Mike Warnke is one of the most famous figures in American Christianity. However, unless you're a Christian, a Satanist, a scandal fiend, obsessive internet troll, or a vinyl collector, there is still a good chance you don't know his tale. Mike Warnke is a stand-up comedian. A Christian stand-up comedian. And despite a scandal-ridden career that would put Jim Bakker to shame, Warnke alone is responsible for what has turned into an enormous multi-million dollar industry - Christian stand-up comedy. Kinda nutty, ain't it?
In reality the Mike Warnke story has been recounted several times over the past decade and, yes, we're about to go through it again. This piece is more than that, however. It is a history of Christian stand-up comedy, from its roots in ventriloquism to its modern day standing as perhaps the wealthiest of all weirdo subcultures.
Christian stand-up comedy is a relatively new phenomenon, the start of which can be pinned down to the nineteen seventies. Prior to that point there existed plenty that could have been considered Christian entertainment but none of it was particularly (at least intentionally) funny. The nineteen fifties were an era of the staid and stuffy Christians, the schoolmaster stereotype, the real life Margaret Dumonts, the types that Warnke once described in his act as "look[ing] like they were baptized in vinegar." The kitschy Art Clokey-Lutheran Church co-production of Davy and Goliath marked a new era of Christian conceptualism in religious marketing to children. Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, published by the Catholic Church, was a pre-Jack Chick and pre-Spire Christian Comics attempt at coding comic books with God. These were the earliest attempts by the church to disguise religion in everyday pop-cultural artifacts.
In the late fifties a new theory on how to sway children to Jesus swept the culture and has survived for almost fifty years against all odds. Ventriloquism. The craze of using ventriloquist dummies to teach Jesus to kids became so huge in fact, that there remains today a heavily attended Christian Ventriloquists Convention held in San Diego every year. Hundreds of Christian ventriloquist LPs have permeated America, the biggest star of which was, of course, Little Marcy who recorded for several major Christian record labels. Christian ventriloquism was based on the same theory as the previous comic book and claymation experiments - perhaps non-believers could more easily be converted if they were fooled into hearing "the message." This theorem expanded beyond children's entertainment in later years, but remained grounded, to a degree, in youth culture. As the late sixties gave way to the seventies, we would see a new method of marketing Christianity with action movies featuring actors well known in the secular world, records and pamphlets designed in a psychedelic fashion to appeal to hippies, and mainstream figures like Johnny Cash and Jughead Jones used in a new wave of Christian comic books (and from this it evolved into Jesus Camp!? Maybe Christian ventriloquists weren't such a bad idea after all).
Throughout the 1960s and beyond, the largest Christian record company was the Word label out of Waco, Texas. Word mostly released gospel music and some extremely amusing lecture records like the anti-glue sniffing rants of John Giminez, the anti-LSD speaking campaigns of Larry Smith, and the Don Lonie Talks to Teenagers series. They also released many a record collector's favorite by The Teen Challenge Drug Addict Choir and the "Blind Whistler," Fred Lowery. Although some of these lecture albums, as in the case of Lonie, were meant to teach people the gospel through the use of "humorous" stories, there still was no such thing as a "Christian comedy album". This changed in 1971 when an executive at the Word company named Wayne Philpott released a record titled Hello Rock, filled with his own "comedy" based on biblical teachings. The liner notes state, "Humor is a side of the Christian life that comparatively few know much about." Hardly a ringing endorsement, but it appears to be the seed of the genre. It was the first of Word's comedy LPs and the last to appear on their main label. Their subsidiary Myrrh Records would host all the comedy records to follow. Myrrh also showcased former secular pop stars turned pulpit singers like Barry "eve of destruction" McGuire, Billy Preston, B.J. Thomas and a few years later ... a human plague named Amy Grant. Listen to John Giminez's anti-marijuana Word LP, Pick Up On This Kid and selections from Philpott's Hello Rock on the Generation Exploitation Podcast #22.
Hello Rock did not exactly start a craze. It was released to little fanfare and slipped into obscurity. Word would remain cautious about trying something like it again. Instead it stayed true to its far more direct spoken word records, continuing to release hardened rants from Gert Behanna and others. Society was not exactly pining for Christian based stand-up either, as George Carlin was winning Grammys for his painstakingly crafted routines thwarting Catholic dogma.
Prior to the 1971 release of Hello Rock, one Christian stand-up comedian did exist, and his very funny routines did not initially include the objective of conversion, moralization, or ministry. Instead comedian Reverend Grady Nutt, who really was an ordained Baptist minister, fell into the tradition of a long line of homespun comedy personas from the folksy Andy Griffith to Grandpa "I'm No Communist" Jones, and even the satirical Brother Dave Gardner ("What will preachers do when the Devil is saved!?"). Nutt was very much a minister, but when it came to comedy, he played it up as a humorous persona. Like most people in the early days of Christian comedy, he was initially a "funny lecturer" who eventually ditched much of the lecture aspect and focused on the jokes. Nutt had several successful appearances on The Mike Douglas Show between 1967 and 1969, appearing eleven different times. Ten years later he became a reoccurring character on Hee-Haw. The year prior to Philpott's LP, Nutt put out a selection of routines on cassette only perhaps due to budgetary restrictions, titled Flip Sides of Grady Nutt. It included a thirteen-minute comedy track called Jesus and the Woman at the Well, but without a vinyl release I don't know whether it really qualifies as the original Christian comedy album.
Logos International Fellowship, a major Christian publisher put out a "shocking expose" in 1972 by a hitherto unknown author. The company had previously released the popular books Run Baby Run and Satan on the Loose by Nicky Cruz, who was immortalized by Erik Estrada's debut performance in the classic Christian action flick, The Cross and the Switchblade (1970). Logos' new book was titled The Satan Seller by Rev. Michael Warnke. Warnke claimed he was a former "high priest of a satanic cult," and explained his experiences in detail when he toured the media circuit to promote his new book. An article in Guideposts Magazine quoted Warnke as saying, "Our services were held in a barn in an orange grove before a goat's head altar and an inverted cross. In a hideous mockery of the mass we drank and ate ghoulish concoctions I would rather not describe ... I was groomed for the priesthood of the cult ... as a priest in the Brotherhood I was given two elegant apartments rent free, a black Lincoln Continental complete with chauffer, all the jewels and clothing I could wear ... Under my leadership we ultimately grew to 1500 in less than a year." The Denver Post stated, "Mike Warnke was a teenage grave robber, a heroin addict and pusher. He weighed 110 pounds, had waist-length bleached white hair and 14-inch fingernails ... one of his favorite rituals was to draw blood from his wrist, mix it with wine and urine, and drink a toast to Satan ..." Warnke became the kind of figure many media savvy Bill O'Reilly types love to exploit as an example of "see I told you so this-shit-actually-happens" which would feed the furor of the right wing's angrier pulpits. Warnke even started adding credibility for some anti-Semites when he claimed to be a first hand witness to prominent leaders, politicians and bankers taking part in the Illuminati theory come-to-life within his satanic circles. Warnke's book became a big seller in the Christian community and scored him plenty of gigs on speaking tours, lecturing about the "realities" of Satanism in America. His stories continued to be increasingly outrageous, unbelievable, and ever changing. As described in the (highly recommended) book about Warnke, Selling Satan, "Mike said he helped organize ... rituals that degenerated from cat killing to finger chopping cannibalism to the group rape of an innocent virgin. Warnke was always careful to exclude himself from direct participation in the rape, though he admitted orchestrating it." Warnke's credibility wasn't just in question when it came to Satanism. His autobiography also placed him in Vietnam where he "shot a spy ... we even had a guy [in our outfit] who got eaten by a tiger."
Evangelist Morris Cerullo took an interest in the young man's story and thought he could serve the needs of his organization well. He spoke to Warnke and felt that his experience in Satanism could add an important element to Cerullo's ongoing crusade against witchcraft. Cerullo says, "we developed what we called a Witchmobile ... like a mobile home ... and showed all of these various artifacts that witch covens and people would have ... we had it tour the United States where it caused quite a stir." Warnke was paid to put it together and his duties included buying a human skull, a book on spirits, a Ouija board and various "occult knives."
Warnke found himself telling his sordid tale on stage regularly, often opening for the burgeoning "Jesus music" scene which attracted many converts from the hippie culture. His tales of urination, castration, and Christianization were slowly being coupled with jokes and extraneous comedy stories. Warnke's questionable yarns were becoming wildly popular with audiences and he found his stage experience growing ten-fold. At this time Warnke looked like a hippie, so his audience was instantly relating to him on a level that the square looking Don Lonies and Gert Behannas of the Christian speaking circuit would not. As he became more popular, Logos' record division decided to tape some of Warnke's testimony and give it a limited release on cassette only. It featured the typically outlandish Warnke schpiel, "I'm guilty of rape. I'm guilty of armed robbery. I'm guilty of cannibalism in that I have drunk human blood and eaten human flesh in satanic ceremonies."
Warnke's earliest television appearance was in 1975 on Regis Philbin's KABC television program in Los Angeles. He appeared with a man who could have been considered part of the Christian speaking circuit's establishment, "The Chaplain of Bourbon Street," Bob Harrington. Harrington released close to fifty vinyl records from the fifties through the seventies, most containing incredibly sensationalist sermons. Warnke, determined to capitalize on his first major television exposure, did his best to talk over and cut off the garrulous Harrington.
By 1976 Warnke had added more jokes and comedic stories to his repertoire balancing them with the always-riveting tales of gore. Since his popularity had become undeniable, the Word label decided to give a Christian comedy record another go. Mike Warnke's debut LP, Mike Warnke Alive, a 1975 show edited to emphasize the comedy, was released in 1976 on Myrrh. It took about a year for word of mouth to spread but the record became a sensation within the Christian recording world. While he was now enjoying success as the world's most popular Christian stand-up comedian, he was also enjoying spinning more tales of his past. The October 1976 issue of Harmony Magazine had Warnke state, "The last time I had been in Alabama was with Dr. Martin Luther King, back in my college days when I went down there on Freedom Rides." Warnke had also claimed in his book to have once been friends with Charles Manson and that Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey had called Mike up to hang out in the late sixties, when Warnke was supposedly a Satanist. Says LaVey, "Mike Warnke has been riding on my coat tails for several years ... the idea that I called a meeting in San Francisco or, if I had, that I would have invited him is absolute bunk. There's no way I would have had any dealings with Warnke."
The same year as the release of Mike Warnke Alive, Word decided to put out the first official comedy LP by the already established, although rarely heard from, Grady Nutt. Grady had continued touring the church circuit and religious universities since his final Mike Douglas Show appearance at the end of '69, but his show business career was consciously limited as Nutt became more focused on being a "spiritual speaker" than a stand-up comedian. The jokes were far fewer and sermonizing more expansive. Nutt's debut Word release was titled The Prime Minister of Humor, recorded live at James Baptist Church in the hometown of Word Records, Waco, Texas. He made sure to revive some of the classic routines from the Mike Douglas era. Nutt enjoyed an uncanny resemblance to the jazz comedian Pete Barbutti on the record's cover, sporting an unusual bull haircut. His next LP would come out in 1978 -The Prime Minister of Humor Taking Notice. Meanwhile, since Mike Warnke Alive was selling out at Christian bookstores across the country, a follow-up was quickly prepared, 1977's Jester in the King's Court and then a 1978 comedy album focusing on the comic's Vietnam experiences titled Hey Doc! You can listen to clips from Alive and Doc (which eventually warp into some Mike Warnke audio art) here.
MAN OF ILLUTION?
Now that Warnke's success and popularity as a Christian comedian seemed cemented, this led others to take a stab at the genre. A guy named Ken Davis would be one of the earliest to release a non-Warnke Christian comedy record, however, as a minor lo-fi 1970s vanity pressing it left a great deal of professionalism to be desired. Titled Smashed Peas, the album's liner notes were laced with spelling errors written by "D. Loer" who explained that Ken is "... also an accomplished illutionist ..." Track one, side one is titled "I'm Wierd, Your Wierd." Note that the only word spelled correctly there is I'm. The kicker however, is the revelation about the album's recording history. Printed partly in bold block letters and the rest in small print, Ken Davis' Smashed Peas was "RECORDED LIVE at Arapahoe County Public Library." Meanwhile Warnke now found himself playing to crowds of up to ten thousand in venues as unlikely as Disneyland.
Despite three hit LPs with Word, the record label was not happy with Mike Warnke's proposal to switch formats for his next release. Mike wanted to do an album all about "the dangers of Halloween." The company thought this was a disastrous plan that would confuse and anger fans that expected to hear comedy. The argument progressed with neither side willing to budge, and eventually Word told Warnke, presumably using a more Christian phrase, to go fuck himself. Word, although a Christian company, still worried most about the bottom line. According to Word's former A&R chief, quoted in Selling Satan, the Christian music scene was still privy to the things you'd find in the secular record world. "I didn't personally do cocaine, for instance, but I was present when others [in the Christian music industry] did cocaine." Warnke would go ahead and release his LP, A Christian's Perspective on Halloween in 1979 on his own terms without the help of Word. Christian outlets willingly carried the album based on his star power alone. It was reissued on CD(!) in 1990 and you can download the album here. The bad blood between Word and Warnke passed over time and he was welcomed back in 1981 to record the comedy LP Coming Home, the title possibly a reference to the Word - Warnke reconciliation.
In 1982, Grady Nutt died in a plane crash at the age of 48, and the Gospel Music Association would name an award after him to honor the top Christian humorist each year. In total Nutt released six albums, some with music, some just comedy, and most on labels far smaller than Word. The same year, Warnke released Higher Education - an awful looking record with his third wife, Rose, who offered little or nothing to the album other than her gaudy looking appearance on the cover. Warnke's wife was, by most accounts, a total nut who loved indulging in the wealth of the increasingly expanding Warnke empire. In 1985 Rose Hall Warnke wrote a book titled The Great Pretender in which she claimed that Spinal Tap was an actual bonafide "satanic rock group." It seemed she was far more susceptible to phoney Satanists than most.
Warnke's expanding success was now growing parallel with the enormous secular stand-up comedy boom so well associated with the nineteen eighties. As comedy clubs popped up all over North America, more and more Christians started trying their hand at a religious form of comedy. Christian comedy records were suddenly more common and Word's Myrrh outfit started releasing some new names - like Leon Patillo, a one-time member of Santana, and his LP of Classic Comedy & Liveable Lessons. Due to the over saturation of stand-up in the secular market at the time, most of those new Christian comedians now enjoy the same status that so many talentless secular comics of the eighties also maintain - that of the unemployed comedy nobody. Many, like Patillo however, are trolling in hackneyed genres more suited to their personalities. Patillo, whose 1986 comedy record featured such comedic tracks as 'My Salvation,' 'Elijah,' and 'Prayer' now touts himself as a motivational speaker who can "help Christians reach their income potential."
Warnke found himself making more money through this period than almost any other working comic religious or otherwise. Doing half stand-up - half sermon gave him license to pull something most comedians would never dream of doing at the end of their shows: ask the audience for money. At this point Mike Warnke was raking in donations for "Mike Warnke Ministries," something that is now acknowledged as having been a front. In 1985-86 Warnke Ministries made over 1.5 million dollars from donations (or "love offerings" as they called them) alone. They claimed that their ministry needed money to help operate their mission that would house runaways, recovering drug addicts, former Satanists and the like. All of which, of course, was untrue. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were also quickly used up by the crazy Rose Hall Warnke who according to a person in their employ, quoted in Selling Satan, would buy things like "100 pairs of cheap tennis shoes at Wal-Mart." Since Mike and his crazy wife were now registered as a charity they also enjoyed tax-exempt status for all that cash.
During the mid to late eighties, hysterical stories on the pervasiveness of Satanism in rock music and American culture were being propagated on the new sensationalist talk shows that had recently become all the rage like Geraldo and Sally Jesse Raphael. The stories of satanic cults were exactly the kind of stuff such shows wanted and needed, and Warnke was not only a typical guest, but a source often cited by many other self-righteous Christians who were more fond of hysteria than fact.
This was the era when Reverend Donald Wildmon successfully steer headed a campaign to have Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi's Saturday morning New Adventures of Mighty Mouse stripped from the airwaves (Wildmon also tried to get Major Dad cancelled, so maybe he wasn't such a bad guy after all). Meanwhile, the mayor of Nashville and governor of Tennessee honored Warnke when June 29th, 1988 was officially labelled "Mike Warnke Day." His appearances started to bridge far beyond The 700 Club to uncritical appearances on shows like Larry King Live, 20/20, and Oprah (if anyone can unearth these clips it would be highly appreciated, the only Warnke currently available on Youtube is this dull montage of record covers set to audio from one of his LPs). Swarmed by new media interest, Warnke's satanic past became even more glorified, if that is even possible, as he riveted Christians with narratives they took at face value - proof that America needed Ronald Reagan more than ever. "So they took this little girl and they killed her by cutting her sexual organs out while she was still alive. And after she was dead they cut her chest open, took out her heart, and cut it up in little pieces and took communion on it." The typical Warnke sermon of this era ended thusly, "... we do have a bunch of dying kids we're trying to keep alive long enough to accept Jesus. And if that's something that you would like to invest in, we could sure use the bread." Kuh-ching!
The first cracks in the Mike Warnke empire hit when a former Warnke employee named John Cooper slapped his former boss with a lawsuit claiming unlawful dismissal which occurred after Cooper confronted Warnke about his ministry not being a ministry. Once it had been filed Cooper found his front door being shot at and threatening notes left in his mailbox (sounds similar to Dr. George Carlo, the in-house telecommunications researcher who brought potential cell phone cancer links to his employer's attention, was promptly fired, threatened, smeared, and then had his home burned to the ground). Warnke, meanwhile, continued to be shopped around as an authoritative mouthpiece on the inner workings of Satanism, in much the same way Fox News has used Oliver North as if he were a competent consultant on the Iraq War or G. Gordon Liddy as the go-to-man to talk about Mark Felt's "treasonous" actions. The so-called experts in these situations, of course, seem to be the most inappropriate possible choices to advise on the given topic. Often cited by several other "Christian" scam artists like Bob Larson (author of the 1967 gem Hippies, Hindus, and Rock N' Roll), Warnke's testimony became the source for their own false claims. His bullshit accepted as fact, Warnke found himself making some sweet coin on the side as an advisor to law enforcement officials investigating occult crime.
It was around this time that two Christian journalists, Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott, started becoming increasingly skeptical of Warnke's satanic stories. They had heard him speak several times and noticed Warnke often contradicting himself. The two men, employed by Cornerstone Magazine, took it upon themselves to investigate the background of Warnke - the results of which were a 20,000 word article in the magazine, eventually expanded into a must read 430 page book, the aforementioned Selling Satan (1993, Cornerstone Press). With incredible thoroughness, the journalists were able to track down over one hundred different confidants from Warnke's past, all who easily debunked any remaining credibility Warnke's history as a Satanist might have had. In a nutshell, nothing Warnke stated was true. His years as a Satanist did not match up with the accounts of those who were around him at the time, not one witness of Warnke's activities could be produced, and not one of those 1500 followers in his coven seemed to exist. The date cited in Warnke's autobiography when he and Charles Manson would have been chillin' was a time Manson would have been in prison. Nobody seemed to bother fact checking til now, twenty years later, long after he had built an empire out of lies and bilked thousands out of their cash. Furthermore, it was revealed that the ministry was a simple house of cards which had bought Warnke a pair of enormous homes, a pair of condominiums ... and obviously, helped zero dying children in his care, as they simply did not exist.
The investigation hit a nerve, and Warnke made mention of it in a book he was writing about divorce, "One group is after me even as I type these words. They have been trying to find something that will discredit me for some time now. They run a magazine and from what I hear they want to trash one of my books by somehow "proving" that what I wrote never really happened." Warnke was right, they did somehow "prove" that, and Warnke would find himself shunned, after some initial reluctance, from the Christian world, when the evidence against him proved monumental. Word records initially defended their comedy star until the backlash hit the company itself, many Christian stores refusing to not just stock Warnke product, but any Word item until they acknowledged Mike's lack of answers.
By 1993 with Warnke fallen from grace, Word went to their second rate comedy star, Mark Lowry, to fill the gap. The Gospel Music Association, quick to erase Warnke from memory, awarded Lowry the 1993 Grady Nutt Humor Award for his "contribution of comedy to Gospel music." Throughout the nineties, as comedy clubs across North America started to shut down with stunning rapidity, the Christian comedy scene actually continued to grow. The genre that Warnke had started was expanding at a mind-boggling rate while the secular scene's novelty wore off.
THE BIG BOOM THEORY
With the scandals of the eighties increasingly forgotten, George W. Bush's America has given birth to a radical resurgence of evangelical attitudes. Jimmy Swaggart now appears on Spike TV - "The Channel for Men," perhaps apropos, as presumably "real men" can relate to the prostitute-loving preacher. Reagan's FCC deregulation gave birth to the enormous amount of reactionary talk radio on-air today, Peter Popoff is back "healing" poverty stricken African-Americans and so it goes. Along with all that fun, emerged perhaps the fastest growing industry in all of showbusiness, Christian stand-up comedy. Mennonite stand-up Leland Klassen likens the Christian comedy of the past few years to the experience of secular stand-up twenty years back. "For Christian comedy ... the eighties are now. The boom is now." Klassen sits on the board of something called the Christian Comedy Association, which hosts an annual convention in which Christian stand-ups gather to meet, network, and showcase (follow the link to read the registration form where the question "will you be bringing your spouse?" is already checked off for you as "no" - what happens at the convention stays at the convention!). The biggest names from the business side of Christian entertainment attend with money to spend and contracts to hand out. With each growing year it could potentially become an Aspen or Montreal comedy festival for the Christian set. A competing organization called the OCC, Original Christian Comedy, which amusingly was formed long after the CCA, maintains a similar mandate and convention. Their differences are vague, but I hope the reason they remain separate has something to do with pro-Warnke and anti-Warnke sides warring. Probably not the case, but a guy can dream.
Christian comedy is proving to be a profitable genre for the secular world as DVDs of Christian stand-up are now being released by corporations like NBC/Universal. Another appallingly rich man, Hollywood producer Hunt Lowry, put up the cash for a Time-Warner distributed disc that has been profitable despite its retarded name, Thou Shalt Laugh. Thou shalt probably enjoy some of these scathing IMDB comments too. Several of Budd Friedman's famous chain of secular comedy clubs host a weekly Christian comedy night, which some of the comedians involved liken as being no more unusual than niche comedy events like "Latino Night" or the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. It could be argued that atrocities like Larry the Cable Guy are simply exploiting this same market. Thankfully, most Christian comedians on the circuit avoid the reactionary politics that "Larry" subscribes to, so as to appeal to the broadest possible audience.
One exception is a man named Brad Stine, who by several accounts is held in contempt by those in the Christian comedy world for what is often interpreted as the pushiness of his political opinions. It should be no surprise then that he is being embraced by Fox News, Glenn Beck, and the rest of right wing radio, as the voice of a true comedian, being lauded the same way - by the same media types - that praised Warnke's satanic cult falsehoods in the late eighties. Many Christian comics who stay apolitical don't receive anywhere near the amount of press as Stine, which understandably, might be the very reason for some of the contention. It's no skin off Stine's nose, who like Beck, Limbaugh et al. seems to pride himself on making others mad. Stine's point of view is well identified with any number of media pundits who like to collectively take on what they refer to as "Hollywood types," Just as Bill O'Reilly often poses questions that actually end in exclamation marks like "Hey, Hollywood, why don't you shut up!" These statements are usually accompanied by comments about how nobody cares about the political opinions of Hollywood degenerates et cetera. This may very well be true, however, the scorn is never directed at the "Hollywood types" who have expressed their political views most substantially, like Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple, Dennis Miller, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stine's act belongs to the familiar political league that major media corporations apparently adore. The current political climate has helped Stine rise substantially, as he currently stands as the biggest star in all of Christian comedy. His mug has been showcased on expected outlets like Fox and Beck, but also Nightline and The New Yorker. Much like Bill O'Reilly and President Bush, he likes to insist he is just regular "plain folk," despite the fact that, like it or not, he is what he hates, a "Hollywood type," or at the very least a "celebrity type," who has performed at private functions for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
Generally obscure cable channels seem to have a lot of Christian stand-up shows, and they also seem to be raking in the cash. Several Christian stand-up comics assert that even the average non-famous atheist comedian, provided their act is clean, can often make more money touring the Christian circuit than they could in the secular comedy world. Seeing the amount of cash dished out in the scene, there is no reason to doubt the notion.
The Christian stand-up scene is more significant in certain pockets of the U.S. than others. Columbus, Ohio is home to the highest concentration of Christian comedians and the region bordering Illinois and Wisconsin also hosts an above average amount of religious comedy nights. However, sales of Christian comedy DVDs, CDs, and the ratings for Christian stand-up comedy on television are quite substantial all across America regardless of area. There appears to be no real explanation as to why live Christian comedy is more substantial in certain regions, other than the idea of existing Christian comedy success begetting interest. To refer to the writings of Bertrand Russell, "With very few exceptions, the religion which a man accepts is that of the community in which he lives, which makes it obvious that the influence of environment is what has led him to accept the religion in question." Using that theory, one can conclude that the comedy community in which one is surrounded by, will in turn influence others not previously exposed to a major comedy scene. Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass.
The show business phenomenon that was spawned by the deceitful marketing genius of Mike Warnke is both an enormous and uniquely American format. There is of course the chance that if "for Christian comedy ... the eighties are now," then it could experience the same crash that secular stand-up went through at the end of that decade. Perhaps Brad Stine will find himself performing for the rest of his life at a casino named after him in Branson, Missouri - the new Yakov Smirnoff.
As for Mike Warnke, he ignored the accusations that ambushed him fourteen years ago and stands by his discredited biography. He still scores steady gigs - although you have to admit they are strange gigs, like performing for the United States Navy in Japan or a convention of Canadian Christian business men in Northern Alberta. Most in the Christian comedy scene don't consider him part of the scene at all, but instead, a lone entity unto himself, who holds interest as novelty value only. Regardless of his tainted name, surely he must look on at the Christian stand-up comedy world of today with a feeling of pride knowing so much of it is because of him. What a country!