying the melodious sound of his own voice.  It’s called “selective listening.”

Now, all parents need certain tools to raise children—patience, tolerance, love and understanding are in the basic kit, but one tool that a parent must have is selective listening.  For women, this is standard equipment in their tool box.  I had to earn my selective listening tool, and every tool in my box for that matter, the hard way.

One day not long ago, I was working in my garage, minding my own business, “pretending” to be building something.  I do this so I won’t have to go inside the house and do the chores my wife wants me to do.  In other words, I was enjoying the day in true bystander form.

My three-year-old, who happened to be sitting at my feet just chatting away about everything and nothing, not a care in the world, said something that sounded like a complete sentence.  All morning long, I had been occasionally nodding at him at regular intervals, or saying “That’s nice, son,” giving the appearance that I was listening when I really wasn’t.   To tell you the truth, my mind had drifted off to golf courses unknown.  But at one interval it drifted back just in time to hear, “And kitty was all sticky, Daddy.”

Now a sentence like that can make the hair on the back of your neck rise to attention.

Sticky kitty?  Those two words could have a myriad of meanings, so I stopped, turned around to face him, then calmly asked him to repeat the last thing he said.

“What about Kitty?” I asked

I waited for his answer.  Talk about a lesson in futility.  Children rarely listen to themselves, so asking one to hit the rewind button in his brain is like asking a border collie to program your VCR.  (They can do it, but they’re their timing is all off due to the dog years factor).  So I continued to try to help my son retrace his verbal steps and repeat his statement word for word.

“It sounded like you said, ‘sticky kitty.’  What about the sticky kitty?” I pressed.

“Sticky kitty?”

It’s the confused look on his little mug that always makes me laugh.  It’s a lot like the look a politician gets when a reporter reminds him of something he himself had said a week earlier.  Had my son been quicker on his feet, and bilingual, he would have thrown out a “No comprende, padre.”

I now have no other choice than to continue with my fatherly interrogation.

“What about Kitty?”

“I had to.” he said.

Don’t you just love that?  Everything a child does is a “had to.”   There is never any other choice.  So I delved into the matter a little further, “What did you ‘have to’ do?” I asked

“I had to pour milk all over the kitty,” he said, satisfied the inquisition would finally be over.  But I couldn’t close out the case just yet.  I was becoming far too intrigued at this point.  And besides, since Kitty was no where in sight, it was probably a good idea I get to the bottom on this.  It was hot, and Kitty’s fur could be curdling at that very moment.

I put down the hammer that I was pretending to use, and continued to pursue my line of questioning.  Now adults have been known to do stupid things for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  But small children usually have very sound reasons for everything they do.  It’s toddler logic.  You just have to keep pressing and they’ll eventually explain themselves.  So I kept pressing.

“Why did you ‘have to’ pour milk all over the kitty?”

“Because he was hot and thirsty,” he said, smiling proudly.

Satisfied he went back to working on his bench.  I, on the other hand, was still a little perplexed, and still had a few questions.

“Why did you pour the milk on kitty and not in his bowl?”

Without hesitation, he said, “Because kitty likes to lick himself.”

Now, I have to tell you, it took a few seconds for that to make sense to me.  But then, the light went on in my head.  Kitty was hot and thirsty, and he likes to lick himself. Hence, it was my son’s way of delivering the milk.  It makes sense in a three year old kinda way.

So now I’m stuck trying to figure out how, and whether or not I even should, punish logic like that ?  The cat may have wanted to punish my son, but I had to admire my kid’s resourcefulness. I did suggest to him that in the future he might want to run any new ideas about the feeding the household pets by his mother or me beforehand. He assured me that he would. Then we both went back to pretending to be busy.

I have told you all of this in order to illustrate my point, that listening to those you love is not always easy.  Sometimes you hear what you don’t want to hear.  That is why some have called “listening” the ultimate act of love.

Since that day, I have tried to work a little harder at being a good listener.  But I’m still learning.  Daily.

One afternoon, while driving this same son to one of his soccer games, I heard another one of those lines that make the hair on the back of a dad’s neck stand up.  Now, you would think that I had learned my lesson from the sticky kitty incident, but I didn’t.  I was once again visiting faraway golf ranges in my mind, and not paying much attention to his chattering away in the seat next to me, when all of a sudden I happened to hear the words “Dad” and “God” in the same sentence.  Now that will usually make a father sit up and give his child his undivided attention.  After all, you don’t know whether he’s praying to God for you, complaining to God about you, or using the Lord’s name in vain and needs correcting.  So I figured I should pay attention.

“Well, dad?” he said, awaiting my answer, to what question I didn’t have a clue.

“What was that?” I asked, hoping he’d repeat himself without my having to confess that I hadn’t heard him the first three or four times.

“Does God know what I’m going to be when I get bigger?”

Not really giving it a whole lot of thought, I said, “Yeah, son, I believe he does.  He created each one of us with a purpose.  So yes, he knows.”

My answer seemed to satisfy him.

“Okay,” he nodded.

He was quiet for a while, then…

“Dad…”

“Yes, son?”

“Is there paper in heaven?”

Again, not really knowing where he was going with this particular line of questioning, I said, “If there’s a need for paper, I’m sure God will provide it.”

“Okay.”

Ryan got pensive for a moment.  It took a while for the more laid back part of my brain to catch up with the frontal lobe and realize there was something a little deeper on his mind.  Now it was my turn to ask the next question.

“What are you thinking about, son?”

He continued to look out the window, then almost as if he were talking to the sky, he said, “I don’t know. I guess I was just wondering if someone came into my school and shot me dead, when I got to heaven would God be able to write out on paper all the things that I was going to be when I got big?”

Wow.  I need to repeat that.  Wow.  In all the conversations that I’ve had with my sons, this one continues to have the most profound effect on me.  This was around the time of the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shootings.  I’m sure my son, and every school-aged kid in America, had a lot on their minds during those dark hours.

As a rule, bystanders don’t like to think about tragic things like this in depth.  We

turn the channel on our television sets, or turn off the car radio.  In the particular case of the Jonesboro shootings, and later the Columbine shootings, I never allowed myself to empathize too much with the victims and their families.  The whole subject was too painful to even think about, so I wouldn’t allow my mind to go there.  Understand, I felt for them, but not on a deep level, not on the only level that true empathy can live—in the soul.

My wife, Tami absorbs herself in life, taking the painful right along with the good, and so she cried for days thinking what it must have been like to be a parent of one the victims.  She would ask me, as she reached for another tissue, “Can you imagine what it must be like for those parents?”

“Yeah,” I would reply, closely guarding that vulnerable side of me.  Then I’d open another piece of junk mail.  I think I thought if I ignored the painful reality of the situation, or at least shielded myself from it, it would somehow make me stronger than her.

But Ryan’s question wouldn’t let me ignore it.  Children have a way of bringing us to places that most of us don’t want to go.  While we’re trying our hardest to figure out how to properly raise them, they’re propelling us into our own maturity.  It’s almost as if God used Ryan that day to tell me that it was time to start looking, and really seeing, the events of life.  It was time to shed some of my bystander ways, and begin my journey on the path to becoming one of life’s participants.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and just looked at Ryan.  I don’t think he even realized what he had said and why it had affected me so much. I was overwhelmed immediately by a tremendous sense of loss, grief for this generation of kids that even has to think about such things.

For a brief moment, an image of Ryan meeting with a tragic end flashed in my mind.  It wasn’t a vision or anything spiritual like that.  It was just a parent’s fears seeming all too real.  That was all it took to open the floodgates of my soul. That part of me that I had been so good at protecting me from hurt, the part I had hidden through my humor, suddenly burst open. I broke down and wept, not just for me and for him, but for all the parents who have lost children in these violent times, and for the rest of our youth who have lost their childhoods.

I am so thankful that I was listening and heard what a ten-year-old was thinking about on his way to the soccer field.  I answered him as best I could, but I don’t think I was totally honest with him that day.  I told him that he doesn’t have to worry about all that.  I told him that I wasn’t about to let anything bad happen to him.  I didn’t want him to worry.  But who am I?  I’m just his dad.  I’m not a superhero.  I can’t be with him twenty-four hours a day.  I can’t even be 100 percent sure that I can protect him when he’s in my own car.  No matter how safely I’m driving, another driver can pull out in front of us and put both our lives in jeopardy. We live in an imperfect world, and so much of what happens in life is out of our control.  But how could I tell him that?  All he needed at that moment was a hug from his dad and the reassurance that he was going to be all right.

Kids and their questions, huh?  It makes me wonder if while we parents are doing all this selective listening, how much of what our kids are saying is going unheard?

I continue to learn the importance of listening to those we love.  But we’re busy, the television is blaring, there are a dozen other things that we need to be doing.  It’s easy to tune them out.  Especially for bystanders.  We see their lips moving and we tell ourselves that whatever they have to say, we’ve heard a thousand times.  We hope that kind of thinking will get us off the hook.  It doesn’t.  My wife has heard about my athletic youth over and over and over again, but she still listens anyway.  She’ll sit and listen to my latest golf tale as if it really matters to her.  To me, that’s love.  The kind of love that requires involvement.

If we only listen when it’s convenient, who knows what we might be missing?  And let’s be honest, it’s never convenient.  There will always be things to do, places to go, and favorite television programs to watch.

Maybe all of us should take our cue from our heavenly father who tunes in to us

24-7.  We don’t get a half-hearted “Uh-huh” when we tell him about our day.  He hangs on every word we utter.  Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  God really does enjoy hearing from us. Even when we have doubts.  Even when we’re discouraged.  Even when we’re angry.  And even when we ask those seemingly unanswerable questions.

I wonder how many times we’ve made the hair on the back of His neck stand up.

                        “He who has ears, let him hear.” -Matthew 11:15

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Sep 21 2011

Corporate SNAFU

I pride myself on being the ultimate professional. Companies love having me and I enjoy them. I perform a family-friendly show.  I don’t break into any crazy rants.  All that said, I am human, and mistakes do happen.  Let me share one – I think it’s pretty funny. After reading this, I’d love to know your comments here or your own tales of woe.

 

Seattle
I was doing a corporate gig in Seattle. Now, let me first explain something. While I’m known as a “Christian Comedian,” the truth is that there’s nothing that would offend a non-Christian in my comedy act.  My topics are purely family-oriented.

Now, if I’m performing in a religious venue, like a church, and they request it, I will passionately talk about my faith. But when you’re in Vegas, or at the Merchants of Business Commerce Industry Conference, nobody really wants to hear about that.  They just want to be entertained.

I’ve worked for everyone from Sam’s Club to the Hamilton Farm Bureau, from Chick-fil-A to Blue Creek Investment Partners, from Amway to General Mills.

But, there I was in Seattle.  I was killing (which, in Comedy terms, is a good thing).  Then I set up a joke by saying, “We’re a praying family, my wife and I. When we were going to have children, we prayed for patience, tolerance, love and understanding… but God has his own way of answering prayers….”

Now, trust me, because I’ve done this literally 1000’s of times.  Something funny really is coming that has nothing to do with God per se.

For the joke to work, we could have been anything that prayed.  We could have been atheists that prayed to telephone poles.  But, these are the words that have been working for me for 20 years.

Before I could get another word out, a woman appeared at the foot of the stage and said, “You’re done.”  I walked over to her.  “But I still have 10 minutes left….” She said, “No, you’re done now, so get off the stage.” So, like Snagglepus, I exited, stage right.

I was flabbergasted (and I don’t flabber easily).  I wasn’t the only one.  Standing in the back of the room, people kept telling me I was great and asking me what happened.  “A woman told me to stop.” They couldn’t believe it any more than I could.  Who?! What woman? Her? Really?!

Later on, I came to learn that she was afraid I was about to launch into some right wing, Christian evangelical, righteous, alienating, politically incorrect sermon.  (It was a joke about while we’d prayed for patience, etc., we were “blessed” with two ADHD children.  OK, maybe this doesn’t sound funny NOW, but she messed up my timing!  If you like, you can watch it here.

A week later I received a letter from the woman apologizing for what she did and telling me I was “welcome to work for the company in the future.”  I was 99% sure she was “asked” to write the letter, but there wasn’t any sincerity in it.  I wanted to lash out (ever write a dozen angry drafts and wisely rip them all up?) but I wrote back simply that I am always extremely careful not to offend.  Preaching to folks has its place, I wrote, and I know that the stage isn’t it and would never do that.  I also mentioned the kinds of things I was up to, including adopting children for World Vision. Turns out she also adopts for World Vision.  Long story short, after a bunch of exchanged missives, we are now mutually respectful email pals!

My comedy makes fun of myself and my family.  Mostly me. Really, if anyone should be offended after one of my shows it should be me.  I can think only of one other corporate SNAFU in my 32 years of doing comedy, and it’s truly hilarious.  I’ll tell you about it next time.

Comment Below

3 responses so far

Aug 29 2011

Me and Yakov

Published by under Clean Comedy

For 24 years of sobriety, I’ve stayed away from Smirnoff.  I couldn’t stay away from this one.

Christian Comedian Jeff Allen with Yakov Smirnoff

Thank you to Yakov who invited me to share his celebrity and humor for a great benefit for the victims of the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

2 responses so far

May 13 2011

Family Get-Together – After 20 Years

Family Get-Together – After 20 Years
I am the baby of the family. I know it is shocking to find the baby of any family, choosing a profession as an adult that draws attention to himself, you know, like a comedian.
Anyhoo, I am the youngest of four children. I have a brother, Kirk, who is five years older than I, two sisters, Vicki and Lori, in between, and then there is me. As all youngest children think, your parents stopped breeding when they hit perfection!  Truth is, after I was born, Mom told Dad if he touched her again she’d shoot him. Or something like that.
Having four kids in five years will do that to a woman. Not being a woman, I can only guess, of course. But I know what having a stomach ache does to my mood and I can’t imagine how many people would have met their demise if I had a nine-month stomach ache, five years in a row.  Looking back, I am sure it was why my mom insisted on having the lights on all the time. In her mind, bad things happened when the lights were off.
Being the youngest, of course I was Mom’s favorite (don’t worry, my sisters don’t read my blogs and my brother is illiterate). I always thought I was Mom’s favorite because I was just darn special. My wife Tami, who is an oldest child, jealous of me, and a mother, told me, if I was Mom’s favorite it was because I was her last – and being the fourth in five years it probably took her less than two minutes of labor to deliver me.
The reason I bring all this up is that the older I get, the more I want to be around my family.  Truth is, I miss them. We have a lot of laughs when we get together. The problem is that it seems to be only at weddings or funerals that we can see each other. I am fortunate that in my job I travel quite a bit and I am able to sit with my sisters when I am in Dallas or Vegas.
My brother, Kirk, is another issue. We have been estranged for almost two decades. I have missed him the most. The few conversations we have had over the years on the phone have always left me hope that one day God would heal whatever was standing between us. Those of you who have seen me perform know that I have asked for prayer for him as well as me.  Well, I can tell you all Thank You for your prayers; this one has been answered. I sat with my brother over lunch last week in Indiana, when I was in town for a show.
We have both gotten older and balder but the bond between us is the same. We picked up right where we left off twenty years ago. He punched me in the face and I cried like a four year old schoolgirl.
Well, I cried, not because he punched me, but the mere sight of my brother was an answer to a daily prayer for over ten years. I am not naïve. There have been plenty of opportunities over the years for me to reach out, but fear always won the day.  I will not go into any great detail about the get-together other than to say that family bonds are forever – good, bad or indifferent, the bond is huge. One thing I know is that it is never too late to correct and change a course of action.
I would love to hear from you guys on overdue sibling get-togethers.
God ‘s Peace be with you in your journeys, and remember, as hard as it is, we as Christians are to forgive as we too have been forgiven.
Blessings, Jeff.

I am the baby of the family. I know it is shocking to find the baby of any family, choosing a profession as an adult that draws attention to himself, you know, like a comedian.

Anyhoo, I am the youngest of four children. I have a brother, Kirk, who is five years older than I, two sisters, Vicki and Lori, in between, and then there is me. As all youngest children think, your parents stopped breeding when they hit perfection!  Truth is, after I was born, Mom told Dad if he touched her again she’d shoot him. Or something like that.

Having four kids in five years will do that to a woman. Not being a woman, I can only guess, of course. But I know what having a stomach ache does to my mood and I can’t imagine how many people would have met their demise if I had a nine-month stomach ache, five years in a row.  Looking back, I am sure it was why my mom insisted on having the lights on all the time. In her mind, bad things happened when the lights were off.

Being the youngest, of course I was Mom’s favorite (don’t worry, my sisters don’t read my blogs and my brother is illiterate). I always thought I was Mom’s favorite because I was just darn special. My wife Tami, who is an oldest child, jealous of me, and a mother, told me, if I was Mom’s favorite it was because I was her last – and being the fourth in five years it probably took her less than two minutes of labor to deliver me.

The reason I bring all this up is that the older I get, the more I want to be around my family.  Truth is, I miss them. We have a lot of laughs when we get together. The problem is that it seems to be only at weddings or funerals that we can see each other. I am fortunate that in my job I travel quite a bit and I am able to sit with my sisters when I am in Dallas or Vegas.

My brother, Kirk, is another issue. We have been estranged for almost two decades. I have missed him the most. The few conversations we have had over the years on the phone have always left me hope that one day God would heal whatever was standing between us. Those of you who have seen me perform know that I have asked for prayer for him as well as me.  Well, I can tell you all Thank You for your prayers; this one has been answered. I sat with my brother over lunch last week in Indiana, when I was in town for a show.

We have both gotten older and balder but the bond between us is the same. We picked up right where we left off twenty years ago. He punched me in the face and I cried like a four year old schoolgirl.

Well, I cried, not because he punched me, but the mere sight of my brother was an answer to a daily prayer for over ten years. I am not naïve. There have been plenty of opportunities over the years for me to reach out, but fear always won the day.  I will not go into any great detail about the get-together other than to say that family bonds are forever – good, bad or indifferent, the bond is huge. One thing I know is that it is never too late to correct and change a course of action.

I would love to hear from you guys on overdue sibling get-togethers.

God ‘s Peace be with you in your journeys, and remember, as hard as it is, we as Christians are to forgive as we too have been forgiven.

Blessings, Jeff.

8 responses so far

Oct 07 2009

Can There Be Anything Funny About Outreach?

Published by under Clean Comedy,Outreach

Author Os Guinness once posed the question, “Is there a place for the court jester in the kingdom of Heaven?”

Over the years, I have tried to build trust with pastors and church leaders by not only being funny and making sure my events are enjoyable, but also by treating comedy as a legitimate outreach tool. To me, an outreach event should be geared toward opening the mind of the unbeliever, even if it’s just a crack.

Comedy breaks down inhibitions.  Laughter opens the heart, especially when it’s the laughter of recognition.  My humor about skirmishes with my wife and children is felt universally.  When people are laughing hysterically at me and at themselves, I’ve gained credibility; I’ve earned their respect.  So now when I start to share about how it used to be, how far I’d fallen, how I’d almost lost everything, they are with me.  They get it.  They can also relate.  Maybe they were never on the brink of divorce and total despair, but each of us has had those really low times when we weren’t sure we’d ever again be lifted up.

Nothing opens up people’s hearts and minds more than when they can relate to the tragic suffering of a fellow human being they respect.  Once I have that opening, I know they are ready to hear whatever I have to say.  I’ve got the credibility and legitimacy to speak to them.  When I tell them how far I’d fallen, they are with me.  And when I tell them how God lifted me up, they stay with me.

The first time I took a chance and shared my testimony, I was very nervous, even though I felt God had laid it on my heart to do it.  I received an e mail that evening following the show from a gentleman in attendance.  He wrote, “Thank you for sharing your story.  You and I have been through very similar things, and the fact that you got up in front of 1500 strangers and shared your struggles gives me the strength to share them with my wife tonight.  Thank you for your honesty.”  Since then I’ve received many stories about people who brought their unchurched friends to see my comedy performance, who wound up being moved to join the church.

An outreach event should engage as many different age demographics as possible, and nothing brings together multiple generations like comedy.  Nearly every night, I can look out in the audience and see three generations of families enjoying a good laugh together.  Christian musical concerts are typically subjective and age-specific, but hilarious, clean comedy easily transcends age, gender and background.

Comedy opens up the opportunity to share the love of Christ with people who might never have otherwise set foot in a church. Is there a place in God’s kingdom for a court jester?   You bet there is.

What kinds of outreach events have made a difference for you and/or the people in your life?

2 responses so far

Aug 11 2009

Jesus Laughed

Published by under Clean Comedy,Teenagers

C.S. Lewis once posed the question, and I am paraphrasing, mainly because I am too lazy to look up the actual quote, but he once asked, how different Christianity might have been if the Gospel writers had said, “….and Jesus laughed.” I only mention it because my wife and I have come to the conclusion that  – by the way our Savior answers our prayers  – he must have a great sense of humor.

One example of this could be that years ago when we decided to have children, we prayed for patience, tolerance, love and understanding. Which by the way, we felt were virtues that only would come to us with some kind of divine revelation. It would have been nice if God would have just sprinkled some kind of fairy dust through our heating vents and we would have woken up more patient, kind, loving and understanding. The truth is, in His loving way, He gave us not one, but two, ADHD children. Those of you reading this that have hyper children know that there is no better way to learn those virtues than through ADHD boys and girls.

Of course, I myself was hyperactive, but in my day, “the dinosaur days” as my offspring refer to it, they didn’t have a name for hyperactivity. If I was anything I was O.L.T, Obnoxious Little Twit.

There were teachers that would drag me out in the hall and slam me against the lockers. I actually had one teacher head butt me, that’s right, head butt me. I wonder if she prayed for patience, tolerance, love and understanding?

So imagine my surprise when the school called years later and said to me, “I believe your son is hyperactive.”

“What’s that?” I asked, somewhat perplexed.

They went on to explain it, and I yelled back to my wife, “Honey, there’s a name for it!”

Honestly, is this announcement news to any parent? Did any of your jaws drop when the school called and told you? The first day my wife and I dropped our son off at kindergarten, it was all we could do to keep from laughing. Some perky woman looked at us all and gushed, “We will have so much fun!”

To which my wife and I mumbled, “We are sure you will.” Then we proceeded right to Wal-Mart and purchased our first answering machine. Call it prophecy, but I felt I would be screening calls between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for the next 13 years.

The principal called me at home less than a week later to inform me that my boy would not sit in his chair and he was disrupting the entire class. He then went on to ask me what I thought he might do.

“Open the back door and let him loose. That’s what we do at home.” I replied. “He’ll come back when he’s tired – he always does.” I also suggested that they check his hair for tics when he returns because he likes to crawl through the shrubbery. I don’t think he took my advice. When I hung up, I prayed for his patience, tolerance, love and understanding.

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer, and in God’s desire to answer those prayers. Life’s lessons come through adversity.  C.S. Lewis also said that suffering was God’s megaphone. Those of us who raise ADD and ADHD children have heard that megaphone, but in hindsight that adversity gave us our greatest lessons as parents, and certainly an answer to a prayer. Not the way I would have answered it, but it is not my universe.

I cannot deny that, because of our children and their proclivity towards chaos, my wife and I are more patient, tolerant, loving and understanding.

I also can’t help but think there are times after “one of those days,” when Tami and I collapse exhaustively into the couch and look at each other and smile. Then we look at the heavens, and say, “alright, alright, we hear you.”

…..and Jesus Laughed.

Epilogue: I know that a lot of you have ADD and ADHD kids and I know it’s not always a laughing manner. Please feel free to share anything you wish.

6 responses so far

Jun 04 2009

Teen in Love

Published by under Clean Comedy,Teenagers

I remember it like it was yesterday. Aaron and his girlfriend were sitting in the living room laughing, giggling and enjoying a pizza. I did happen to notice that my boy was eating mushrooms on that pizza, which up until her arrival in his life, he “despised!”  This goes along with shaving, combing his hair and putting on a clean shirt. All things that he didn’t feel the need to do until she entered his life.

Today it all changed. I don’t know what happened, but Aaron got a phone call around noon from his girlfriend. I don’t know what she was saying, but he was extremely frustrated and could hardly get a word in.  Some fragments I caught were:

“But, you won’t let me talk…”

“I didn’t say that, she’s lying to you…”

“Why don’t you believe me?”

This went on for some forty minutes.  As you know, the first few “magical” weeks of an adolescent relationship can be, for lack of a better word, nauseating for those of us who have to witness it. The kids float through the house on a pink cloud with a goofy grin on their face. When asked what they are so happy about, they reply, as if you should have known, “It’s our ninth day, fourth hour anniversary.”

As a parent and an adult, i.e., one who lives in the real world, you know that they eventually will crash and burn; you just hope you are there to help pick up the pieces.

Well, that phone call was it. For forty minutes my son sat on that phone and got gutted like a trout. At one point, I was walking by and our eyes met, and I noticed tears beginning to build up. He was looking at me for, I don’t know, something to help ease his pain. This was one of those rare moments where the omniscient teen doesn’t have an answer. So I delved deep into the recesses of my brain. All my years on this earth. So many relationships. Twenty two years of marriage.

I had nothing.

When I realized this, I thought how funny that was.  And I started laughing – that “laughing in church” phenomenon when you know you’re not supposed to.  The thought came to my mind to ask, “What anniversary you on now, Romantic Man?” I was laughing so hard, I had to take a knee.

I apologized when he got off the phone.  I told him I was laughing because I knew I didn’t have much to tell him. I knew that telling him “this will pass” would be meaningless.  So I just told him that relationships go up and down.  That they are not for the faint of heart.  I congratulated him on entering the fray.  I encouraged him to trust that God had a plan for him. That this wasn’t the end, just the beginning of a lifetime of learning about women and how to be in a relationship.  I encouraged him to “enjoy the ride.” I told him, “this will pass.” (I couldn’t help myself.)  Finally, I then told him the one thing I could really say with authority… that I love him and am proud of him.

Then my wife yelled for me from the kitchen… clearly about something I should or shouldn’t have done.  I exchanged a sheepish look with Aaron and said, “Looks like it’s my turn, pal.”

Do you, or did you, have a teen in love at home? Were you a teen in love?  What’s your story?

7 responses so far

May 05 2009

Groundhog

Published by under Clean Comedy,Teenagers

My wife and I are a praying couple, or least we try to pray. Am I the only one who finds it difficult to pray with their spouse after an argument?  In reality, this is when you should be on your knees praying. I unfortunately find myself on my knees looking for the car keys that my lovely wife whipped at my cranium. As a believer in God, and a believer in the power of prayer, I continually ask myself why I don’t do it more often – and certainly in times of “discomfort.” Isn’t this when we should talk to our Savior?

I mention this because it just dawned on me that as my children grow older, we have more days behind us with them than we have in front of us. In other words, they are almost “growed” up and out of our house. All we have left is to pray for them. They’re never around for us to talk to.

Our oldest son has an excuse; he paid his dues in the Army and is relatively recently back from Iraq. Our youngest son, though technically he still lives with us, for all intents and purposes, moved out a year ago.

This is a typical day. He emerges from his room and, on the way to the shower, we say “Good Morning.” No reply. Then he disappears into the bathroom. He then comes out of the bathroom and we ask, “Are you working a double today?”

“Yeah.” Then he disappears into his room.

A few more minutes go by and he re-emerges from the room, goes into the kitchen, grabs some grub and starts to walk out. Then I ask, “Are you going to be home for dinner?”

“Probably not.”

He then walks out. He’s a good kid.  Just not very chatty.

This goes on everyday. EVERYDAY. One morning I told my wife, “We gave birth to a groundhog.”

I ask him to do things with me, like go to the movies, and he is always busy with his new girlfriend. Imagine that!  No time for Dad, but all the time in the world for a girl.

I remember a time when girls were icky to him. My wife remembers a time when he used to say, “When I get big, I am going to marry you Mommy.”
I heard Harry Chapin’s tune “Cat’s in the Cradle” the other day, and had to pull the car over. I couldn’t drive thru the tears and convulsions. I think they should warn the listeners before they unleash that kind of guilt and shame on unsuspecting parents driving along. It wouldn’t take but a few seconds – they warn parents all the time when they are going to say something inappropriate for children.

How hard would it be to warn us that “Cat’s in the Cradle” is coming on?

Hey Dad, soon to be empty nester, yeah you, the one who traveled their whole lives, the one living with the groundhog who can’t come out long enough to play with you, just wanted to let you know, Harry Chapin is coming up.

Of course, knowing me the way I know me, I wouldn’t turn the dial; I would just sit there and punish myself.

This is a tough time for Tami and I. We continually reevaluate the job we did with our children. Soooooo many things we would do differently; so much so that on occasions Tami has suggested we have another one, just to see if we can do it guilt-free. To that I reply, “Stand behind her Satan!”
The last thing I want to do is raise another child; I told her that we’ve “earned” grandchildren.

All we have to do is now is pray that our groundhog meets someone else’s groundhog, and we let God do His handiwork.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go guilt my son into having lunch with me… if I can find my car keys.

8 responses so far

Apr 01 2009

Driving with Teens

There I was, calmly dining on our favorite family cuisine.  I’ve always been a firm believer in families dining together. In the course of a day, it’s hard to get the kids to stop for five minutes and tell you what’s on their minds.

And here it came from my 15-year old, “Hey! I just thought of this! I’ll be driving in a year!”

That innocent remark kept me awake for eight weeks. I couldn’t get out of my head the terrifying prospect of him driving a car. Last Saturday I was looking out my window when, riding by on his bicycle, he popped a wheelie and plowed right into our mail box.

My wife suggested we sign him up for Driver’s Education. I agreed with her that that was a good idea. I made the call and found out they now charge $250 for Driver’s Ed! Are you kidding me! Two hundred and fifty dollars!  No way, I told my wife. I will teach the lad.

One hour with him, and I came in the house with a tic on both sides of my face. I hit that imaginary brake so many times, I wore a hole in the carpet. It was as if I had some kind of mantra going, I kept repeating the same thing over and over again: “Tell me you saw the truck, tell me you saw the kid on the bike, tell me you saw the office building!”

When we finally got home, I fell out of the car and kissed the ground. (I imagined this must have been what Columbus felt like finding dry land.)
When I walked in, Tami ran up all excited, “How was it!?”

He ran up to his mom and gave her a hug, and said it was “awesome” and ran to call one of his chums.

She took one look at me and said, “That bad, huh?”

I went and got my checkbook and wrote a check for five hundred dollars to the Driver’s Ed department. Believe me, those people are grossly under paid.

With his Learner’s Permit,  we let him drive us to church on Sunday. We figure that way we could get our prayer time in before we get there.

Sometimes there are so many miracles, we skip church and go straight to Cracker Barrel.

Got any good stories about Driving with Teens?  If so, click on the “responses” link and share them with us!

9 responses so far

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