Exclusive: A Conversation with Comic Chonda Pierce
Christian comedienne Chonda Pierce will be performing stand-up at North Cleveland Church of God this Friday evening, Sept. 15. Pierce, dubbed the "country comic" by Billboard, is the number one most awarded female comic by the RIAA. Famous for her wild (but clean) humor and grandiose Southern sass, Pierce has firmly made a name for herself in the world of evangelical entertainment.
And this tour is Pierce's comeback. For many years, she has struggled with serious bouts of depression following the death of her husband and her estrangement from her daughter.
Now? Pierce is back and ready to laugh again.
Our news desk editor Joannah Beckler had a chat with Pierce, talking with her about life, heartache and how she's finally finding joy through the pain.
JB: You’ve been through quite a bit the last few years. How does it feel to kick off your tour?
Chonda Pierce: It feels so good. I didn’t go to work right away after my husband died. I waited a little bit, but then there are some things I couldn’t get out of. When you are a ticketed artist, or anybody’s job for that matter, you can lay out of work for a little while, but then there comes a time when either the bills come due or there are obligations that you just can’t get out of. That’s how it was for me after my husband died. I waited as long as I could, but then there were some things that if I skipped out on, it would cost people money, and I felt responsible. After a while, you have to go back to work regardless of your grief, regardless of your illness. That happens to everybody out there. I was blessed to be able to take some time, but then I kind of went back to work.
JB: I guess you had to.
CP: I was a walking griever though, you know. I was the walking dead. My own version of the show. But you do walk through it. I have always been honest in my career about where I am and what’s going on in my life. It was just very natural, you know, to do that. To laugh and to cut up and to tell my audience. And I’ll be honest, there are some concerts that I look back on and think, “I would’ve wanted my money back.” [laughs] This time around, I feel good. I feel focused again. My concerts have always had a meaning to the madness. I’ve never left home without knowing exactly how I’m going to end the show and what the message of the night was. This one is clearly getting back to being funny and feeling good, but it’s also getting back to — it’s a play on words in that it’s getting back to the very basics about who we are as Christians and what we believe and why we believe it. And I am extremely excited about delivering this message — and let’s be honest, I’m just really excited about laughing again.
JB: You’ve certainly never been shy about your faith or your struggles. How have the trials and the hardships that you’ve gone through informed or changed your comedy?
CP: I think heartache, for me, and the pain — well, you learn more in a valley than you ever do at a mountaintop. And I’ve learned a lot about life, a lot about living, a lot about myself in the painful times. If that’s true, then that means you learn across the board. I’ve learned about comedy. I’ve learned that feeling pain is a great catalyst for being funny.
CP: I think it was either the movie Enough or the movie Laughing in the Dark. You know, it’s really sad when you have two documentaries about your life because there’s just so much junk.
JB: That’s very true.
CP: And I think it’s the nature of who we are. It’s the nature of our jobs. Sometimes comedy becomes a break, a healing agent. And sometimes it becomes a great mask. You have to be very careful of how you’re using it and how you’re letting it use you.
JB: What are you looking forward to most, then, about being back on stage, about being back to being funny?
CP: Leaving the house and having to clean the house. [laughs]
JB: As someone who is just getting into the adult world, I definitely feel that.
CP: I don’t have to cook a meal all night on the road. I mean, let’s just be honest about the advantages. I don’t have to make my bed. [laughs] It’s sad when you’ve been on the road for so long — it’s been 25 years that I’ve been doing this — and you do have those moments of, “Well, I don’t have to make my bed next week because I’ll be on a bus. I can’t cook because I don’t have a stove and have to eat out. Aw, shucks!”
JB: What do you hope the audience gets out of your show? What do you want them to walk away with?
CP: Back to the basics of their life. And that is their undeniable, relentless relationship with Christ. You have got to get to a place in your life where you seal that deal because the world is not going to get — we are not going to wake up tomorrow morning and have all the bad news go away. So we need to get back to the basics. This time around, I’m praying that this is a more evangelical evening than I’ve had in a long time.
JB: So almost like a testimony to joy?
CP: Yes! Oh, man! I’m going to quote you on that.
JB: Feel free!
CP: I’m going to steal that from you, Jo.
JB: Speaking of the church, what do you think she ought to lighten up on?
CP: Me! [laughs] You know, I don’t know that they need to lighten up at all. I think we need to be more serious. If I can be bold enough to say in a loving way — because I adore the church and when Jesus comes back He’s coming to get the church — maybe why He’s tarrying is because the church ain’t so ready right now. We have concentrated so much on our worship teams and our coffee bars for too long. It is time to peel that away sometimes to get back to the basics and what we believe.
JB: Well, my last question is, what message do you have for your fans and those coming to see you on the fifteenth?
CP: Oh, we’re just going to have a blast. This is a great time to bring an unchurched friend who you’ve been wanting to talk to about salvation. This is a great time to bring someone who’s been having a tough time lately and just needs a laugh. We script the night with funny music and video and all that and use a ton of different ways to project the same message at the end of the night. And we do that with one thing in mind. You know, I’ll give it that church answer, that it’s all about Jesus. Well, of course, it is, or we wouldn’t be getting on the bus. My head is really all about who’s sitting in the seats and has been gracious enough to pay my mortgage for 25 years and who I love and adore. I want to see their lives flourish. I want to see them survive tough times with their joy intact. That’s kind of why we do what we do, and that’s what I hope they always get from me.