Giggling has got to be one of my favorite things – self induced or externally triggered, I’m always on the lookout for things that make me laugh. So when I realized that we had a comedian in our midst, I quickly jumped at the chance to get to know him better. Here I chat with the hilarious and refreshingly clean comedian, Bob Smiley, about cultivating an audience, finding your niche, and being open to opportunity. If you want to get to know him, have a laugh, and learn a thing or two, read on!
Who are you and what do you do?
Great question. In fact, my mother in-law asks me that at least once a week. I’m Bobsmiley.com and I’m a comedian. Most people introduce me as a Christian Comedian because I am a Christian and I talk about my faith throughout my show. Also, 80% of the shows I do are in churches for entire families to enjoy. So that’s who I am and what I do. I also occasionally mow my lawn.
Tell us about your career in comedy and how you got started.
I actually got my degree in Elementary Education. I picked Elementary because I all ready knew most of the alphabet so I figured the classes would be easy. However, my Junior Year in college I signed up for a standup competition I had no desire to make comedy my career but I wanted the $500 cash prize. I was living in Abilene, TX at the time and $500 was 4 month’s rent out there! I won the competition, not because I was good but because everyone else was really bad. I took the money and continued toward my certification to become a teacher. After graduation, before becoming a school teacher, I thought it might be fun to see what it was like to make actual money. Teachers aren’t paid what they’re worth so I took a job as a photographer. I realized I could do photography for one year, become debt free and then start my path as a teacher. However, during that year of doing photography a guy called me out of the blue. He’d seen me do that one stand up contest in college. He was now a road manager for a Christian singer named Clay Crosse. They were about to leave for tour and wanted a comedian to come out and open for him. He remembered my performance and more importantly that it was clean. So he asked if I wanted to tour with them in churches. I thought it’d be a great way to see the country before settling down to a career of teaching so I went on tour with them. Several bands saw me on that tour and kept asking me to go on tour with them. That was 16 years ago. So that’s how I got started which is great except that I have no advice for kids wanting to become a comedian. I can’t really tell them, “Just do a standup competition your Junior year in college and wait for a tour manager to call you.” That’s terrible advice.
How have you built up your career and what’s been the best way for you to get exposure?
I built up my career by working hard. I took every show I was offered. I did countless Junior High lock-ins performing at 2AM right after the shaving cream fights. I did corporate gigs for guys who’d been drinking all day to the point where they couldn’t even tell you if I was speaking English. I performed at 8AM at many festivals held in open fields with only about 30 people waking up but not even peeking out of their tent to see who was talking. I took every gig I could to build a fan base and to hone my comedy chops. I also keep myself very accessible to my fans.
I answer every email, I post and reply to people on Facebook and Twitter.
Before and after my shows I hang out with everyone that comes to my show. I built my career by being funny on stage but by being a good friend to everyone off stage.
Any particular challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Did I mention the Junior High lock-ins? I would say the biggest challenge is trying to keep my show funny and Christian to the masses. Its a big world and everyone has their own idea what is funny and everyone has their own idea what is Christian. So to find the place where those two circles over lap for everyone can be challenging but also very rewarding when you hit it. Also, trying to fly American Airlines. In fact, that’s not challenging, its impossible. My dog used to run away all the time. I renamed him American Airlines and now he doesn’t go anywhere.
Any favourite moments or special achievements you can share with us?
I once opened for Micheal W. Smith in front of 80,000 people. Think about that! 80,000 people laughing! Man…I bet that would’ve been cool had that happened. Actually, they did all laugh and I’ve never felt that kind of rush before. After my first joke, the crowd responded so loud that I felt my bones vibrating. It was amazing. So that was cool. Also, as I’ve mentioned, I’m very accessible to my fans and so a lot of kids will email me about their problems. I’ve talked two kids out of suicide. So, even though that’s not a very funny answer, it is my biggest achievement so far. God used me at the right moment to remind two different kids that there was still joy to be found in the world and that God has a plan for them.
What kind of tools of apps have you used to manage your business?
I would have to say that Selz has been the biggest and best thing to happen to my career! (I was taught early on to stay in a permanent pucker and kiss up to everyone). Seriously, Selz and all the other social media has really boosted my career. Everyday I get to appear in people’s homes who I may or may not ever meet. The internet allows my comedy to reach farther and faster than ever before. I think that’s why there aren’t more famous Amish comedians…its got to be tougher for them to get exposure.
Who or what inspires you and keeps the jokes flowing?
I get these things in the mail called “Bills”. So that inspires me to keep working on my jokes and performances. If I stop writing jokes, I would have to get a real job and ain’t nobody got time for that!
Seriously, I love looking out at my crowd and seeing families sitting together and laughing. The parent’s don’t have to worry about what I’m going to say. They are just free to sit and laugh as a family for over an hour. Seeing that inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.
What do you think it takes to be a professional comedian?
I think, in order to, um…you see, a comedian has to be able to stand on a stage or sit or …um….you know they talk and people listen so we…as comedians… have to be gooder at communication and the talking and stuff. Make sense? And timing.
What does the future hold for you?
When I’m done with this question I’m going to take a nap. Or did you mean career wise? I’ve got a new comedy DVD out called “Mullets on Fire” (available soon on Selz!). So I’m about to hit the road to do a tour in support of the new DVD. I also write a monthly column in “Clubhouse” magazine called “The Adventure’s of Average Boy.” Last year Focus on the Family released the first book of the Average Boy series and in June ’14 the second book will be available. So the future hopefully will be full of more shows, more books, more DVD’s and more importantly more laughs.
If you want to keep up with the latest from Bob or purchase his latest video, check out his Facebook page.