"Performing stand-up, you're staring down the barrel of a gun..."
Stand-up comedy can be brutal, especially today in the world of anything goes, uncensored content and no-holds-barred entertainment. Many Christian performers, not wanting to be a part of the mainstream crowd, have ventured off to form their own comedy troupes, video series, and solo acts. Then there’s SHINE grad Maurice Brown. Once a radio announcer and sports radio host, Maurice is now a stand-up comedian on a mission: to take his self-described brand of clean comedy to clubs around the US, and open the minds of hearts of everyday people to see Jesus. We sat down with Maurice to discuss his calling, and how being funny can actually become a positive career move.
How long have you been doing comedy?
I started doing comedy believe in 1992. I was a radio announcer then, and at the request of my operations manager I did comedy once. I did a talk show the following year and then I kind of stayed out of comedy until ’96. I tried it for a year at that time, and then in 2010 my wife and I got a café and I decided that I was going to pursue it wholeheartedly.
So you started performing in the café?
Yeah, I was producing Christian comedy shows in the café, flying comedians in, and I would open for them, then after awhile, I just felt like God wanted me to do it full-time. When you’re doing comedy, you’re getting people to laugh, and you have a platform. If you have an ability to stand in front of people, you get a chance to share your thoughts and share Christ. So that’s what I started doing. I don’t know if you are familiar with Derek Morgan or not, but at the time when I went through, he was one of the coaches with AMTC. He spoke with me, and he was like, “Listen Maurice, what you’re doing is pretty cool, but you need to get out there so everybody can see you, instead of just performing in Christian environments.” This had never occurred to me, and I said, “Wow, what a radical idea!” So I started going to the clubs in DC. All the other comics were using profanity, and you can only imagine what they were talking about out there to secular audiences, so that’s where I took my clean comedy. And I would always have some way of getting Christ involved in my routine. Even if it’s just at the end, it’s all clean, all thought provoking, and of course the motivation is just to share Christ.
Is it nerve-racking to perform standup?
Well it’s a huge challenge; the adrenalin rush you get out of it is exciting, but I love doing it. You’re going into a situation where it’s you verses the whole room, so it can be overwhelming if you think too much about it. Especially when you’re with a secular audience and you’re going to do it clean (laughs). After a while you win them over. Some people don’t want to hear anything about Christ in the clubs, but they always end up respecting you.
Like music and film, comedy has different styles. As an entertainer, how would you describe your brand of comedy?
Well it’s of course clean comedy; it’s again thought provoking comedy. I try to talk about socially relevant issues, where everybody can gravitate, and then bring out the Godly aspect in the jokes. In the comedy community in DC, all the guys call me “The Reverend” (laughs). So they kind of know where I’m coming from.
Who if any comedian would you say has helped shape your career and why?
You’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love a guy like Richard Pryor. Richard Pryor was about as profane a comic as you’ll ever hear, but the humor in his performance, his animated approach, the brutal honesty in his humor I thought was great. He was a tremendous actor, so he could emulate the things that he witnessed in such a way where it was just about the brutal truth of it all (laughs). I also love Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld is a guy that I try to base a lot of my humor on because he is a clean comedian who makes you think. He’s a great observer of life and someone that I try to emulate.
What was your experience like doing standup with AMTC?
I had made the commitment prior to AMTC to get back into comedy, and of course when I found out about AMTC through a friend, I became very excited. Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, I mean, you can’t beat that. And I learned a lot about performing, not just comedy, but acting, narrating, being in front of an audience and performing on some level. Doing improv, cold reads, TV presenting and that type of thing; a whole gamut of performing is just handed to you. It gives you an idea of what the business is like, and it’s a valuable experience.
You were featured in the movie Love Different directed by Anthony Hackett, and starring Jenn Gotzon. Tell us about the project and your role in the film.
I’m playing the role of a deacon, and of course this is a faith-based film, another great opportunity from AMTC. Periodically they send e-mails of auditions that are upcoming and I saw this particular one… they sent the script, I did the audition, got a call a few days later, and sure enough, I won the part (laughs). Talk about amazing! They said, “You are perfect for the role,” and now here I am, in the cast with Jenn Gotzen, and a guy named Tommy Ford, who was on the TV show Martin. It was Christ confirming to me, and also all about perseverance; you know I’m always out there doing comedy, I’m auditioning whenever I get the opportunity, I’m working as best I can, and good things are coming from it.
How has God shaped your career as a performer?
When you’re performing in front of a lot of people, particularly in standup comedy, you’re staring down a gun. You learn how to operate in hot circumstances, how to think on your feet, and how to deal with adversity because obviously you’re not funny every time you go on stage. There are nights when you don’t get anything, nights when you bomb… I haven’t done it too many times, but it has happened (laughs). You’ve just got to get up, dust yourself off, trust the Lord, get right back in there and do it again. You just have to hang in there and trust Him.
Any advice to future performers looking to get involved with standup?
If you’re going to get into standup, don’t let fear keep you from trying it. There are a lot of funny people out there who want to do it, but they can’t get over the fear factor. You gotta’ get up there! That’s number one. You’ve got to dive in, and just swim in it, and then of course stay consistent with your intentions to do it because it’s a lot of fun, but it’s not necessarily easy. You’ll find out very soon whether or not you love it (laughs). You just have to be patient enough to realize that you’re not going to be great immediately. Be persistent, keep driving and eventually believe it or not, it does pay off. You do get funnier, you do become more at ease on stage, and you’ll learn how to interact with the audience. It’s just a step-by-step process that you have to continue to go through, and it’s amazing how things slowly come together for you the longer you stick with it.