Christian comedy has expanded its reach throughout the years, bringing the joy of the Lord beyond the four walls of the church. Now, a new generation of comedians are carrying the proverbial torch passed on by veteran comics like Tim Hawkins, Michael Jr., Henry Cho and Chonda Pierce to new levels.
The Christian Post is highlighting four rising comedians who are spreading laughter on social media without compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. Anjelah Johnson, 35
Anjelah Johnson-Reyes made her debut as Bon Qui Qui on the sketch comedy series MadTV in 2008, and managed to make a name for herself as a stand-up comedian when her video about a nail salon experience went viral with millions of views. Since then, she has infused some of her stand-up material with inspiration that stems from her Christian faith.
Still, the comic has made it clear that she does not want to be pigeonholed in the Christian comedy subgenre because of her faith.
"I do a joke in my stand-up where I say I'm a Christian, but I'm not a Christian comedian," Johnson-Reyes told Fox. "I think that's definitely how I see my acting. I'm an actor who happens to be a Christian."
More than just a standup comedian, Johnson-Reyes has flexed her acting chops in faith-based films like the 2014 film "Moms' Night Out" and 2016 movie "The Resurrection of Gavin Stone." These days, fans of Johnson-Reyes can catch her latest stand-up special "Anjelah Johnson: Mahalo and Goodnight" on the streaming service EPIX.
For more information about this comedian, visit anjelah.com.
2. KevOnStage, 34
Kevin Fredericks, a Christian husband and father of two, has taken family-friendly comedy to a new level. Best known on social media as KevOnStage, the comedian, actor and producer often includes his family in the YouTube skits that have made him an internet phenomenon.
Fredericks tackles a variety of topics that the average person can relate to, from viral internet videos and memes, to his family and church. While his Christian faith does provide him with inspiration, the comedian understands that everybody in the church won't enjoy his brand of humor.
"I don't only talk about church jokes. I just talk about stuff that's funny," he told The Root earlier this year. "Church is a big part of my life, but I want to talk about whatever I think is funny. But that also means sometimes the saints get upset."
More than just a social media sensation, Fredericks' hard work has been noticed by the likes of music mogul Russell Simmons who brought the comic on for his All Def Digital comedy imprint. Now, Fredericks is serving as the director of comedy content for the brand and touring the nation.
For more information about this comedian, visit www.kevonstage.com.
3. John Crist, 33
John Crist has risen to popularity with YouTube videos that bring humor to scenarios inspired by his faith, like "Christian Mingle Inspector." As a stand-up comedian, Crist has gained recognition from people in the church community, with churchleaders.com naming him one of their top comedians to watch.
Still, Crist performs in mainstream venues alongside some of the biggest names in comedy, including Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah. However, he is very intentional about not making fun of Christianity when performing for mainstream audiences.
"I mention the fact that I'm a Christian in my show, but I wouldn't make fun of Christianity in a secular venue because everyone else is kind of already making fun of it. All the other comedians are all making fun of Jesus and stuff anyway," he told The Interrobang last year. "If I did it, it's just piling on."
Still, Crist finds reasons to joke about church culture in front of fellow Christians.
"I grew up in church, I love the church, I'm not angry at Christianity. I do think there are some things that are hypocritical about it," he admitted. "But I love Jesus. Now that being said, here's some things that I think we should be able to make fun of, just like any subculture will do with their jokes of that nature."
For more information about John Crist, visit www.johncristcomedy.com.
4.Yvonne Orji, 33
Yvonne Orji says the Holy Spirit told her to pursue comedy. Before starring in the hit HBO series "Insecure" which recently ended its second season, Orji was gearing up to compete as a college medical student in a Miss Nigeria in America pageant where she prayed to God for a talent she could showcase.
Orji says God told her to pursue comedy.
"I was like I'm either going to trust him or I'm not. I just started writing what's funny about being Nigerian in America," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Before I knew it, I had five minutes of stuff my mom or dad would say, and people were laughing [at the pageant]. After that, people wanted to know if I did weddings."
Orji did not use profanity or sexually explicit content in her routine, which she believes helped her find work.
"I then started doing paid corporate shows and because I was clean, I was getting a lot of work," she said.
While Orji's name is rising in Hollywood, the outspoken virgin known for comedic stories about her Nigerian roots says she is not going to compromise her faith to get ahead.
"I've definitely had to think a lot about reconciling the roles I take as an actress with my faith ... So many people are just focusing on getting their big break, but it's more about what you do when the big break comes," she previously told InStyle. "What will your character be like? You can't prepare in the battle."
She added, "You have to be battle-tested and ready."
Orji currently has a sitcom in development called "FirstGen." For more information, visit www.firstgenshow.com.