Reprinted from the Dallas Morning News
July 6, 2002
By Matt Weitz, special contributor to the Dallas Morning News
Christian comedian Bob Smiley's choice of ministry was probably determined long in advance.
"My whole family was very funny," he recalled during a recent telephone conversation. "My dad and mom used humor as a way to communicate, and dinner at our house was just like a comedy club. Of course, it helped that we each had our own microphone."
That blending of fact and fantasy - plus a rather high-pitched, manic delivery - is typical of Mr. Smiley and his debut album, "I've Got a Funny Feeling About This," released this year on inpop Records.
So is the focus on family. From stories of his own childhood adventures - like the one about his brother and an unfortunate interaction with a ceiling fan - to his learning to be a father himself, Mr. Smiley grounds his material in the everyday vagaries of home life.
"The whole idea of family ties into God's love," he said. "Home is the place you can go and be loved, no matter what."
Mr. Smiley first got the comedy bug while attending Abilene Christian University, when he started augmenting his income by winning the cash prizes offered at various open-mike competitions. After graduation, he went to Dallas, where he worked as a professional photographer for a year. Out of the blue, an old school buddy who was the road manager for Clay Crosse contacted him about warming up the crowds at Mr. Crosse's shows.
"I had about three weeks to work up an act," Mr. Smiley said. "One difference between opening for a rock show and performing in a club: The booing's sure louder."
Mr. Smiley - who with his slight frame and dyed hair looks like a musician himself - went on to work with big-time groups like Supertones, Newsboys and Third Day. He eventually decided to pursue performing full time. "My wife and I prayed on it," he said, "and decided to go for it."
Now in his fifth year as a comic, he also lives the travel-intensive life of a rocker. "I've got tons of free hotel shampoo," he said. "If I ever start using shampoo, I've got it made."
He grows a bit more serious when discussing his ministry. "The cool thing about what I do is that more people will come to hear a comedian than to be preached at. When you get people laughing, you break down walls. And then you can slip a little bit of message in to them."
He sees his youthful appearance as another useful tool. "I appeal a lot to the younger crowd," he said, "which is good, because I can't afford normal clothes."
Then he gets a bit serious again. "That's part of the message, too - it really doesn't matter how blue your hair is, or what your tattoos say. God's love is there for you."
For more information about Mr. Smiley, including upcoming show dates, visit www.bobsmiley.com