Los Angeles’ historic Wiltern Theater has 1,850 seats, and on Sunday, Oct. 14, John Crist and his Human Being Tour sold out the house with a comedy show full of big laughs, fun, music, zero curse words and lots of faith.
Now, there’s a miracle for you.
Who Is John Crist?
One of eight homeschooled children of a Georgia preacher, the tattoo-free 34-year-old Crist (yes, that’s his real last name, and those are his real initials) has been doing stand-up comedy for a decade. But it’s only in the last few years that his scripted YouTube videos went viral, and his career took off. Here’s the oldest one on his YouTube page, a 4-year-old spoof of Christian dating sites, called Christian Farmers Only.
To date, it’s got 483,483 views (that’s interesting). A more recent one, Lady who Has a Bible Verse for Every Situation, has 1.7M.
Many of Crist’s videos spoof aspects of Christian (read: Protestant/Evangelical) culture, along with the Southern experience, Millennials and life in general. My personal favorites are the two episodes of a House Hunters spoof, called Church Hunters (wrote about it, click here and here), along with How It’s Made: Christian Music (click here for my piece on that) and Celebrity Pastor Fantasy Draft (wrote about that here).
He does love Chick-Fil-A, but he got fired from a job there because he stirred the lemonade with his arm.
What Is John Crist Like Live?
In person, Crist is loose and goofy, not specifically a physical comedian, but a comic who knows how to use his body. The jokes come in a stream of consciousness, interspersed with conversations with the front row (one couple admitted to meeting in a hair salon, and that rapidly went south).
He’s got an edge but there’s a river of sweetness under it. He’s the kind of guy that, if your Christian daughter brought him home … OK, you still wouldn’t be happy about it, but you’d warm up to him eventually.
He manages to walk the line of having fun with his faith and Christian culture, without making fun of them. It wasn’t the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen in Los Angeles, particularly when it comes to faith. My companion and I are Catholic, and I get the feeling we weren’t overly represented. It did lead to an interesting moment, when Crist asked a lady what denomination she was, and she said, “Christian.” That one got him literally rolling on the floor.
In one segment, Crist’s onstage deejay played the first two seconds of worship songs, which everyone (but us) in the audience recognized and happily sang out. There were other moments and references that went right over our Catholic heads — like #CheckYourHeart — but for the most part, we were in sync with the crowd.He did a bit in the show on Lazarus, wondering how it felt to be ripped out of heaven after you just got your mansion all set up, and sent back to Earth (for my part, I’ve always wondered what was the first thing Lazarus said, and did he want a nap, a sandwich or what?). He also admitted he’d be a bad pastor, because his brain just works differently.
For a taste of him in a more low-key setting, click here for a Facebook Live Q&A he did this morning, in which he said that a TV version of the tour is “in the plans.”
Should Christians Be Making Jokes About Faith?
I suppose there are those who take offense if anyone has fun with being Christian, but as Crist said to The Stream:
People who are angry about jokes, they ask, “Are you a Christian?”
Think about it. If I am a Christian, these jokes are hilarious, and we can laugh together. But if I’m not, these jokes are now very offensive — making fun of communion or Christian weddings. Truth is, I am a Christian who loves Jesus. I think the local church is our only hope. That being said, we do some weird stuff.
As with many things, we laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s true.
If comedy comes from a place of love, with authentic knowledge and affection, it holds up a mirror to us — and not a funhouse mirror, either. Not being able to laugh at yourself and the foibles of your culture is a sure sign of decline.
I’m happy that a genuinely funny, clean, entertaining comic, who obviously loves his audience and relates well to them, is not only on tour but selling out big theaters — especially in the heathen environs of Los Angeles.
What About Catholicism?
Now, Crist does display occasional bits of the anti-Catholic bias present in Protestant-land (like wondering, in Celebrity Pastor Fantasy Draft if Pope Francis “counts”), but it just makes me wish we had a Catholic equivalent. I saw the TV version of Catholic-raised comic John Mulaney’s Kid Gorgeous tour — the logo for which hangs a halo over his head — and the only references he made to the Faith were snarky and negative (and he was an altar boy, and is a Catholic school and Georgetown grad). I don’t want to assume how he really feels about Catholicism or if he’s practicing (I suspect not … much), but his comedy about it doesn’t seem to come from love.
I know there are other Catholic comics out there, but it would be nice if there was one doing faith-laced videos and humor who was having the big-time success Crist is having right now.
God knows we need a laugh.
The Human Being Tour continues, mixing church performances with the occasional mainstream venue. Most appear to be sold out, so if he’s coming to your area, hop on available tickets now. Click here for info.
P.S. We do have a Catholic comedy-show start-up here in L.A., called Catholic Laughs — click here to learn more, like how to book them at your venue or parish. If I’m just ignorant of other successful current Catholic comedy — which is entirely possible — drop info in the comments below!
Images: Courtesy John Crist; Kate O’Hare