Comedian Michael Jr. has done a lot of gigs in a lot of places, everything from hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs to The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Oh, and lots of churches. As a Christian, he sums up his modus operandi like this: "If I'm in a club, my material has to be clean enough to work in a church. If I'm in a pulpit, it has to be funny enough to work in a club."
Like anybody in his line of work, Michael Jr. wants to make you laugh. For years, that was his main professional goal. But not long ago, one gig in an upscale California club changed his way of thinking.
"I was praying before that show," he says, "and God sort of changed my mindset. I went from wanting to get laughter from people to wanting to give people the opportunity to laugh." After that same show, while hanging and laughing with some fans on the sidewalk out front, Michael Jr. saw a homeless man across the street—his in a neighborhood where that's a rare sight. They made eye contact.
Michael Jr. says he asked himself, "How could I take comedy to him? What would that look like?"
What it looks like is what he did in the ensuing months, taking his routine to a youth prison in California, abused children in Colorado, a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, and those suffering with HIV/AIDS in Fort Worth, Texas. All of it was recorded for a new documentary, Comedy: The Road Less Traveled, which will screen in churches this fall before becoming available for general DVD sales after that.
For Michael Jr., the experience so powerful that he has worked such events into his regular schedule; he seizes every opportunity to take his comedy to these groups, which usually include people who need to laugh more than anyone. Such gigs don't pay well, ...1