Clean comedian John Crist loves Katt Williams, and is loved by Denver's dirtiest standups
John Crist has comfortably rooted himself in the world of Christian comedy, crafting niche-specific jokes that kill with the straight-laced Colorado Springs crowd. Yet somehow -- miraculously! -- he's also cultivated a respectable reputation in Denver's underground community, where the dirtiest of the dirty are constantly in search of socio-political boundaries. After recently appearing on the Fine Gentleman Club's comedy podcast, Too Much Fun, Crist will be hosting the first round of the Funny Final Four this Wednesday at Comedy Works, assembling a team of his favorite local comics to compete, tournament style.
We recently caught up with this standup diplomat to chat dirty comedy, the Denver scene, and why so many have a knee-jerk response to "Christian comedy."
Westword: I hope this don't offend you -- and I'm sure you get it all the time -- but when I first saw that you were marketed to churches as a clean comic, I'd casually written off the idea that you could be any good. Are you constantly having to address that when playing mainstream clubs?
John Crist: Yes, but that's because I don't want to be a "Christian comedian," or a "clean comedian" or a "corporate comedian." I'm with you in that those dudes suck. As a Christian, I know that anything associated with us in comparison with the mainstream is terrible.
It's weird, though. I've been traveling on a tour bus doing two shows a night. Tonight I'm playing in Missouri before 2,500 people -- at $35 a ticket, you can't ignore the financial impact of that.
So you're doing the Christian circuit to make money, while performing secular gigs on the side? Didn't Five Iron Frenzy have the same tour model?
Yes! I can't believe you just dropped that name. But yeah, 100 percent. It's really hard to make a living as a standup comic. You've been around the scene long enough, you know these guys are sleeping on couches, bumming rides from people. It's because I'm clean that I can make a living. I just did a show with Josh Blue at Zanies in Tennessee, and that's where I'd like to be, but they only paid $700 to go out there for the weekend, and I had to fly myself out. So at this point I can't make money [in clubs], but those church gigs, one of those can pay all your bills for the month.
But I assume you're not doing this just for the money, that you're a clean comic by nature and this is a scene that is looking to pay big bucks for a clean comic.
Oh, yeah, I love it. People always ask me, "How do you write only clean jokes?" And the thing is, I don't have any dirty jokes. There aren't all these jokes I'm thinking of where I'm like, "Oh, man, I wish I could tell these but I'm a Christian." But whether it's clean or dirty, all we're both doing is making observations. A funny joke is a funny joke. Everyone loves to laugh; it doesn't matter who you are.
And your material works right alongside acts like Sam Tallent or Josh Blue, who are a little more NC-17. What do the churches think of you performing in clubs?
If you look at my website, I try and have a balance. You'll see some churches in there, and you'll see some clubs. The church crowd thinks it's awesome that I perform at mainstream clubs.
Do they think that it's an opportunity for you to evangelize to people?
Probably. And while I'm outspoken that I'm a believer, you can ask any comic in Denver that never once have I been like, "Hey dude, here's a tract." I'm not trying to convert people. I want to be funny and respected as a mainstream comic just like anybody else.