On stage Brad Stine is an
in your face comedian who describes himself as dangerous and a risk taker.
He is the antithesis of how Christians have been programmed to present
themselves. Stine makes liberal use of sarcasm to drive home his punch
lines and their missives. That is the Brad Stine the public gets to see
onstage. However, I had an opportunity to chat with a very funny man who
while he is opinionated is affable, thoughtful and passionate about his
Over the years Stine's repertoire
has attracted the attention of Show Time, A&E, CNN and Fox Television.
He has been a major headliner for nightclubs and in recent years has become
a sought after talent for conferences and church venues. Coming fresh off
starring in the still to be released movie Welcome To Paradise Stine reflected
upon a time when his career hit a brick wall and the opportunity that God
has now presented to him.
To say that Stine's physical
and boisterous brand of comedy is pure magic holds more meaning than you
could know. The entertainer got his start in show business as a magician.
"I learned how to do all sort of bizarre magic (such as) swallowing a sword
and eating fire," he said. He described to me the humble origins for his
magic act, "One summer I was grounded to my room for two weeks. Who knows
what kind of horrific thing I did," he joked. "I could go into it but it
would frighten you," he says. It was while he was grounded he dug from
the bottom of his closet a magic kit given to him as a gift.
The abridged version of
Stine's career is he took lessons to become a better magician, became proficient
at sleight of hand tricks and misdirection. Stein says he always knew he
wanted to be in the entertainment industry and magic became the vehicle
to get him there. Along the way he discovered that he possessed a natural
gift for humor and began to integrate funny moments into his act.
Stine refused to bow to
industry pressures that seemed to dictate successful comedians incorporate
sexual innuendos or cussing into their performances. While working the
club circuit as the headliner he would often be the last person to hit
the stage. He surmised that the audience probably assumed after listening
to a litany of dirty jokes that he would be the dirtiest guy of them all.
Instead, as he would say, he stayed true to his values. He relied instead
upon intellect, body language, facial expressions and energy to contribute
to a quality show. "The fun for me was I thought I could be in your face,
dangerous, all the terms of lionization that the liberal comics are given.
I thought I could do the same thing and not have to curse. To me that's
the fun. That is what I was inspired to try to accomplish," said Stine.
Stine considers his ability
to make people laugh as more than a talent that he has developed. "Not
everybody has the sense of humor to do that. There are a lot of funny people
in the world. We all can come up with something that we think is funny
but that's the easy part. If you have been gifted with a sense of humor
and it truly is a gift, then it is a heightened sense of what is funny,"
he said. "I can see a beautiful picture and know that it is a beautiful
picture but I can't paint it. That's not my gift. A human being can recognize
and describe what is funny but they can't necessarily do it themselves.
The hardest thing to do is figure out how to deliver humor and put it into
a rhetorical package for strangers.
The conversation shifted
focus as we discussed how his career hit a brick wall at the dawn of the
millennium. He remembered, "The people who were trying to helping me get
auditions wouldn't take my calls. I couldn't get them on the phone to ask
them, 'what's going on?' These people just vanished. They just ignore you.
They just cut you off. It's ruthless. It's dehumanizing."
Stine tried all sorts of
things to perfect his craft including taking acting lessons. The doors
remained closed. "I believe that everybody has a purpose, that there is
an actual purpose for you as a human," he said. The comic says he truly
believes God guides our paths but leaves the decision to follow up to us.
"You might not take the path and you may still get by in life but there
will always be the sense that something isn't quite in the groove. You
aren't what you are supposed to be," he philosophized. He continued,
"I felt very much like entertainment was supposed to be my livelihood.
I certainly have a passion for it and it is something I was interested
in doing and enjoyed. It felt very true to me. I was making a living, had
a home and could take care of my family. Something was missing. Something
didn't feel complete."
"One day I just prayed,
'God I don't know what I am doing. I am miserable and it is not working.
I finally prayed, "Take my money, my fame, my fortune, whatever I am trying
to get but I need to have peace. You either aren't real or I am missing
it someplace. I remember being scared when I said this," Stine said. Stine
admits that in the past he used to try and barter with God in prayer. Prayers
like this would really have the intent, 'as long as it is what I want to
do and where I want to go.' This time was different, said Stine, "I realized
I was saying to God if I am not supposed to be in comedy I will give up,
I will quit." The prospect scared him.
"I remember that day (of
the prayer) I got a call from a guy who said, 'Do you want to come out
and do a television show? It is a small thing on a Christian inspirational
network.' I had (worked) with this guy a couple of years prior." However
his big break came when he forwarded a tape to a speakers' bureau in Nashville.
He was trying to pick up some extra work. The people at the bureau were
all over him with excitement because in their opinion there wasn't anybody
doing what he was doing within the Christian arena. There were Christians
involved with comedy but not with Stine's in your face approach. They pitched
him on presenting his comedy in churches.
At first he wasn't that
excited about the whole specter of standing before a Christian audience
and delivering his own brand of wit and sarcasm. About the career he had
enjoyed he said, "I felt like I was in the sand but I also felt like this
was a step down. Suddenly I went from comedy clubs and studios to churches.
I was like, 'What is this?' However I got some of my clearest dialogue
with God, some phrases that just stuck in my mind. God said, "I didn't
ask you where you will go. I asked you will you go.' I said, 'I told you
I would go anywhere you told me.' God said, ' I told you to go to Christians.
Shut up and go.' I remember saying okay but arguing and wrestling with
Him like Jacob."
"I agreed to do it but I
didn't want to dumb it down. I had seen Christian comedy and God bless
them for I am not here to judge people's lives but some of the things that
were considered to be comedy (I didn't consider) funny. It felt like it
wasn't sophisticated or deep. It certainly wasn't dangerous. I think when
comedy is effective it is dangerous. I told God, "I don't want to be something
else." He said, 'Why do you think that I trained you in night-clubs?' That
was exactly the point to what God had been teaching me. He wanted it to
look like that."
While Stine's approach to
humor may make some people feel uncomfortable he says Jesus provides the
role model for him. Stine says often the Christian church as been guilty
of "a sterilization of Jesus. We have turned Him into what makes us comfortable.
The irony of Jesus was that He was very much an agitator. He did not make
people comfortable at all especially the religious people. They didn't
like that he drank (wine) and even accused him of being a glutton and a
wine bibber. What did Jesus say, Oh sorry am I causing you to stumble?
No basically what he said is nothing is going to make you people happy.
Jesus was sarcastic and at times angry. People can't deal with that. We
can't be angry because we are supposed to be loving, meek and sweet. At
times that is crucial to (our faith) and the beautiful part of Christianity
is that no other religion says love your enemies. There are also times
when you would like to kick over a table and take up whips (like Jesus
Stine said, "Apparently
what we call sin isn't sometimes. These are the grey areas of Christianity
and we don't want to deal with them. When I get up on stage I am a comic
who uses sarcasm. I use in your face types of humor. I make fun of people
and ideas. I joke about things. I get on the edge. I push the envelope.
I make you uncomfortable. I try to provoke emotions and feelings. Why?
Because it makes you have to deal with the idea that we sometimes think
of as sin isn't always (and vice versa). The guiding principal for me is
I always (stress) context over content. I am not as concerned about what
I have to say as what I am trying to mean. The one thing that I try to
do as a comic is provide a social commentary from a Christian point of
view. We get commentary from Chris Rock, George Carlin and others. I am
just trying to do the same thing from the right.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.