Nationally recognized Christian comedian Tim Hawkins will perform his sold-out comedy and music show at Rose Heights Church today. Hawkins talked in a phone interview about how he started in comedy, when he lived in Tyler and why he does what he does.
I was reading your bio on your website and thought it was interesting that you worked as a grocery truck driver before going into comedy.\
(laughs) That was one of the many jobs I did. That’s the most interesting, isn’t it? That was supposed to be the job, you know, I could retire off of all the money I was going to make on all those stocks from that Internet grocery company. Then I drove up one day and there was nobody, nothing. This is a true story: I actually saw a tumbleweed roll across the parking lot. So, that was the end of my career as a grocery delivery guy.
So, did you just decide, ‘maybe I’ll try comedy now’?
Yeah, no kidding. It was more desperation. I tried everything else. You know, you’re married and you have kids — you’ve got to pay the bills. The thing about when I went full-time comedy, it wasn’t like I had to replace a six-figure income. So, there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure there. I had already done comedy just here and there over the years, just a few gigs here and there, trying to learn how to do it. By the time I got better at it my brother became my manager, so he took care of the business end of it. That was 10 years ago, and we’re still doing it.
Had people always told you that you’re funny?
Pretty much. I mean, all comedians think they’re funny. It’s too frightening — even if you are funny, it’s frightening to go up on stage. That’s kind of the way I communicated with people and broke the ice. I was a pretty shy person. I still am. It (humor) was more of a defense mechanism than anything else.
Are people ever offended by what you say? I mean, you do talk about religion.
I don’t hide who I am, so that Christian worldview is going to come out. Really, I don’t go into a lot of doctrine stuff, because it’s like politics — half the people are going to hate you, half the people are going to love you. Really, any kind of Christian topics I talk about are the religious, man-made thing that we do. If people have a problem with that, then, well, you’re the one I’m talking about. [laughs] So, I really don’t have a problem with that. That’s the cool thing, though. I really learned comedy in the church, so I have a sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not.
How long have you been a believer?
Since I was a kid. I think a lot of comics are anti-religion, anti-church because they had a bad church experience. You really can’t blame them; there’s a lot of messed-up churches out there. But I didn’t — I had a very positive church experience growing up. Whatever Jesus was, I wanted that from the get-go. I understood it. Now, I wish I had a “years as a heroin addict story.” [laughs] When you have a functional life, you just don’t have any good stories. So, sorry about that. If you want to spice up the story, just add whatever you want. [laughs]
Yeah, just make it up, whatever. [laughs]
“Ex-crack addict Tim Hawkins comes to Tyler.”
Several of my friends have introduced me to your comedy over the years. Recently one of my friends had lost a member of their family, and when I walked into the house they were watching your standup on DVD. Everybody was sitting around laughing, and I thought, ‘that’s so great, to have something that can make them laugh in this moment of such grief.’ Do you ever hear about that kind of thing from people, that you’ve helped them through something?
Oh, yeah, and it’s really — I don’t know how to describe it. It’s humbling, but it’s also very fulfilling. It’s such a team effort, so I really can’t take much credit at all because it takes so many people to make it happen. Also, it’s just fun. It’s fun to play any kind of part in something that restores somebody or makes their load a little bit lighter. I want more of that. I want to be involved with that as long as possible. So I don’t ever take what I do for granted. It’s not like I’m trying to get to the next level, whatever that is, by using comedy. What I’m doing right now, that’s what I want to do. So, it’s very fulfilling and it’s really cool.
So how old are your kids now?
Well, it keeps changing. They’re 16, 14, 11 and 6.
So do they still provide a lot of material?
Pretty much. The material changes as you go. Two of my kids are teenagers now. So some of the stuff I talk about is how they’re changing. I can’t keep talking about having babies when I’m in my 50s. Whether they know it or not, they give me a lot of good stuff to do. If they don’t like it, that’s just tough. I pay the bills. [laughs] That’s one of my most cherished responsibilities, to embarrass them as much as possible. I really get a lot of joy out of it … My kids aren’t so bad about this, but teenagers think they know everything, to a certain extent. It’s funny. I’ve worked with youth before and everything is about everything. They’re real emotional or they’re real crazy. There’s not a lot of balance emotionally. That’s where the comedy comes from.
When you worked with youth before, was that in the church?
Yes. My wife and I worked with youth for many years. That’s actually how we met each other, through summer camps and things like that when we were counselors. When you’re outnumbered like that, you’ve got to form a bond with other people to try and protect yourself [laughs].
So did you make her laugh from the beginning?
Pretty much. I mean, she thought I was weird. Everybody would tell her how funny this guy is and she was like “I don’t think he’s funny at all.” Maybe that was the challenge: I had to win her over. That’s the intoxicating thing about it; making my wife laugh is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s still a challenge [laughs]. It’s not easier, it’s still there.
And you taught yourself to play the guitar.
…I learned comedy and music pretty much at the same time, and I use both. I think that’s what makes me a little different. I’m not just straight comedy, I can put the guitar down and do stand up. I get bored. Also there’s a lot of different age groups that come to my show, and music is a way to kind of engage everybody.
One of my favorites of yours is the Chick-Fil-A song.
I’ll do a new one too. I got tired of doing the old one.
It’s a popular one. It’s so relatable — it is upsetting when you remember they’re closed on Sunday.
Yeah, that’s how I wrote it: I drove into a Chick-Fil-A one Sunday and I forgot it was Sunday. I thought ‘I bet I’m not the only one who’s ever done this.’
So have you been to Tyler before?
We actually lived in Tyler for a year and a half when we were first married. I worked at a store called Better Books, now I think it’s LifeWay Christian Store. I was the music department manager — speaking of material for my act — but Tyler was kind of where I started.