John Crist on Offending Fans, Working with Chappelle, & Working the DC Talk Cruise
John Crist might be the funniest Christian you’ve ever seen. A lifelong son of a pastor, he’s seen all the funny, quirky, and weird stuff Christian do. Crist has cataloged these instances in the back of his mind and then brings them to life in a wonderful way on stages across the U.S. Most of the time he’s well-received, sometimes he’s not, and all the time he just can’t help himself.
With seemingly endless material that can be received weekly in a church service, there isn’t really anything Crist won’t or hasn’t covered. He never does it in a meanspirited or condescending way, he’s just being honest.
“‘How does this comedian get to say or do whatever he wants on stage?’ [people say] It’s actually if you ask any comic, the exact opposite of that. Every comic wants to get laughs. They want the content to be well-received. Even my content now, 10 years ago or even 5 years ago, may have not been welcome in the church or at least as well received,” Crist admitted.
He continued, “We make fun of the Noah’s Ark replica in Kentucky and roasted it a little. Let’s say 15 years ago, talking about the Bible or roasting something intrical to our faith is not welcome.”
Crist said now the culture has shifted to all professing Christians saying, ‘Hey we love Jesus, we know He died for us, we want Him to transform our lives’ and being content with that. Then they look at something like the replica, and think, ‘Well, this seems like a little much’.
Another example – poking fun at a pastor who “needs” a 40 million dollar jet. In the past, these megachurch pastors were held in reverence but now in the age of social media, there is more scrutiny about them.
“I would never make a joke that I wouldn’t say to their face,” Crist revealed. “Let’s say I made a bunch of Kanye West jokes and my agent told me he was coming to the show tomorrow. I wouldn’t remove all those jokes, then those are jokes I shouldn’t be saying.”
He continued, “Back to Noah’s ark. I’ll gently roast it but at the end, I’d say, ‘Well Christian or not, this thing is a sight to see and you should come, it’s honestly pretty cool’.”
At the end of the day, he’s not singling anyone out. He’s saying, “We are crazy as a body.”
When it comes to offending people, it’s to be expected. It happens all the time. It’s definitely hard to please everyone.
“You can look at any video of mine in the comments. I’d make a joke about essential oils, and someone is angry, ‘Essential oils are in the Bible, Jesus used them!’” he revealed. “I just have to make sure when I do something that crosses a line or is a little edgy I have to be passionate about the message I’m talking about. Would I defend this?”
“Our goal is to never offend people, but people need to be offended. The only reason why things are ever offensive is because it’s true or at least there’s a hint of truth. If there’s no truth to it, then you brush it off. If someone has a $5000 essential oils collection, then maybe you kind of hit on a truth for them deep down they are not willing to admit. You’re touching on a nerve that needs to be explored.”
John Crist said doing comedy in today’s era is definitely more challenging than it ever was. He admits that any day a joke can be taken out of context and run through the wringer.
“Back in the 80s and 90s, the Internet didn’t exist so you’d have to say something wildly inappropriate to get a shock value. Now, all you have to say is, ‘C’mon, I don’t think you should be able to take a dog on an airplane’. People will be like, ‘That crossed the line!'”
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Often times Crist’s comedy gets him into spaces that “non-Christian” comedians can get into. He plays clubs and venues and has hosted a show where Dave Chappelle was performing. He’s also opened for Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.
“I look up to these guys a lot, but I can’t fanboy,” he explained. “The first time I was on stage with Dave Chappelle, I was hosting. He was in the green room and backstage hanging out. I was just like, ‘What’s up man, how are you doing?’ If I’m working with him or for him, I can’t be hyperventilating. It’s not a good look comic to comic. I consider myself a peer to these guys, not in terms of experience and performance but in terms of following and ticket sales. I’m right there with them. Jeff Foxworthy told me my stuff was great. The fans have put me on the map in a way. If you’re selling tickets and moving the videos we are, the other comics know who you are. It might not be a personal relationship, but they say, ‘Hey man, respect’.”
When he does shows like this, he has to change his routine a bit. Crist understands that Chappelle’s crowd or the Tonight Show wouldn’t understand a Chris Tomlin “Good Good Father” joke.
“Somebody told me in order to do comedy just write what you know about. Now I do theater shows and open them on sale to the public. If I go deep into a Christian topic I try to explain it as much as possible. One of my biggest jokes is the story about Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus did a miracle and raised the guy from the dead. I say it in a way if you never heard the story it’s very easy to pick up on,” revealed the comic.
“Every comic wants to do well for his audience. If it’s a youth group I’d do a Tik Tok joke or SnapChat. If you do a casino, it’s older people, you wouldn’t do a SnapChat filter joke. It would be about growing older or getting aches and pains etc. Jokes that work in Texas won’t work in Portland. That’s not necessarily Christian or non-Christian, it’s life.”
Lastly, this past July, John Crist had the opportunity to head out on the Jesus Freak Cruise 2 with Christian music legends DC Talk, Newsboys, and more. Growing up, these artists were his rockstars, and he now had the opportunity to do a massive cruise experience with them.
“DC Talk cruise was unbelievable!” he exclaimed. “I got an email saying DC Talk wanted me to be part of their cruise and I’m like ‘Who does?’ I’m cool with Michael Tait and Toby. I see them around at conferences and festivals. It was wild that they know who I am. First time I ever met Michael Tait, he came up to me and said ‘I know who you are’. I met Toby at a golf course and he said, ‘I heard you’re doing well’. I saw them perform at the Fox Theater when I was 10 years old. It’s my life coming full circle.”
Special thanks to John Crist for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. He heads out on his “Immature Thoughts” tour in October and will have DJ Mykael V in tow. Be sure to check out part one of this interview (John Crist on Success of ‘Check Your Heart’ & Defending Christian Rap Culture to Old School Believers).
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