Christian comedian John Crist has had nearly 150 sold-out shows over the last two years, and as part of The Human Being Tour, he will stop at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus Thursday, April 11.
“We need a break from the pain and heaviness of life and that’s what you’re going to experience when you come into the show,” Crist said. “I experience the same thing. I’m leading it in a way, but I feel like it’s not me up there and everyone else in the crowd because we’re all in this together.”
Lights, camera, action
Crist is a viral sensation on YouTube and social media, having more than 1 billion views of his comedy videos that include “Millennial International,” “Every Parent at Disney” and “7 Signs You Grew Up Christian.”
He has shared the stage with comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Meyers, Larry the Cable Guy, Trevor Noah, Dana Carvey, Tim Hawkins and Louie Anderson.
But a lot goes unnoticed after the stage lights fade, the cameras turn off and the seats are empty.
“There’s so much healing that takes place every night at our show,” Crist said. “I know what kind of medicine humor is for a lot of people. It’s so therapeutic for anyone who’s going to show up to Southeast that night.”
Crist shared a few examples of how laughter can be the best medicine.
“Last year, a mom told me, ‘I’ve got four kids and one of our sons was riding his bike, got hit and died,’” Crist said. “‘It’s been traumatic for our family and this is our first time out of the house. So when you told that joke about Lazarus, on the way home one of my sons said how he’s probably way happier in heaven. We had a very encouraging dialogue about death, and you opened the gates for how to have this conversation.’”
Comedy also helps those with illnesses.
“Someone told me recently, ‘I have cancer,’” Crist said. “‘Every time I get out of chemo treatments, I come to my bed, get my iPad out and watch your videos because it’s uplifting to me.’”
“A girl told me recently her parents are physically abusive to each other,” Crist added. “So whenever they fight, she goes up into her room, puts on her headphones and watches my videos.”
Stories like these put laughter into a whole new perspective and give an appreciation for the art of comedy.
Crist, who isn’t married, was born in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1984.
Growing up in a home with seven siblings and being a preacher’s kid, Crist was home-schooled through middle school.
It was that upbringing that carried Crist into comedy.
“Comedy is in a lot of ways an escape for me,” Crist said. “When I was a kid, always one of eight siblings, there was a lot of activity and moving parts in our house. I was right in the middle, so I felt maybe a little bit overlooked or neglected in a way. Humor was kind of my way of receiving, if not love, at least attention at the time. I remember always cracking people up and doing pranks around the house, in high school or at church.”
Crist’s dad pastored for 25 years and became mayor of Lilburn, Georgia, in 2012.
Father and son, despite their different career paths, have one thing in common.
“My dad and I were talking one day,” Crist said. “My dad said, ‘Me and you are kind of doing the same thing. You’re a comedian and I’m a politician and used to be a pastor. We’re both looking around at society, the future or how things are going in our family, city or country, and we don’t like it. We don’t like the trajectory and we want to change it.’ I’m just trying to change people’s minds through humor.”
Crist began performing at open mic nights in 2009 and his first gig was at a Chili’s restaurant.
From there things took off, especially after Crist posted his most popular YouTube video a couple of years ago, “Millennial International,” which has 4 million views.
Crist is a polarizing figure in church culture because he’s not afraid to cross “the line” when it comes to making Christian jokes. At the same time, Crist is very cognizant of where “the line” is.
“I have to be committed myself,” Crist said. “So there are some jokes where maybe it’s a bridge I’m not willing to currently cross, but at the same time it has to be across the line for it to be funny. That’s how humor works, this sense of: ‘I can’t believe he just said or verbalized that.’ There’s another line as a believer we shouldn’t cross, and the thing that’s tricky about that is in socioeconomics, geography, age, race and church denominations, these lines are different.”
Despite Crist’s rising fame in Christian and secular spheres alike, compromise never supersedes his Christian character whether he performs at a church, club or casino.
“You have to think what’s going to work well here,” Crist said. “We adjust to the audience, but we make sure it’s family-friendly everywhere we go. You can never find me doing a show anywhere where I have cursed, or made a derogatory or sexual reference. I’ve been with Larry the Cable Guy, and it’s going to be different jokes than a youth group. Not because it’s dirty or clean, but you’re just making different choices to do well for the crowd.”
With millions of followers, Crist is constantly placed on a pedestal on and off the stage.
“There are people that recognize me everywhere I go,” Crist said. “Everyone’s like, ‘It must be so fun to travel with John in the airport because he’s always joking around.’ I’m like, ‘Yea for like three minutes on my Instagram story.’ Then, I’m sitting there angry and depressed for the next three hours waiting for my flight like everyone else.”
The Human Being Tour points to the fact that Crist is just another human being also. At the end of the day, he knows who he is in Christ.
“This wasn’t obviously my plan in life,” Crist said. “I’m just a guy who likes to make funny videos. There are a lot of people looking up to me, but I’m just a guy trying to live myself. I had a bowl of Reese’s Puffs the other morning for breakfast. But I’m grateful God has kind of given me an increase, a platform and a voice that I wish to continue to be faithful to.”
People sometimes come to Crist for needs outside comedy, but he says he stays in his lane.
“I feel like if you wanted spiritual encouragement or a Bible verse, there are other people you follow on the Internet for that,” Crist said. “There are plenty of voices out there. Mine, at least on the Internet, is of laughter. You’re coming to me to laugh, and I try to stick as close to that as I can.”
Comedians Dustin Nickerson and Aaron Weber and musician DJ Mykael V will open Crist’s show at Southeast.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now and a portion of the proceeds will go to Prodigal Ministries, a Christian Aftercare Program in Louisville offering transitional housing for men and women out of prison.
There are less that 1,000 tickets still available at www.southeastchristian.org/events/John-crist-tour-2019.