Funny for a Reason
NAME: MICHAEL JR.
BIRTHPLACE: GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
BIRTHDAY: JANUARY 15
“CATCH THEM WITH THE COMEDY; KEEP THEM WITH THE TRUTH. I THOUGHT THAT WAS A SLOGAN, BUT I FOUND OUT IT WAS AN ASSIGNMENT.” — COMEDIAN MICHAEL JR.
Little did 14-year-old Michael Jr. know when he accepted a dare from a friend to provide the entertainment during a technical glitch at the cinema, that he would be where he is now, sharing the stage with the likes of the comic greats like Jerry Seinfield, George Wallace, Jay Leno and Chris Rock.
As a young teen, and long before Michael Jr. became a Christian, he made a pact with a friend that the two of them refused to curse because it just wasn’t an intelligent way to communicate. The threat of corporal punishment kept them accountable to the pact. “If I cursed, he would be able to hit me in the stomach really hard and vice-versa,” Junior explains.
On the day that the movie screen blanked, the dare to go up and tell a joke to the entire audience prompted the middle school student to move from his spectator’s seat to center stage. However, in that moment the only joke Junior could think of was a dirty one. Since he couldn’t pass up his friend’s dare, but didn’t want to get punched by his other friend for cursing, on the way down to the front he cleaned up the joke. “There were like 400 disgruntled people in this theater when the movie stopped. However, when I told the joke and everyone laughed,” remembers the comedian. “Seeing their reaction gave me this ultimate high — not that I’ve ever done drugs before.”
In retrospect, Junior recognized the purpose in what he was doing. “I could clearly see that this was God saying, ‘This is what I have for you to do,’ even before I came to Christ.”
LAUGHTER THAT MOVES YOU
Before his standup debut at the movies, the comedian says he’s always had a strange ability to take the mundane and ordinary, flip it upside-down and wrong-side out, and etch out life truths.
That insight has helped Michael mold his approach to comedy that packs a punch into the punch line. “If I have a good hour, I will ask some questions,” says Junior. “Then the audience gets really relaxed. Most answers are funny but every fourth one is serious.” Unlike fellow comics, Junior isn’t afraid of silence. In fact, he likes incorporating quiet moments into his shows. “Stuff can be way too noisy. I like just getting the audience to a place where they are still and contemplating in silence. I also move really slow, where I don’t even give them the punch line so they can fill in the blank.”
Whether in a Vegas club or a church rally, this approach helps Michael Jr. administer the truth everywhere he finds his feet.
YOUR TIME TO STAND UP
Wherever you are in your journey, Michael encourages you to seek the wisdom of godly mentors and supportive people who can give you both spiritual and professional feedback, encouragement, and direction. “It is critical. That’s what keeps me on track,” says Junior. Besides his friend from Michigan that kept Michael committed to keeping the words of his mouth clean, Junior relies heavily on the counsel of his spiritual mentor at his church in California.
He also knows the importance of keeping God’s Word at the forefront. Proverbs 3:5–6 propels him forward daily: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).