It's no secret that the quality and morality of comedy has been declining for decades now, but there exists a glimmer of promise amidst the ruin. This hope, a bright light changing the face of the entertainment industry and garnering quite a bit of attention for it, is none other than conservative comedian Brad Stine.
I'd "discovered" Stine's work for myself a few months ago when I first heard his third project Tolerate This!. Although it was just a CD with only audio of his comedy routine without video, there was something about his delivery and approach that grabbed my attention. Many times I even found myself laughing out loud. Sadly, I'd actually received Stine's debut DVD Put A Helmet On! over two years ago, but it'd gotten lost in the mix of projects that needed to be reviewed. I'd also become somewhat jaded to the label of "Christian comedians" and Brad unnecessarily had suffered for it.
Upon watching Put A Helmet On! after hearing Tolerate This!, I was hooked. I found myself laughing harder and more frequently than listening to the CD. It was amazing and downright refreshing to hear a Christian tell the truth via comedy all the while being edgy and controversial. And the best part about it? He'd work the Gospel into his routine so seamlessly and unintrusively, feeling so natural and honest the entire time. This was no evangelist, but just a regular guy sharing from his heart and making people laugh. And it's someone who's as sick of Christian stereotypes, and people being too afraid to stand up for what they believe in, as much as we all should be.
Upon finding that Brad would be coming within two hours of us, we made the immediate plans to see his comedy act live at Elizabethtown College. We'd arrived just in time to meet with Brad before the show and enjoyed hearing him share his thoughts with us on the state of comedy and where he fits in, as well as his all-time favorite comedians. After our meeting, we proceeded to the campus's Leffler Chapel to find a seat for Stine's routine. The Chapel was a unique venue. With padded pews for the audience to sit on and wrap-around balconies, an expansive stage was the room's centerpiece... and a great platform for Brad's show.
He opened the night by walking onto the stage to the tune of Switchfoot's "Meant To Live," immediately greeting the crowd and commenting on the overabundance of chandeliers in the sanctuary. He wasted no time, however, getting into his comedy material, mixing up jokes from all three of his releases: Put A Helmet On!, Conservative Comedian Unleashed and Tolerate This!. These memorable moments included his bits about the distinct differences between boys and girls, boy's bikes, running late, women and their shopping habits, driving in the Pennsylvania, politics, and how lazy Christians can be. Some of the best moments, however, were actually when Brad was improvising on the spot. When he first approached the stool in the middle of the stage where small water bottles and towels were supplied for him, he marveled at the fact that he was given three full-size bath towels (as opposed to standard wash or sweat cloths). He launched into a hilarious mockery of why he could possibly need such large towels but such tiny water bottles. During the course of the show, he also briefly riffed on current events, working the New Orleans disaster into his usual commentary on Christians versus atheists. And, to top it all off, he debuted some brand new material he admitted he was trying out on the audience, including a funny rant about baseball being the best sport of all, and complaints about the country of France.
I was amazed at how Brad was able to even use conversations with the audience members to seamlessly mesh with some of his popular routines. He'd stop what he was doing if he heard something from the audience, even teasing them for walking in late to his show. Another surprise was by the time he'd finished his set, two hours had gone by. Brad Stine had not only managed to stay hilariously funny for nearly two hours, but it never felt that long. He closed with his "Jesus' Brother" bit from Tolerate This! and a few of his "Put A Helmet On!" pieces from the same project. After walking off to Switchfoot's "Meant To Live" again, the crowd rose to their feet in applause. Brad came back out to announce he'd run out of time to do any sort of encore but was going to be in the lobby signing autographs.
I've seen a couple live comedy shows, most notably Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby, and I'd have to say Brad Stine can easily hold his own with the big guys. Brad stressed several times that his show is family safe and he's absolutely right. While the younger ones won't get more than half the jokes (a small child who looked at us with a perplexed look during most of the gut-busting moments only proved that observation), his jokes are never raunchy or vulgar. He pushes the envelope for what is "acceptable" to be talked about in the Christian community, but it's only to remind us that it's really okay to discuss such topics as gender roles and say words like "butt," because it's all part of who we are as God's creations. Stine enjoys stating that he represents a new breed of Christian that is not ashamed of their faith and is going to make a difference in this world, and I can only hope he's right. We need more Brad Stine's in the entertainment industry. He's already been making quite the impression too. HBO was actually present at this show to interview Brad and take video of his performance for a piece about Christians in entertainment. Brad Stine is turning heads and garnering respect across the globe for his quality, clean and positive entertainment. It's rare to find the Gospel message presented in such a way, and Brad never makes it seem forced or impersonal. He's just a regular guy, a proud American, and one dang good comedian. Check out Brad Stine if you haven't yet. Better yet, see him live during his tour across America!-- John DiBiase, 10/25/05
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