Celebrating Our Culture  


 

Chonda Pierce

Having a 

"Girls' Nite Out"

 

An Interview by
Robert L. Hall

 

                   

Personally, I wouldn't give a hoot for someone who hasn't got a good sense of humor.  It has never failed that the most exciting and productive folks I have ever met have had one.  Then, I heard of a woman who travels the South giving our womenfolk a chuckle and sharing her own personal struggles with them as well.  Women come back from an evening with Chonda Pierce refreshed and ready to tackle the world anew the next day. In this interview she shares some of her thoughts with us. 

The lights go down and then up again.  In the spotlight is Chonda Pierce, singing her opening song, "Girls' Nite Out," a rockin' country-flavored song with guitars and Nashville style singers in the background.  Her voice, light and friendly, sets the stage for the evening, loosing up her mostly female audience and getting them ready for the zingers she will hit them with in a few minutes.         

She finishes, and even as she draws her first breath, she jokes with the crowd.

"This is great!  Here y'all are, and you got nothing to do!  And they thought only the Promise Keepers could do this!" With her twangy high-pitched voice and good-natured smile, the comedienne carries her audience through several situational funnies. 

For instance (and pet peeve of many) there's beepers in church: 

"Don't the men all look cute with their beepers going off in the middle of church.  They go running off into some corner to answer them like they're being called to brain surgery or something, when it's really to a toilet that stopped up across town."

Her children:

"One of my children is thirteen now, which means I'm an idiot.  Last year she was twelve.  I was cool then!  Then there's Zachary.  He's seven.  (A long pause during which you can hear her sigh deeply)  We pray he'll make eight."

And herself:

"The reason I talk like this is cause I'm from South Carolina.  No one really wants to talk like this. It limit's your career opportunities and make them slim, so that one day you find yourself  askin' over and over, "Sweet tea or unsweet tea?"  Besides, I'm a preacher's daughter, so I had to either be another preacher's wife or a comedienne."

In addition to the jokes, she shares her Christian testimony which is sprinkled with her real life personal trials.  There are tears as well as laughs to be had at one of Chonda's outings.  Having heard so much about Chonda from the women at church who had gone to see her, I felt compelled to contact her.   

Chonda, tell us briefly about your background. 

I grew up primarily in South Carolina, the daughter of a Nazarene preacher.  We moved to Middle Tennessee when I was 15 years of age and I've been in that area ever since.  I eventually married my high school sweetheart, David. We're heading into 18 years of marriage.  We have a daughter and a son. 

 What prompted you to begin a career doing Christian comedy in the first place?

As a college student I got a job at Opryland, USA (A musical theme park in Nashville, TN).  I fell in love with the role of Minnie Pearl.  And impersonated Minnie for over five years.  Several years later, I was an excited and recommitted Christian.  I truly started out sharing my testimony when the doors opened. I was invited on tour with Mark Lowry.  It was while touring with Mark that I heard the words: Christian Comedian for the first time! 

I like to say I am a Christian, period.  I happen to be a comedienne, a mother, a wife -- But I am a Christian ALL the time.  It's not segmented by what I do for a living!!  I understand categories -- so that folks will know, "I'm a CLEAN comedienne!!"   But, I do remember being surprised by the title, "Christian Comedian" years ago!! I thought it sounded funny!! Some might even believe it to be an oxymoron!!!

What did your fellow church members and family think of what you were doing?  

My church is very much a part of my life.  All along the way they have been excited about the growth they have seen God orchestrate.  More importantly, our church emphasizes that EVERY ONE is a disciple -- so, my "calling" is just one of hundreds of those in my congregation. 

My family is proud of me.  My mother and I are very close.  My brother is a great mentor to me -- it's a real "family business!"  Besides, they ARE my material!

Who did you study under or watch to gain skill on stage? 

Early on, I was interested in the theater as a kid.  My high school drama teacher truly motivated me to "go for it!"  Joyce Mayo.  That woman deserves a medal!  Now, I watch everyone on stage and off.  I learned a lot from Sarah Cannon in the early years (the real Minnie Pearl).  I was a great fan of Carol Burnett.  I like her ability to be such a well-rounded entertainer.  I am a fan and "student" of Patsy Clairmont.  She is a fabulous speaker -- not a comedian ... but could be!!  Ken Davis is a good friend and teaches me sooo much. 

Most of time, I'm flying by the seat of my pants -- On the job training!  It's scary -- but, it works!! 

Your routine is mostly directed toward women? 

I have nothing against men.  It's just that I AM a woman...so, it is only natural that a lot of my material would be collected from that side of the fence!  My husband is fabulous - and provides a world of material!  Literally! We even  collaborate in writing material!  

Almost everything I have to say is universal.  There are times the material is slanted to a woman's point of view ... but, a laugh is a laugh! No matter if it comes from a man or a woman! 

I know that you are a P.K. (Preacher's Kid for the benefit of our readers)  Are all P.K.'s like you?

I hope not!  Most aren't as dysfunctional!!

I have a very tender place in my heart of PKs.  My brother and I organized PKI (Preacher's Kid International).  Every year we host conferences or picnics, or classes for PKs and their families as well as ministers themselves.  It's been a true blessing and a way to "give back" to a heritage that gave me so much.  You can see about our P.K. program at http://www.chonda.org/pk  

Tell us something funny that might have happened prior or after a show that floored you.

I was scheduled to be on the Grand Ole Opry. Live on television with several well known country comedians: Jerry Clower, Grampa Jones, Mike Schnieder and myself.  The secretary at the Opry called my home to remind me not to leave as soon as I was done, that our segment host, Johnny Russell wanted to us to got out together at the end.  I thought she meant out to eat!  It was embarrassing to discover -- that she meant out to take a bow together at the end of the show.  We still laugh about that one!!

I am fortunate that I hear so many "tender" comments about what I do.  They all "floor" me.  I NEVER take for granted the opportunity to touch lives with laughter.  So, when it works -- I am blessed.  God is the author of all of that -- I'm just glad to have been in the room when it happened!

How do you and your family hold up under a grueling appearance schedule?

Very carefully.  With the age of electronics we are blessed to never be "out of touch."  At the same time -- nothing takes the place of actually "being there."  We prepare the kids ahead of time -- we watch the calendar when we know "touring" days are coming and make the most of the days I'm at home. 

Most winters and summers I am home.  The long stretches in the Fall and Spring are killers.  Like any working Mom you have some trying days. 

But my kids have adjusted well... and they know that THEY are the most important people to me in the world.  I have rarely missed important engagements of theirs... Plays, band concerts, teacher meetings.  We e-mail, fax, beep each other, cell phone each other to death when I'm on the road!  My husband is a full time at home Dad now.  And that has helped tremendously.

Please give us the names of your tapes, books, any other media or publications you have out for our readers. 

My first book, Second Row, Piano Side published by Beacon Hill Press.  Secondly, "It's Always Darkest Before The FUN Comes Up" (Zondervan) I am most proud of that.  It was a hard book to write. It is autobiographical.  Then, the latest: "Chonda Pierce on Her Soapbox" (a collection of fun stories), also published by Zondervan.

I have several recordings with Myrrh Records: A couple of gold videos: "Havin' A Girls Nite Out" and "Chonda Pierce on the SoapBox."  Then, "Yes and Amen" a vocal project that my mother is proud of!  She always wanted me to be a singer!  Not a talker!

I have some new things coming out this Spring: A children's book that my husband and I wrote together called, "Tales from the Ark,"  A new book called, "I Can See Myself in Your Eyeballs," and a new video project called "Four Eyed Blonde - in Just about an Hour!"  All are due to hit the Christian bookstores in the Spring.

Tell us what your current projects are, or what you might like to do in the near future.

I'm in the middle of a 40 city Tour. This winter I will host the first ever, All comedy cruise called, "The Laugh Boat!" in January.  Come join us! 

You may contact us at www.chonda.org.   We are really excited about that.

My family will also join World Vision for a trip to Africa this winter.  My daughter is very excited about that.  She wants to be a missionary to Africa someday.

I'll be involved in my church Christmas celebrations.  (World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN)   This Spring I will begin Touring again and then we will see happens after that...


This article is by Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN., writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based. Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal,When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture(or the lack thereof)”at www.wfthecoliseum.com.

A trained musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three institutions of higher learning.