Being one of the few Christian comedians in Australia isn’t an easy road. ‘If you think you want to be a stand-up comedian,’ Newcastle’s Uncle Nath told Alex, ‘God’s probably calling you to do it. Or you’re insane. It’s one or the other.’
The cool thing about comedy, he says, is that unlike, say, a career on Broadway, there are no gatekeepers. When he decided to give it a shot, he just signed up for an open mic, and went for it. ‘I just went into a pub, and did some of my clean stand-up jokes that had been working good at Church. And that was terrifying.’
If it hadn’t gone well, he would have probably quit then. That’s the not-so-cool thing about stand-up. He calls it ‘a hostile performance art’, because sometimes, things do go very badly. ‘It’s the only art form where it’s totally acceptable to just scream abuse at the performer if he’s not doing well. Imagine at the Opera! This is terrible! You can’t sing!’
Nath’s strategy is to test his jokes in Church. ‘One day during a sermon, they heard me screaming about cats, and they’re wondering what’s going on with this guy!’ If they work for a Church audience, he’ll take them to the pub and, if they go down well there, they make it into his show.
The technique is working out for him. His ‘clean comedy’ has been a hit at youth groups, but it’s also winning him spots in secular venues. Recently, he even did a show at Fringe Festival, which is famously very alternative. ‘There was a bit of like, why are you here? So I say to my friends I was the fringe of the fringe.’
But being a Christian in the comedy scene does leave him feeling like an outsider at times. ‘We’re just not the cool kids. And I think there’s some people who don’t really like Christians. And a lot of normal stand-up is jokes about Jesus, and about the Church. And so I think they feel uncomfortable with me being there.’
Nath knows other Christian comics who are less open about their faith. But he’s determined not to take that road. ‘I grew up in a broken family. My mum had moved away when I was younger, and she was living in another state. And I was terrible at school. I was in the bottom of every class.’
The Church saved my life. So there’s nothing else I can say
At 15, he’d dropped out of high school, and couldn’t even get a job at McDonalds. He said he was the kind of bloke even shopping malls would kick out. The people around him are proof of how his life could have gone. He could have wound up in prison like his brother, or struggling with addiction like his friends.
Instead, when no one else would have him, the Church took him in. ‘They taught me how to put a resumé together. They bought me nice clothes so I could go to an interview. They just loved me and raised me. And so today, I call the Church my mother, because the Church, she mothered me. She saved my life.’
He didn’t know this then, but the Church is raising up people like him in every city in the world. ‘If you’re a Christian person, don’t let some muppet on YouTube who lives at home with his mum tell you what the Church is all about. Because the Church does more than that dude with his hashtags has ever done.’
‘I really stand by that. Even though being a Christian comic limits the kind of gigs you’ll get. But you know what? The Church saved my life. So there’s nothing else I can say.’
Uncle Nath thinks we need more Christians to stand up and do stand-up for the Church. But he says if you want to be a comedian, you should be prepared for people to get offended. Yes, even clean comedy upsets people. But as someone once told him: ‘If you want people to leave you alone and not harass you, it’s easy. Just say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.’
So was Uncle Nath called by God to be a comedian? Or is he just insane? He doesn’t know just yet. ‘This may not be a comedy career. This could be the most public nervous breakdown a Baptist Pastor has ever had. Time will tell.’
Listen to the interview below.