Once again, the Contemporary Christian Music tour Winter Jam will roll into Charleston, bringing with it top shelf Christian performers like Skillet, Kari Jobe, Building 429, and NewSong.
As always, the show is a mix of styles: a little pop, a little rock, some rap — and one Christian comedian, John Crist.
Friday night’s show at the Charleston Civic Center is Crist’s first time with Winter Jam.
Back in December, Crist said he was looking forward to joining the tour because it would take him to people who’ve never seen him live before.
“We’ll be going a lot of places I don’t usually play, which is nice,” he said.
Crist thought his brand of comedy would be a good fit for the Winter Jam crowd, but he was waiting to see how it would be received.
While Crist has performed on the same stage as Dave Chappelle, Dana Carvey and Adam Carolla, comedians who haven’t been shy about venturing into raw material and dropping the stray F-bomb, Crist plays it clean.
It’s just how he was raised.
The comedian said, “I’m a product of my childhood. I was raised in church. My Dad was a pastor. I think I got grounded for two weeks, one time, for saying ‘crap.’ ”
So, he keeps it clean or at least doesn’t swear in front of an audience or around actual people.
No offense meant to comedians who use dirty words or the audiences that love them.
“I have no judgement,” he said, matter-of-factly.
But there’s nothing wrong with clean comedy, either, Crist said. In fact, people might be starved for it.
Before the internet became so ubiquitous, Crist said harder-edged comedy dominated. Standup comics shocked their audiences.
“Now, with the internet, we’ve all kind of seen it all.”
Audiences don’t mind a break, he said.
“I think we’re gravitating back toward something like Jimmy Fallon, who is family friendly,” Crist said. “He’s someone you can watch with your kids, with your grandparents.”
Though, Crist acknowledged that maybe keeping your kids up late to watch Fallon on “The Tonight Show” might not be fantastic parenting.
“But it’s kind of like the pendulum swinging back and forth,” he said. “We go from having the dirty words to not needing them anymore.”
Crist’s comedy tends to be observational humor, heavily-infused with Christian culture in-jokes.
He posts a lot of material online. His comedy is approved for all audiences, but Crist isn’t sure where he fits in within the larger entertainment field. He’s trying to make his own way.
Many comedians begin telling jokes at open mics and comedy clubs. As they build a following, they move on to comedy festivals, larger theaters and then maybe get some television exposure.
For some, the hope is to earn five minutes on a late-night talk show, which can sometimes open bigger doors leading to cable television specials or lucrative acting careers.
Crist said television might not be the best place for him. While he’s not looking to chase off television or film opportunities, he likes the audience he’s found online, which is huge.
“I’ve had this conversation a lot,” he said. “I’ve traveled with guys who’ve been on ‘The Tonight Show,’ sitcoms, and stuff like that.”
Getting on a late-night show might be a career high point, but it may not be a stepping stone to anything else. It may not even bring you more fans.
“A buddy of mine has been on ‘The Tonight Show’ 15 times and he said no one has ever recognized him in an airport,” Crist explained.
Right now, social media is so very powerful.
“The big three used to be CBS, NBC and ABC,” he said. “Now, it’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
Crist said he can release a video and more people will see that than a television appearance. Even better, if people like what they see, they can follow him.
“Then I’m coming into your life every day,” he said. “A sitcom doesn’t have that kind of power.”
So, right now, Crist said that’s what he planned to keep focusing on —going out and playing in front of people and making videos for people to watch online.
“The content is what’s important,” he said. “If that’s great, it will find its way out.”