Series 06: For the Love of Laughter | Episode 04
It’s Okay To Laugh With Comedian John Crist
John Crist has a gift for making us laugh at ourselves. John was the middle child in a family of 8 kids and found his comedic sensibilities while growing up in the church. His humor gently pokes fun at some of our religious “sacred cows,” and gives us permission to laugh at our foibles. His videos (which collectively have garnered over 150 million views) around these topics are spot on, including: “Millennial International” and “Church Hunters.” John doesn’t reserve his brand of humor just for the church, however, and has been playing comedy clubs with the likes of Dave Chappelle, Jeff Foxworthy, Trevor Noah and other comedy legends. He was also a finalist in Comedy Central’s “Up Next” Comedy Competition. John and Jen discuss when jokes are amazing and when they are hilariously bad, why comedy is more important than just making people laugh, and why it’s okay—even when our world seems pulled apart at the seams—to find some humor in the midst of it.
Go subscribe now to the Going Scared podcast to get weekly doses of inspiration from Noonday founder and show host Jessica Honnegger!
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly likes talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the show. It’s Jen Hatmaker. This is the “For the Love” podcast and we are in a really great series called “For the Love of Laughter,” and we have comedians on, and comics, and funny writers, and funny people. I’m having the absolute best time and today is absolutely no exception. You’re going to love this conversation, you guys. I’m sorry, in advance, because basically all I did was laugh through it.
Today on the show we have comedian John Crist. If you already know him, you’re already cheering. If you don’t, you’re going to love him by the end of this. John is absolutely hilarious. His online videos have had over 150 million views. He has hilarious viral sensations like, we mention it, but “Millennial International,” you’re going to die. You’re going to die over it.
He’s also a stand-up, obviously. He does over 200 live shows a year. He performs in all sorts of venues, and television appearances, and “Live at Gotham”, “Laughs” on Fox. He’s shared the stage with a lot of comics that you and I love. Dave Chappelle, Jeff Foxworthy, Tim Hawkins, Trevor Noah, Seth Myers, Dana Harvey. Some legends. And Anjelah Johnson, who we just had on this series as well.
In fact, this is what Louie Anderson said about John. He said, “It’s only a matter of time until John Crist is a household name. He is so likable and his stand-up is top notch.” All that is incredibly true. He was a finalist, actually, in Comedy Central’s “Up Next Comedy Competition”. He’s all over the place. He’s on Buzzfeed, and Men’s Humor, and Relevant magazine. He’s everywhere. We’re going to have links to all of his videos and his social media stuff.
You’re going to fall in love with John. He’s on the Winter Tour Jam right this minute, being headlined by Skillet and featuring Kari Jobe, too. He took a little bit of a time out to be on the podcast. You guys, this is such a fun conversation. I’m really, really glad you’re here, so help me welcome John Crist.
Jen: All right. Welcome to the show, John Crist.
John: That’s how you’re introducing me, in a lullaby. Great.
Jen: I felt like I needed to dip into song. It just felt appropriate. I’m not sure. I’m not sure.
John: I feel good about it. Yeah. We have an intro video now, at my live shows, because the pastor has screwed it up so many times that we’re just like, “You know, we’re doing a video now. We can’t have people messing this up.”
Jen: Like, “Pastor Brian, just sit down. Just sit down. Please don’t take the intro.”
John: He’s like, “Man, there’s a lot of people packed into this church right now. Can I get five minutes up front?” I’m like, “Come on, pastor.”
Jen: Totally. And pastors are so notoriously witty and entertaining.
John: Yeah, of course. What happens in my shows, a lot of times the church is now full of people from Louisville, Kentucky, not necessarily from that church.
John: Now no one knows who the pastor is. It’s like, “Oh, wait, these aren’t my people.”
Jen: They’re like, “Who’s this guy in the khaki pants doing this really lame shtick? Sit down. We’re here for John.” You’re totally on tour right now, by the way.
First of all, thanks for taking a quick little break for the podcast. You’re on Winter Jam, right? How’s it going? Is it fun?
John: I’m on Winter Jam and it’s like 48 markets from January 1 to the beginning of April.
Jen: Holy mother.
You’re in Marietta, Georgia?
John: Yeah, well, actually, I grew up in Lilburn, Georgia, which is where my parents live and I am busing in and out of my parents’ house. That’s where I’m at right now.
Jen: You’re at your mom and dad’s house?
John: Yeah, I don’t want to brag, yeah, but I’m at my parents’ house.
Jen: Listen, being on tour is fancy. It is.
John: Yeah, it’s fancy.
Jen: Like, stay in your boyhood room? It’s really amazing.
John: My mom actually texted me this morning. She goes, “You’ve got to be out of the house by 10:30 because the cleaning lady’s coming.” I was like, “Mom, I’m like a big deal on the internet. I’m famous.” She’s like, “Get out.” I was like, “Okay.”
Jen: “Pick up your freaking socks.”
John: Yeah, “You’re a grown man.”
Jen: Let’s talk about your parents, because when we funnel down to how you got your start as a comedian, you’re like, “Listen, I grew up in Georgia. My dad’s a pastor. I was the third of eight homeschooled kids.” I mean, seriously. That material writes itself.
John: Okay. You’re just going to laugh at my pain like that? We’ve been to a lot of therapy for that and you just make a joke out of it. Great, Jen.
Jen: Talk about your family a little bit and your childhood. How on earth did you parlay this into this hysterical humor?
John: I was one of eight kids. I was the middle and I was neglected. I wouldn’t say neglected, but maybe overlooked. Everybody else had a skill, whether they were a musician or athletic. I had nothing. All I could do was just … Everybody would just come to me because I would just roast on everything.
Jen: Okay, so you were funny from the beginning?
John: I was funny, not professionally, but even as a kid, I was always funny, yeah.
Jen: Like the family clown.
Jen: So, you were homeschooled all the way through high school?
John: I was homeschooled first to eighth grade and then my mom, when she had the eighth kid, she went into a postpartum depression situation. She was like, “I can’t do this anymore,” so then I went to … My parents always threatened me with sending me to school, so they finally did and I got beat up daily. So, it was great.
Jen: I cannot imagine a traditional high school experience after being homeschooled your whole life. Was it bananas? Did you go to public school?
John: I went to private school, but it was as much of a different world that homeschool ever was, that I was like, “What on… ?” Parents, if you’re listening and you’re thinking about homeschooling your kids, maybe get them in at sixth school or maybe seventh. Just not right to high school, maybe.
Jen: I’m enjoying imagining you coming in as a freshman. It’s already a weird year. It’s hard to be a freshman human being, much less try to figure out high school dynamics.
Obviously, you have very much lived by the principle about writing about what you know. I get this. I’m a writer, too, and I dabble in humor. People all the time are telling me, “I can’t believe you have five kids.” I’m like, “You know what five kids are? Material. That’s what it is. Content.”
John: My dad was a pastor, so I was always kind of … The problem with going to the public school was that, coming out of homeschool, I had a lot of confidence, but not legit confidence. I just thought I was the man. I was the man of my house, but I got to public school and they’re like, “Dude, you’re not the man.” Which is the same thing that happened when I thought I was hilarious and I did stand up for the first time at a comedy club. It was problematic.
Jen: Was it a disaster?
John: Yeah, 100% a disaster, because I was doing stand up … This is embarrassing, but I was the announcement guy at church. You know the announcement guy?
Jen: Sure. Of course, I know. Are you kidding me? That’s my native tongue.
John: It wasn’t dirty, but I was saying things that are like, maybe like irreverant for the church. I’d be like, “Hey, there’s a church picnic this weekend. I’m probably only going to go to find girls,” or something like that. They would be like, “Wait, what?” I was this dumb, hilarious guy at church, which is stupid anyway. Then I brought that same confidence into the comedy club and I got eaten alive, dude.
Jen: They’re like, “Sit down, dumb-dumb.”
John: They were like, “We don’t get your joke about David and Bathsheba.” I was like, “Okay.”
Jen: Okay, so obviously, in your comedy early on, and still to this day, because you figured out how to make it work, you reached into your evangelical experience-
Jen: And your conservative, Southern homeschooled experience. I can see that that might struggle to translate sometimes, but you found your crowd. You found your crowd. You did it.
John: Well, before finding the crowd, I think what a lot of Christian … If there is Christian comedy. I don’t even know if that’s a thing, but if there is … I bombed at the comedy club but then I stayed there for eight years. I stayed-
Jen: Did you really?
John: Yeah, in perfecting my craft and getting good. If you’re not good at the comedy club, they’re going to throw a beer bottle at the stage. You know what I’m saying?
John: These people are drinking and these people are there to see their famous whoever that they paid 60 bucks for, and you’re opening up with 20 minutes. If it’s not good, they’re going to turn on you fast. That’s where I developed this … I didn’t want to do any Christian related jokes or anything, because I was in there, eight and nine years in the club.
I got good being edgy that way, because a lot of Christian comics, if there is such a thing, don’t understand that just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you can’t go after some stuff and doesn’t mean you can poke holes at some stuff from the inside.
I’ve probably roasted … I’m on Winter Jam. I’ve probably roasted every single one of those artists at one time or another on videos. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve probably roasted you. I’m just kidding. I don’t think I’ve ever roasted you.
Jen: I’m sure you have. It’s so easy. It’s so easy. I make it simple for you.
What did your content center on in your comedy club days when you were honing your craft?
John: I was talking about dating, and being with my roommates, and being poor, and eating fast food, and stuff like that. I’ll never forget this. I was at the comedy club in Hermosa Beach, California. This is probably four years ago. I forget who the comic’s name was. Female comic. She had a joke about Moses and the burning bush. Everyone was dying laughing and I was like, “Wait, what? What?”
Then I talked to her after the show. I was like, “What?” She goes … As a believer, I was like … And everyone knew the story, which shocked me. Then I was like, “Oh, so maybe even in the comedy club, I could mention Jesus. I could mention churches. They meet on Sunday morning. They ask for money. These churches. Everybody knows the disciples. Everybody knows Noah’s Ark. Everybody knows the 10 Commandments.”
Christian or not, if you grew up in this country, especially in the South, you know of Joel Osteen. You know of David and Goliath. So, I was like, “Well, maybe I can step out in the comedy clubs and start talking about these things.” Sure enough, everyone was like, “Yeah, we know what that is.” Christian or not, they’re like, “Yeah, yeah. We know Cane and Abel. We know Adam and Eve. The apple thing. We get it. We know.”
All the jokes started to be … I wasn’t coming at it from angry. I was just like, “These are the things that I experience in life,” and everybody’s like, “Yeah, dude. We love it.”
Jen: Oh, yeah. That’s amazing. Did right away you take it from the parody approach, the “why Christians are so weird” approach?
John: Yeah, well, everyone…
Jen: You know it’s true.
John: Everyone does get that part. Everyone, for sure, gets that part. I told somebody recently, the comedy is the great equalizer … In that green room, there’s like … If you call me a Christian comic, there will be a Latino comic. There’s gay comics. There’s lesbian comics. There’s Boston comics. There’s Jewish comics. There’s everything comics. You can be anything you want as long as it’s funny.
Jen: That’s a great point.
John: As long as it’s funny, you can talk about whatever you want.
Jen: As long as it’s funny. That’s a great point.
John: That’s the great … If I’m sitting at the comedy club, I would want to hear a Jewish guy’s take on the Olympics or a gay guy’s take on living in the Bible Belt. These aren’t my perspectives, but I would like to hear the other guy talk about how he sees the same things that I see. So, I’m talking about everything that everyone else sees, just as a … I’m filtering it through as being a believer, you know?
Jen: I like that because you’re right about it. Really good comedy that’s tightly delivered and funny for everybody in the room.
One of my favorite videos of yours, and I have a lot, but…
John: Oh, no. Was it the one we did together?
Jen: Even as I want to start talking about … Well, that one’s funny. By the way … John and I did a video together at Catalyst, probably two years ago, maybe?
John: I think it’s on the internet somewhere.
Jen: I’ll put it up. Yeah, it’s on … everything is on the internet. Oh, my gosh. The internet lives.
John: They do.
Jen: I’ll put that one up.
One of my very, very favorite is your video on sponsoring a Millennial. It’s just too funny.
John: Oh, yeah.
Jen: I literally just watched it about 20 minutes ago, again. I’m just cackling. I’m sitting in my office just cackling out loud like a witch.
John: Yeah, there you go. It’s good for you.
Jen: How did this one come around, because it is … again, we’ll have the links up, you guys. If you haven’t seen it, you’re going to die laughing. Will you explain what it is?
John: Yeah. It’s basically like a Compassion International, like a Christian organization that you sponsor a kid for like 30 bucks a month. You could sponsor a Millennial for 2,500 bucks a month or something like that. I don’t even remember what the joke is.
But every piece of content you’ll ever see on the internet of mine, it’s a joke but it comes from real life and probably real anger or real pain. That’s as honestly as I could say it. I had lived with some people that were like …as a comic trying to come up, I get up at 4:30 in the morning to get a flight at 6:00 and I’m dragging boxes of merchandise through the airport terminal to get a layover to get a soundcheck. I’m sitting in the Southwest flight in the middle. I get a … I’m scraping by, barely trying to make a living, and then I get a letter from a dude at my church that’s like, “I’m just going to chill in L.A. and I need like three grand a month for y’all to help me.”
John: Dude, get … This is the most … I was so angry, but the only way I know how to work through my anger is through humor.
Jen: Of course.
John: It’s like … I feel like it’s very thinly veiled.
Jen: That’s amazing. I hope he knows that that was about him, because that thrills my passive aggressive side. “You know what, bro? You know what you just gave me? Thank you.”
John: Thanks for the inspiration. I think the best video that would ever travel on the internet has got to be the perfect combination of humor and truth.
Jen: Right, exactly.
John: There’s a lot of bloggers, or people that run in our circles, that are just angry at a lot of things in our faith. They’re like, “I can’t believe Millennials are this, and they’re entitled, and this, and this, and this, and this. We need to change this. They need to start paying attention to XYZ.” That doesn’t travel, because nobody wants to be the bearer of that message.
John: But I’m saying the same thing, but being funny.
Jen: But when you package it in humor and satire, it’s hilarious.
John: And everyone’s like … And you know what, it’s the same, a lot of times, with if you make fun of helicopter parents, Millennials–no one thinks they’re the helicopter parent. They’re like, “I know someone worse. That’s who you’re talking about.”
Jen: That’s true.
John: You know what I’m saying?
Jen: That’s a good point. Oh, yeah. That’s a great point. I love it when you’re in that video and you’re like … All the Millennials are going through what they need out of their sponsorship money and you’re like, “I need dog food for my rescue dog.” I just died. I’m on the ground.
John: Who rescued who?
Jen: Everything is so freaking funny. You just plucked out all these buzz words. The kale chips. It’s all too much. So, so funny.
John: If you look on the comments, people would say … A lot of parents would defend their kid by saying, “My child is not like this. My kid has three jobs.” I’m like, “Hey, the number of jobs you have just means they’re terrible jobs.”
Jen, you have one job. You know what I’m saying? I have one. If you work at Starbucks, and you’re also a nanny, and you’re also an Uber driver, that’s not helping your cause, I don’t think.
Jen: That’s not a badge of honor. Also, your character’s name in that video is Declan. I’m dead over it. I can’t with Declan.
John: You don’t have a Declan. Do you have a Declan? You don’t, do you?
Jen: I don’t have a Declan. It just makes me laugh so hard. That is the perfect name. You’re a Millennial, right? How old are you?
John: I’m 33. You could put me in that category, yeah.
Jen: Okay. Are you?
John: She goes, “Okay.”
Jen: You’re on the north side of that, aren’t you?
John: What? The north side of?
Jen: No, I guess that’s right. Of being a Millennial.
John: I’d say out of the … Even a lot of the jokes on Christian culture or on the church, or something like that, I’m not saying, “You guys are idiots.” I’m saying, “We are idiots.” You know what I’m saying?
Jen: Right. It’s so true.
John: If I’m poking holes at it, it’s from the inside, not from the outside. I would squarely put myself in the Millennial category, in terms of … I do have a job and I do work hard, but all the other … “I just can’t right now. It’s just too much.” That’s 100%. I’m upset when there’s no wi-fi at the airport.
Jen: It makes me so happy. It makes me laugh so hard. Let’s go back to your career, because this whole series is on comedy and comics. I’ve just had some really amazing comics on. Some that you’ve worked with actually. I think you’ve worked with Anjelah Johnson, haven’t you?
John: Oh, man. 100%. I just talked to her like two days ago.
Jen: She’s so funny and smart.
John: She’s the best.
Jen: But, you know, one common thread throughout all the comics is, it’s such hard work. It is such a hustle. Comedy is such a grind. For a lot of us who are new-ish to you, it appears like you just exploded on the scene.
That is fundamentally not true. You schlepped. You schlepped, and you schlepped, and you schlepped. Walk us through a bit of your career progression from the days where you’re honing it in in comedy clubs, and what did that look like, to where you are now.
John: Oh, man. If anyone’s trying to pursue any kind of creative career, we didn’t really ask about even money until probably like six years in. One time, I lived in Denver, Colorado and we drove up to Laramie, or Cheyenne, or something, in Wyoming, because there was this new bar that opened up that had an open mic on a Monday. Six of us piled in a car and drove up there. I’ll never forget the bartender. There was like five people in there, drinking. We came from Denver and the bartender was like, “Why?”
John: “Why?” We just wanted to do it so bad. I just wanted to tell jokes. I didn’t want to say, “How do I get famous?” or “How do I … ” If you want to know how to start a TV show, you’ve got an iPhone, just start putting it on YouTube tomorrow. If you’re not passionate about making the content, then any career path is going to be a problem.
We would drive everywhere just to tell jokes. People don’t understand. Comedy’s the most vulnerable position on earth, because if it goes well, they will carry you out on their shoulders, but if it goes bad …Yeah. Have you ever been to a bad comedy show? There’s nothing worse.
Jen: Oh, my gosh. I want to kill myself. I want to die of second hand embarrassment.
John: It’s the worst, yeah. You’re not even up there.
Jen: No, no, I just want to rescue everybody.
John: Yeah, everybody.
Jen: The comic, the audience. I’m like, “Oh, can this … ” And I pray for the rapture. You’re so right. And people are mean.
John: I think there’s a … Down in Austin, there’s like Cap City. Is that the comedy club down there?
Jen: Oh, yeah. Uh huh.
John: All right. Brian Regan used to have a bit about how he would do comedy for a corporate event. Let’s say they book him for an hour. Like, “How come after 10 minutes, you can’t be like, ‘Hey, this isn’t going well. Y’all just want to go to the bar and then I’ll just leave?'” You know what I’m saying?
Jen: Totally. You’re stuck.
John: You’re stuck.
Jen: It’s like you’re in prison. You’re in your own prison, of your own making.
John: It’s the worst.
Jen: And people are not kind. It’s not like a church where you’re even going to get polite claps.
Jen: People are just savage, absolutely screaming at you.
John: Yeah. A lot of comics … There’s a lot of Instagram and internet comics that make funny YouTube videos and they’re like … I’m like, “Hey, you want to come out to the live show,” and they’re like, “Absolutely not. Absolutely I do not.”
Jen: It is vulnerable. You’re right. It’s pretty courageous to stand up in front of a live crowd and do a comedy bit, especially when it’s born out of your own life, so it’s also weirdly personal-
John: Very vulnerable, yeah. If you … Let’s say you have a speaking engagement that doesn’t, let’s say, according to your standards, does not go well, right?
Jen: Oh, yeah.
John: If I’m sitting in the back and I never have seen Jen Hatmaker before, I don’t know if this is good or bad. You do, but I don’t. I’m like, “I don’t know. I heard her and it was cool.” But if a comedy show goes bad, everyone knows. Like, “This is not going well.”
Jen: That’s so true. That’s true and they read the room, too, so even if they’re not positive if they like you or not, if the rest of the room doesn’t, it’s like this terrible mob mentality. “You know what? I do hate it. I hate him.”
John: Actually, at Winter Jam, this was probably last weekend, we were in … I don’t know where we were. Columbus, Ohio. There’s probably 12,000 people in there. One of the jokes, the closer of my bit, is I call back all these jokes from the show.
So, I’m calling back all these references from the show and I get to the one call back and I realize I never did the joke.
John: So I did the call back and it was like crushing, crushing, crushing, and I did this one part and everyone just looked at me like I was insane.
Jen: Did you know it immediately when you said it, like, “Oh, dang?”
John: I knew it once I started into it. I was like, “Oh, this is not going to go well.” All my buddies were, of course, backstage, it was the best day of their lives. Of course.
Jen: Does Winter Jam typically travel with a comic or are you the first one?
John: I’m the first ever comedian on Winter Jam.
Jen: Wow. That’s pretty cool. Who else is with you on this tour?
Jen: It’s part of your duty. It’s so true.
John: It would make literally no sense whatsoever, this lineup, but you’re like, “Well, if you’re Christian, I guess you have to like all these people.” You’re like, “All right, well.”
Jen: This is what you get.
John: Imagine you doing … Let’s say you do an event and the church is packed full of your people.
John: You’ve invited these people, they’re your people. They know you from the internet. Versus, like, you doing a Benny Hinn conference.
Jen: Right. Totally.
John: I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the best example.
Jen: That’s a really awesome example because it’s so bizarre.
John: You just walk out and everybody’s like, “What’s with the feather earrings?”
Jen: Totally. Are you first? Do they trot you out first to warm up the crowd?
John: Okay, can you please use a different term than “trot me out”, please? Wow.
Jen: I’m so sorry. Is that mean? Like you’re their pet.
John: “Do they trot you out there? Here’s Johnny.” No, I’m towards the … I’m right before Kari Jobe, so it’s actually … I’m right towards the end. It’s a nice spot, but I came out … I’m used to performing in front of my crowds for the last year, year plus, so now I’m … I forget …Or like, “All right. These are like … This is a Kari Jobe fan that has never heard of me,” so I can’t come out with-
Jen: And Christians are weird with humor. Sometimes they don’t know if they’re supposed to laugh.
John: Yeah, they’re very-
Jen: “Can we make fun of Moses? We’re just not sure if we have permission.”
John: I have a joke about … I don’t know, I’ll be like,” My youth pastor said if you don’t have a job, you can’t have a girlfriend. That was the rule in my youth group until one day, I raised my hand and I go, ‘What if I got two jobs?'”
It’s not that funny. You don’t have to laugh at that. It’s okay.
Jen: I’m laughing. I am laughing. You don’t tell me what to do.
John: It’s like, that’s not the highest of brow of comedy, but people are like, “Are we allowed …” In the comedy club, they’re like, “Really, dude?”, but here, I forget that these aren’t my … I’ve got to give them a back massage before I kick them. I can’t just come out and start beating them up like I do my crowd. I’ll just crush everything.
Jen: True. That’s so true. They’re too precious for it. They’re about to hear Kari.
John: Yeah, they’re like, “We’re not ready for … ” I have a joke that goes, “You ever had anyone ask you to pray for something so stupid, you just think to yourself, ‘I ain’t praying for that’?” I do that 10 minutes into the show, not at the beginning, because it’s a little too much.
Jen: Right. I see. I see. You’ve given them a little bit of permission, bit by bit, to laugh at Christian humor, yes.
John: Then they’re like, “Oh, okay.” By the end, everybody’s on the team, but you can’t just come out and get them with the edgy stuff. But I can, at my shows, but I just forget who I’m working with here.
Jen: Okay, that’s so true.
Jen: What is some of your Christian comedy that you thought, “This is hilarious and it’s going to slay,” and it’s crickets?
John: Oh, I got a good example I thought … All right. This is stupid. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud.
Jen: This is great.
John: You know TOMS shoes?
Jen: Of course.
John: You know how that works, right, with the one for one and everything?
Jen: Yep, I do.
John: I go, “Man, I felt awful. The other day, I had to return a pair of TOMS, so a guy in a suit had to go down to Guatemala. The kid was playing soccer. He’s like, ‘I’m sorry. I need these shoes back.'” The kid …
Jen: That’s amazing.
John: I could not have imagined … You know when it’s like so quiet in this house that I can’t sleep? It was so quiet.
Jen: That’s so amazing. They weren’t ready for that one. That was the wrong crowd.
John: They were like, “No … We can’t go with you there, bro. We can’t go with you.”
Jen: No, no. Not for the Guatemalan sixth grader. I can’t do it.
John: I once said the joke about the “I ain’t praying for that.” I go, “I ain’t praying for your sick cat. Dog, maybe. Not a cat. I’m not praying.” Then I go, “The other day a couple asked me to pray for them, said they were trying to get pregnant. I was like, ‘I don’t know how to pray … ‘” Then I started into this bit and they were like, “No, no, no, no, no.”
Jen: Pray the sperm gets all the way to the egg.
John: Yeah, like how? They’re like, “Pray. We’ve got dinner reservations at 7:00, we’ll be home at 9:30. Just pray from 9:30 to … ” No, no, no.
Jen: That’s awesome. That’s amazing.
John: People don’t understand that, sometimes, as a comic, you follow me on the internet or if you come to a live stand up show, you think, “How come the comic has all this power to just say whatever he wants and to go off and roast whatever he wants?” It’s actually 100% opposite. You guys determine what is good. The crowd will … I don’t care how famous you are, the crowd will shut you down in a second if …
Jen: That’s so true.
John: Or same on the internet. I don’t have a big enough following to get a video to go to like 40 million views. I rely on you to relate to it, like it, think it’s funny, think it’s true, and share it. You go back on the internet, you see the ones that have no views, they’re like … Either he didn’t … It wasn’t true or it wasn’t funny. I’m not the be all, end all, of “I can say whatever I want.” It’s literally the opposite.
Jen: That’s a great point. I think that listener feedback is invaluable to a comic. It’s really how you get better, too.
John: 100%, yeah.
Jen: That’s why you go into the club and you try out the same bits, slightly different, 40 times until that 40th time, you’ve dialed it in perfectly, the laughs are killing, the timing has got it. There’s skill to comedy, a ton of skill. It is very, very specific craft and it is incredibly hard.
John: And Seinfeld would say, the problem where comics go wrong is that … If you’ve ever been to a live stand-up show, he explains it. It’s like a conversation. You’re communicating with them and they are communicating back to you with laughter, or applause break, or silence, or groans. If you are not listening to that, if you just say, “Hey, this is my 10 minutes. I’m going to do 10 minutes no matter what,” then …
I’m not saying I’m above bombing now, but if I had a bad joke, like just that TOMS joke, I’ll go, “Well, okay, I thought that was different in my head. I thought that was going to be hilarious.” Then the crowd goes, “Okay, thank you. You’ve acknowledged that and now we’re back at ease.”
Like you said, you’re in the comedy club and the guy’s bombing, but he is not acknowledging that he’s bombing. So, if he goes, “Man, I don’t know, this is not my crowd. Last night was better,” you would be like, “Thank God for saying that. We feel the same awkwardness. But if you just mention it, pop a hole in that balloon, then you can go do whatever you want. We’re fine. Then we all kind of are endeared to you, and now we love you, and now we root for your success.”
Jen: That’s a great point. It humanizes the comic to be in the moment that didn’t work. I think that’s a great point. You’ve got the stand-up portion of your world, that you do a ton. That’s how you came up. A lot of us know you, of course, through your videos, which are so … They have so many views, and so incredibly viral, so many of them. Which medium do you prefer?
John: Oh, man, that’s a good …
Well, you know what? Especially since this is audio only, you’re going to have to put a picture of me up or something, because you’re like, “We’ve got John Crist.” Everybody’s going to be like, “Who’s that?”
Then they see the … “Oh, that guy. Yeah, we know that guy. That’s the guy from the thing.”
John: I think … I will never … Of any comic you talk to, Kevin Hart. He said he would never give up the live stage, because the reaction is so immediate and it’s so much adrenaline, you could never replace that. If I make a video, especially if you’re in a movie, in the ratings of your show, you’re like, “I like this. This is fun, but we don’t know if this is going to be good for nine months.”
John: By that time, it’s like, if you wanted to comment on something … If something happens in the news today, I could talk about it tonight at the show. That’s what’s brilliant about it.
I think the live stand up is always … I would always want to do that. The videos kind of … People will buy tickets to my show and they don’t even know what it is. Like, “What are we going to do there?” I’m like, “I’m a comedian. I’ve been a comedian for 10 years.” But no one knows that, so I think it’s actually worked for me well, because it’s not like you’ve seen all my bits. You don’t know what the show is.
Jen: Your videos are amazing, but they’re scripted. They’re produced, so you get to dial in your comedy with editing, where in a live setting, it’s just every man for himself.
John: You’re like, “We’ll see.”
Jen: It’s sink or swim.
John: Yep, and sometimes, we have … I remember one time, I was at a college and the show was not going well. It was in a food court or something at a college.
Jen: Okay. Terrible.
John: This was probably six years ago. I had to stop every time someone had to fill up the ice machine, because they couldn’t hear over me.
John: It was awful. I remember, I got into some kind of topic that somebody decided was not Christian, or maybe I didn’t … This wasn’t a Christian college. None of the audience was Christian, but maybe somebody from the internet came out and they sent me an email.
“Dude, were you there? I was literally thrown to the wolves. Give me a break, a little bit.” Something had crossed the line, or I don’t remember what, but I was like, “It is so … I’m literally fighting for my life up here, give me a break.”
Jen: “Throw me a life preserver, brah.”
John: Goodness, dude. Yeah.
Jen: Christians are actually … They can be really difficult with comedy. If they think you’re crossing a line, they are for sure going to let you know it.
For you, who … You toggle back and forth between Christian audiences and not Christian audiences, is that ever hard for you, to flip that switch?
John: This summer, I’m doing a run of comedy clubs. I’ll do … It’s 21 and older in there and you can drink in there. I would never, for example, swear in my comedy show or make a derogatory sex joke or something like that. No matter where you see me, you’re not going to find a joke like that, but you’d find that …
You know the same thing. A casino is typically an older crowd versus a youth group, who was kids. I wouldn’t go in a casino and make a joke about a Snapchat filter. Morally it’s not right or wrong, it’s just that would be a poor choice for that crowd. I have jokes that are edgy or a little bit more topical that maybe address a certain type of societal or racial overtones, but it’s not that the joke is inappropriate, but it would be inappropriate for a youth event, 100%.
Jen: Yeah, got it.
John: But at the same time, you do a marriage conference and there’s jokes that are acceptable there that aren’t at other spots. I understand that if I do a church and the pastor’s like, “Hey, go follow this guy on Instagram,” there’s kids that … I do have a responsibility to them.
Jen: Right. You’re a clean comic, which is great. We know that we can trust you for that. We love comedy in our family, so we have reached, for years…
John: For somebody.
Jen: For comics that we know are, more or less, clean. Like Brian. You mentioned Brian. He’s so funny. We’ve like…
John: Oh, whoa. You guys are on a first name basis? Wow. Okay.
Jen: We are not. I wish we were. God, he’s so freaking funny. Jim Gaffigan. All those guys.
We love live comedy. This ability to command the space. You can’t even necessarily describe it, because it’s as much in the pauses, and in the quiet space, and in the body language as anything, as the actual material. It’s this whole enormous skillset that you only really can explain it when you see it. Like, “Oh, he’s a master.”
John: The Catalyst Conference that we did … I’ve told this story before. I was on the first …you were on the second day, but I was hosting and introducing Andy Stanley. There was probably, how many people there? 10,000 or something like that?
I’m doing this monologue at the beginning, and this is right when Andy’s going through this whole thing about how he was heretical, and he’s not preaching out of the Bible…
Jen: I remember.
John: All these … It’s very visitor friendly or something. I don’t remember what it all is. Anyway, I did this joke. I go, “Man, being back in that green room and doing my devotions was a crazy experience with all those Christian celebrities back there.”
I go like, “Hey, Craig Groeschel walked by. He goes, ‘What is that? John 4? It’s one of my favorite verses,’ and then Jen Hatmaker walks by and she goes, ‘Oh, that’s the NIV. It’s my favorite,’ and then Andy Stanley walked by and goes, ‘What is that, a Bible? Never heard of it.'”
Jen: The timing is so good.
John: That place … If you ever come up to me, for the rest of my life, and say, “I was in that room when you made that joke,” I will never forget that the rest of my life. It was such a-
Jen: Did they just erupt?
John: It went insane, but at the same time, I go, “Oh, my goodness. I can’t believe that just happened.” But what people don’t understand, if somebody was critical of it, for example … Andy Stanley was standing right backstage. I knew he was there.
Jen: Of course.
John: I got offstage and he goes, “Dude, that was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Jen: That’s amazing.
John: Because someone like him … What that joke is doing is not a commentary on Andy. It’s a commentary on everyone’s thoughts on Andy.
John: If I made a joke about how Andy Stanley’s a big environmentalist, even if he was, no one would get that, because no one knows that. You’re making light of the thing that people think about and he’s like, “Yeah, thank goodness, because I don’t know how to address this, but it’s ridiculous.”
You don’t think Andy Stanley knows the Bible? Agree with him or not, you’re an insane person.
Jen: Exactly. I love that. Really smart comedy does that well.
John: Yeah, if it’s done well.
Jen: It takes the elephant in the room, it takes the tension in the room, the unspoken thing in the room, and it handles it with finesse so it somehow gives the listeners the opportunity to both criticize that thing and laugh at it at the same time. It’s brilliant. I think comedy … I like that you said that, because I’ve been a lifelong fan of comedy, just like you. Grown up, been funny. Funny is a value of mine. I’ve studied it. I love comics, and comedians, and funny writers, and funny everything. In my opinion, comedy is incredibly useful, especially right now.
Jen: The world’s weird right now. It’s just a weird time to be alive. Everything feels angry and bananas. It feels real pulled apart at the seams. Some of our security feels a little rattled, so in my opinion, comedy comes in and does something that just straight commentary can’t do. It scratches an itch that we need scratched.
It does a thing for culture, I think, that keeps us on the rails.
Jen: Don’t you agree? Don’t you think comedy’s more important that just making people laugh?
John: Yeah, 100%.
That joke about Andy Stanley, at the end of the day, was in defense of him. I love Andy Stanley. Basically, what I’m saying is, “Come on. Be serious.”
A lot of times, people on the internet … I would never delete a negative comment on one of my videos. I used to think it was … I would get angry if people didn’t get my jokes, or be mad, but now, it’s weird to say, I just am sad for someone that can’t get … Like, “You can’t laugh at that? You can’t laugh at that?”
Jen: Yeah, exactly.
John: I was in a black barbershop yesterday, getting a haircut. I made a whole Instagram story about why they have all these photos up, these black guys with all these cool haircuts, then these white guy haircuts–we’re the most nerdy, lame–I was like, “Hey, man. How come we can’t … Can we get a better photo up here?” Then I go … I was the only white guy in there and they were listening to rap music. I sat down in the chair and I was like, “Hey, now that I’m here, can we get some Coldplay or something playing in here?”
Just as a joke. Those guys are friends of mine. That does way more to bring down the barrier of inequality and racism than being like…think about that, in a certain way. If comedy’s done right–like Chris Rock–a racial joke will lead to change, but sometimes, there’s a comic that’s just racist. You know what I’m saying?
Jen: That’s true. Yeah.
John: You can tell … I think for my jokes about the Christian faith is like, “This guy … ” You don’t know me. We haven’t talked about my testimony, but you assume, you’re like, “This guy’s on the team,” right? You’re like, “I think he’s with us.”
We try to gather that about you or about whatever person. You’re like, “I’m pretty sure this guy’s on the team. He’s not trying to tear … ” You see somebody that other jokes, or maybe like if you go to open mic night, there’s 15 comedians. 13 of them have a joke about Jesus in their act tonight. I guarantee you. But they’re not on the team.
Jen: People know right away, because your material’s not mean spirited.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Jen: That’s the difference. It’s still absolutely hilarious. It’s ironic. It’s satirical. It allows us to make fun of our own selves, but it has the feel of it that is not mean spirited at all.
And, to your point, you are able to make social commentary with it without the shame, without the soap boxing, without the wagging finger. It introduces those concepts into the conversation in a way that’s just not as threatening and not as confrontational.
John: I think, at the end of the day, it would be my hope that it would lead to actual … We had a spoof on “House Hunters”. It was called “Church Hunters”.
Jen: Yes. It’s hilarious.
John: It was making a joke about how these churches … “I don’t want to go to this church, there’s no wifi. There’s no French press coffee here.” That is hilarious and that’s one of my biggest videos, but I feel like, at the end of the day, hopefully, people will be like, “Yeah, we can’t keep doing this.”
Jen: Yep. Right. Like, “This is lame. This is lame that this is how we do it.” Yeah.
John: So, it’s a joke, but it’s not a joke.
Jen: Exactly. Exactly. That’s what I love about your work. Who are all these people in your videos? We see a lot of the same folks over and over. Who’s you’re crew?
John: Oh, man. Well, let’s see. Aaron Chewning is the guy that’s in a lot of them. He is a buddy of mine. We went to high school, not together. We went to the same high school. He actually dated my little sister.
John: He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. You probably see a lot of women in different videos.
John: It’s hard, because a lot of my topics are about dating or things like that. Somebody’s like, “Wow, John has a lot of different girls in his videos.” I was like, “Yeah, well, if I had the same girl in every video, then you would ask about her,” so I try to switch it up.
Jen: Some of them are comics and some of this are just your friends that you’ve roped into this.
John: Yeah. I would always, always … I would never use a friend that is not in comedy or in entertainment in some way, because I did that one time and then all the nasty comments … They were like, “Whoa. I didn’t need this. I’m your neighbor. I don’t need guys trying to say all these inappropriate, disgusting things to me.”
Jen: That’s funny.
John: If it’s a YouTuber … They’re used to criticism or somebody saying, “This is not funny.” If you say I’m not funny, I can handle that. But if you tell my little sister, ” You don’t look good,” she’s going to the therapist immediately.
Jen: That’s a great point. I did a Facebook Live last night and I asked my three best friends to come on and do it with me. It’s like a book club. They’re like … I’m like, “What time does it start?” I’m like, “8:00 p.m. Be at my house at like 7:45.”
They get over and I’m like, “Why are y’all’s faces so red?” They’re like, “Well, we’ve already had a bottle of wine. We’re not accustomed to your life. We don’t know what these people are going to say to us.” I’m like, oh, that’s so true that people … We have been … We’re accustomed to feedback, good and bad.”
John: Yeah, the first time that somebody ever said something negative of you, it changed your life. You’re like, “Oh, everybody’s not my friend.” Then you’re like, “Get over it.”
Jen: Right, and you do. We’ve developed thick skin for that, for sure, but our regular people are like, “No, we don’t want any part of this nonsense. It’s about your life.”
Jen: Okay, so listen. We’re going to wrap this up. I’m going to ask you a couple quick questions. You just fire them off. What … You’ve been doing this for a decade, so you’ve got a lot to pull from. What’s your favorite comedy bit that you ever came up with?
John: Oh, man.
Jen: Just the thing that you’re like, “This is so funny and I love telling it,” or “I love the reaction I get from it”.
John: My favorite bit of all time is, I have the joke about alcoholic drink names. So, if somebody was … This is probably on the internet somewhere.
Somebody was drinking a Mudslide at my show one time. I go, “What is that?” They were like, “It’s a Mudslide.” I was like, “We are so ignorant as Americans. We have alcoholic drinks named after the natural disasters of people.”
Then I said, “How would you feel if you went to a foreign country and somebody started ordering drinks named after American disasters. Like if somebody was like, ‘Hey, let me get a Hurricane Katrina,’ and the bartender brings it out, it’s like 13 ounces of alcohol in a 12-ounce glass. It comes with an umbrella but it’s flipped over at the bottom.”
You just wouldn’t … That’s a perfect example of a joke right there. It’s not to make light of anyone that died in a natural disaster. It’s not to … It’s nothing but a clever play on words.
John: But it’s always my favorite. Every time I tell it. I don’t tell it much anymore, but it’s a classic.
Jen: It’s classic. All right. Who’s somebody that you really wanted to meet in the industry that you finally got to meet? Who’s somebody who you were like, “Yes, we finally got a face to face”?
John: You know what? In the comedy … Because I’ve opened for all these people. Jeff Foxworthy, Dave Chappelle, all of them. You can’t … You’ve just got to be chill.
Jen: Oh, of course.
John: Because you’re a peer of theirs. If I met somebody like a movie star, somebody that’s not in my area, I could geek out a little bit, but as a … I’ve got to be like, “Hey, what’s up, dude?” Like super chill.
Jen: You’ve got to act like you’ve been there.
John: I’ve been there, yeah, right. Probably Dave Chappelle. I grew up watching “The Chappelle Show” and a lot of my sketches are … I learned from that type of tone as a comic. When I met him, it was a …It changed my life, but I chose to act like, “Oh, what’s up, dude?” Super chill. I was like, “What’s your name again, dude? Cool.”
Jen: No, stop it.
John: No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.
Jen: That’s so great. Okay, last question. I ask everybody this. This is a question by Barbara Brown Taylor. It can be anything. It can be big, small, funny, serious. It doesn’t matter. This is it. What is saving your life right now?
John: Oh, man. What is saving my life right now? You know what? It’s hard to say. I’ve been out on tour with Skillet, for whatever you know of them, or Kari Jobe, also. I’m just coming up as a comic and I’m just starting to experience stalkers, and people trying to grab me at the meet and greet, or waiting by the tour bus, or things that is just overwhelming for me, as a guy that just wanted to tell jokes.
All these other artists that I’m out with are like, “Yeah, yeah. We … Yeah. That’s part of it and we … ” Like Justin Bieber canceled the rest of his world tour. We have the same representation. They said it … I couldn’t say this specifically, but it cost him about $150 million of his own money, just because he was like, “I don’t want to do it anymore.”
John: And whether me and you are on a lower level, we have things we want to say, and we want to change the culture, and we see the way things are going, and we don’t like it, and we stand up, and you look at the comments, or somebody’s …
Every Winter Jam, there’s people picketing outside of it about how Christians have gone too commercial, or get back to the roots of all … And you’re like, “Oh, it’s okay. You are allowed to not like me.” Coming up, when someone said something negative about me put me into a depression. I’m talking about for like weeks, man.
Now, hearing bigger people that deal with the same thing, you’re like, “Oh-”
Jen: It’s just part of it.
John: Yeah, so me and you have said, “Hey, world … ” If there’s an accountant that’s working in a cubicle and somebody comes in and trashes his work, I’ve said, “He didn’t ask for that.” We asked, “Hey, everybody, read my book.”
Jen: It’s true.
John: And I said, “Hey, everybody, come to my comedy show.” If somebody comes and doesn’t like it, they’ve done what you asked them to do.
Jen: It’s a great point.
John: My therapist, my counselor, goes … I got this negative, “This, this, and this,” and he goes, “Yeah, they’re allowed to say that. They’re allowed to.”
Jen: That’s good.
John: I was like, “They are?” Yeah, you don’t have to delete them.
Jen: I like that.
John: You don’t have to block them. They’re allowed to say that.
Jen: Nor does it have to change your day or your life.
Jen: They’re allowed to say that and you’re allowed to move on with your life.
John: You’re welcome to … We’re probably not going to acknowledge it or love it, but you’re welcome to contribute and say, “I don’t this is funny. I think this is across the line.
Jen: I really like that perspective. I think that’s great. I think that takes some of the outrage out of the stratosphere and brings it down to the ground, where it belongs. It also takes some of the pressure off, to either always defend yourself, or always answer back, or always engage every critic. We simply can’t. That’s impossible. I think assigning the right amount of attention and permission to other people’s opinions is smart. It’s wise to say, “Oh, you’re actually entitled to that. Okay. On we go, without it being disproportionate.
John: We’re making the next thing, yeah. My therapist said, “John, if you’re going to respond to that negative comment, I want you to first go through every … Say thank you to all 10,000 people that said they loved it.”
Jen: Oh, my gosh. That is a crazy burn.
John: It almost makes me cry, actually, when I say it, because that’s the realest … Somebody said, at my show, they go … They walked out of my show because I had a joke about … I had a Trump reference. It wasn’t even against Trump. It was just making a reference about whatever. Somebody walked out of the show and sent this huge, long email.
But then you also got a standing ovation and somebody messaged me and said, “Hey, I have cancer, and I’m in chemotherapy, and I get out of the hospital, and go watch your videos.” How can both of these things be true, right?
Jen: Yes. That’s good.
John: Either I’m this saint that’s sent from heaven to save everybody, or I’m the antichrist.
Jen: Right. I love that. I think we get to pick who we pay attention to and how much weight we lend it. As people who’ve willingly put themselves in the public, that’s part of the deal. That is a really healthy practice and I am not going to forget that.
Okay, listen. Tell everybody where they can find you and all that.
John: Oh, man. You could probably just go … I was going to say, this sounds very arrogant, but just Google John Crist, probably, is where would be easy enough.
Jen: Just Google me.
John: No, I take that back.
Jen: I’m everywhere.
John: I’m @johnbcrist on every piece of social media everywhere.
Jen: Hey, thanks for being on today.
John: Hey, much love. Whenever I come down to … Where are you guys? In Austin, right?
Jen: We’re in Austin, yep. Austin.
John: I don’t know if there’s enough Christians to bring Winter Jam down there, but-
Jen: There never is. Nobody ever comes to Austin.
John: But next time I’m in town, I’m going to for sure … I’ll come over or something like that. I just invited myself over to your house. That’s how I like to do things.
Jen: 100%. I’ll cook you dinner. All right, thanks John.
John: Thanks. Much love.
Jen: He is so great. We stayed on the phone even after we finished recording and talked for longer, because he is interesting, and smart, and funny. He is just fabulous.
Listen, everything that we talked about today, all the videos, all the pieces that he does, everywhere that he’s at, on social media and on the internet, I will have linked in the transcript, which is over at jenhatmaker.com under the podcast tab.
Plus, if you’re not going to our transcript on the regular, you should. We build that out with so much additional content. There are pictures, and links for everything, and additional information and content. So be sure, if you are enjoying this podcast, jump over to jenhatmaker.com and go to the transcript page, because there’s even more for you after every single episode. My assistant, Amanda, does just a brilliant job on pulling that together for you. More is more over there, for sure.
Listen, thanks for listening, you guys. Thanks for always listening. Thanks for your feedback, and your reviews, and for subscribing. This is just the most fun. I love this podcast and I love you as my listeners. Can’t wait to be with you next week. You guys have good one and I will see you next week on the show.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!