- Kathi is back with Jason Earls, one of her favorite people, because she loves someone who can make her laugh. The first of this series kicked off with a comedian’s guide to being funny, followed by finding your comedy voice, and now material that matters. If you love to laugh and desire to create material that matters, then tune in to learn about chirping birds, trampoline bullies, and:
- The importance of being a careful listener and observer
- How to brainstorm
- How to develop a conceived idea and turn it into a story
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Read Along With The Podcast
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Writing at The Red House Podcast # 227
Material that Matters
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers, who love to share the story of God’s extravagant love. I am back today with one of my favorite people. I am a sucker for people who can make me laugh. I have some people who cannot, and I love them regardless, but I’m going to fall a little faster in love with you if you can make me laugh. It was love at first sight with this guy. By the way, my husband has a crush on him, too. It’s Jason Earls. Jason, welcome back to the podcast.
Jason – I’m so glad to be back. Yes.
Kathi – Okay, so, there has got to be a lot of pressure on a professional comedian, especially in the Christian Ethos. I mean, that takes a lot. It would be different if you were living in a trailer, supporting yourself on Ramen noodles, but how many kids do you have?
Jason – I have six kids.
Kathi – Six kids, and a wife who has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle.
Jason – Yes, she has.
Kathi – So, this is not just playing around. You have to make this happen on a regular basis. Let me ask you. We’re recording this in the midst of Covid. So, we didn’t talk about this, but I’m going to ask, because I’m just nosy and curious. How does a Christian comedian make it work when you can’t be on the road? I’m guessing, like most of us, I don’t know about you, but I have two thousand dollars in South West, just sitting there, from cancelled flights from Covid. It’s very nice that I have a patron of the arts, his name is Roger Lipp, but that’s probably not the case for you, so how are you making Covid work for you?
Jason – Is it working for me? That’s the question.
Kathi – Well, you haven’t lost your joy, so there’s that.
Jason – So, this is as real as it gets, everybody. Hear me very carefully. My last time working was right before everything was starting to shut down.
Kathi – Mid March?
Jason – March 15th, exactly. That was the date. I came back home from my last gig. I had recorded, went to Nashville, recorded a tv show, then drove a little bit.
Kathi – Wait. Did we just drop in ‘recorded a tv show’? I’m going to need a little more.
Jason – Well, yeah, it’s not that impressive. So, I was invited to be a part of a tv show, as a comedian. Just to open up.
Kathi – That’s awesome.
Jason – Yep. Tell my jokes.
Kathi – I’m sorry, it’s very impressive to me. I’ve never been able to drop in, “Oh, and by the way, I just recorded a tv show.”
Jason – Listen, this is why it isn’t impressive. How many people out there saw it?
Kathi – I don’t know.
Jason – There it is, right there. So, then I drove to Memphis and caught a plane from Memphis. Came home and I knew it was a wrap. They started saying no more than two hundred people, and I was like, “Yep. There goes my crowd.” Then it went to 50 people.
Kathi – It was the 50 people that got me. You’re at the 200 people. I’m at the 50 people. Okay, there we go.
Jason – So, the next morning, it was raining. It was around 3:30 in the morning, so the sun wasn’t up and it was raining. Kathi, there was this bird at 3 ish in the morning that was chirping away. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I’m starting to think. I’m starting to think, “Okay, at this stage in my life, when we had one child, God sustained us.” We were a young married couple. At every stage of my life, God has always provided, so I was like, “Okay, now I don’t know when I’m going to work again.” And I’m starting this process of just going down the history, it could even end up at the dead end of worry, or it’s this I’ll turn on this street that trusts God, and all these things happen. As I’m thinking through these things, that bird is chirping away. Then the Lord just says to me, “It’s a storm outside and it’s dark. So that bird is in a storm and can’t see, but yet, it’s still finding a way to chirp. If I take care of that bird, I’m going to take care of you when it’s storming, and even when you can’t see. Jason, your responsibility is just to keep chirping.” So, Kathi, I said, “Okay Lord, but a bird somehow knows how to go get the worms. That bird doesn’t have six kids.”
Kathi – Maybe it does, but they can get their own worms.
Jason – I was like, “God, how do I know? If I’m supposed to just keep chirping, just being my jovial self. What does it look like to go out and fly out of the nest and go get those worms?” He says, “Don’t worry about that. When it’s time for you to fly and get a worm, you will know, instinctively.” So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been chirping. So, God has just found or brought ways or opportunities. “Hey, we need a guest speaker. Can you record, since you do videos, a sermon from your studio? Or from your office at the house? Can you do that?” or “Hey, we need some funny for our church service. Can you do a good news video, where we send you photos and videos. Can you just take everything that’s going on in our church and make a funny project out of that?” So, it’s things like that have been happening. Sometimes, when we are artists or speakers, the busy speaking schedule, or comedy schedule causes a distraction, where you don’t have to develop some of the things that God has placed inside of you.
Kathi – It is so true. It is so easy to just say, “I’m just too busy.” And ignore what God is saying. Yeah, we have a way of making space around here. Yeah.
Jason – You know, of all people. When you sat me down and were like, “Jason, you’ve got to get a book out.” I’m like, “You’re right. I know it.”
Kathi – By the way, I talked to the guy I told you I was going to talk to and he’s ready to talk to you, so we’re going to talk. So, we’re not going to let this keep going on, because there needs to be a Jason book out in the world. Absolutely. There’s too much good stuff going on.
Jason – Absolutely. We just got to keep chirping and he’s going to bring the clothing, the feathers, the leaves, everything to us.
Kathi – He cares about Jason and his family. That’s for sure.
Jason – So, I can give my Patreon. No, just kidding.
Kathi – Oh, my goodness. You know what? The stories of provision that we are going to remember, that are happening to us right now, are the ones we’re going to tell our grandchildren. God’s faithfulness.
Jason – Can I share this with you?
Kathi – Yes, please.
Jason – I took a group of teenagers to Ghana, in West Africa, and there we met a daughter of one of the missionaries there. She was seventeen years old. She had it. She had it, Kathi. She wasn’t super-spiritual. She knew how to laugh. She knew how to play. She knew when to get serious. She knew when not to get serious – not to overly spiritualize everything, and I was like, “How did they do that?”
Kathi – How do you raise that kid?
Jason – Tell me what your parents have done to raise you. She’s American as are her parents. She said, “You know what? My parents never hid stuff from me. We knew when things were tight. We knew when we needed God to show up and if God didn’t show up, we weren’t going to eat. If God wasn’t going to show up, we weren’t going to be taken care of. They didn’t do a whole bunch, but what I am is because of things like that.” So, that’s what we started doing with our kids. I want my kids, and like you said, my grandkids to know, what happened to PawPaw during the Great Covid?
Kathi – I love that you’ve picked your grandpa name. I love that.
Jason – I don’t think that’s it. That’s just the one I grabbed. I think it’s going to be Pop. I like Pop. Pop is kinda cool.
Kathi – I like Pop for you. Yeah. Boom. Yes. I love that. Okay, so thank you for that. I know that if I asked Jason to preach, he’ll just preach, so I knew there was going to be a story of God’s faithfulness in all of this for you. That’s just how you are. You recognize God’s hand in every aspect of your life. You can’t help sharing about it. I knew we could go off script. Okay, so here’s the thing you’ve told me before: Every time someone laughs, something is being born. So, every time you and I are sitting here and talking, whether it’s about clowns or Jerry Seinfeld, or the 17-year-old in Ghana, something is being born there. You’ve already developed the Ghana story. Holy cow. You’re going to be able to use that at parenting conferences. You’re going to be able to use that in a Sunday sermon. Whatever that is. So, we have something. Somebody laughs. Something’s being born. What do you do with that? It’s not ready to be showcased on Friday night, just because somebody laughed at something you said in passing.
Jason – Absolutely. So when my wife conceived all of our children, one of the first things the OBGYN said is, “Take this prescription and get some vitamins for her. Start taking these vitamins. Make sure you get rest. Make sure you’re eating healthy; eating right.”
Kathi – Yeah, she got rest with the first kid. Then there were five more. All the moms know how that went.
Jason – Right. Absolutely. So, when the funny is conceived, you have to nurture it. You gotta spend time with it. What was funny? Where does it go after that? How can I repeat it? If it’s a story, what do I say about the story? What do I leave out of the story?
Kathi – So, is this done by yourself? Or are you in a brainstorming group? How does one nurture?
Jason – So good. I think there are many different ways. Here are a few ways that I do it. One: You have comedy buddies. Judy Carter talks about this in her book. Find a comedy buddy that’s on the same path of speaking and trying to be funny with their speaking, so that you can bounce stuff off them. Then there are other groups. I have writing groups that I’m a part of, where it’s, “Hey, everybody shows up with their particular jokes, and we’re going to spend time. Give everybody time on the clock. You tell your joke and then we’ll all do some work on it. Look under the hood of it. Let’s take away this.”
Kathi – There are joke groups?!
Jason – Yeah, absolutely.
Kathi- Writing joke groups? Okay. That I did not know.
Jason – In Hollywood, or in movies, they have joke writing sessions.
Kathi – They have the writers’ table. They’re throwing things out there. Okay, yeah. I just didn’t know that people came with their individual projects. I know that when you’re all working on something together.
Jason – Right. I got you. So, that’s how some writers do it. It’s like, “Hey, you’re going to show up and you show up with two or three jokes, and if you don’t have your two or three jokes, you can’t show up.”
Kathi – Wow. Okay.
Jason – That’s some accountability. Making sure you’re doing the work.
Kathi – And people think that two or three jokes might sound very easy. That’s hard work, right there.
Jason – Right. And these are not premises, either. A premise is an idea that’s funny. The premise is what you write down, what you capture. Then, when you start formulating it in terms of “How can I say this in a story?” or “Here’s how I’m going to lead up to this.” “Here’s how I think it goes.” “Here’s what I think the set up is for this.” I’ll give you one. My nephew, he doesn’t want to go outside and play, because he’s being bullied by the boy who lives behind them. They have a tall private fence. The boy’s on a trampoline.
Kathi – Sorry. Bullying is not funny, but I just got a mental image.
Jason – Right. So, that’s a premise right there. So, it’s like, how you getting bullied with a dude on a trampoline.
Kathi – Seriously? The kid is going up and down?
Jason – “You know what?” *bounce* “I can see you.” *bounce* “Imma punch you.” *bounce*
Kathi – Oh, my gosh.
Jason – That concept is so funny to me. I had a hard time developing that into a joke. I can’t get past the fun I get telling that part. That’s just funny.
Kathi – ‘Cause we can all picture it. We can all picture it. “I’m gonna.” *bounce* “come over” *bounce* “and kick your” *bounce* “butt!”
Jason – Right! Then, here’s what you have to be careful about. This is just another side-nugget. What that joke is doing, right there, it’s so good at helping you paint your own picture in your mind? Every time I say that, you’ve already created your own scenario. If my scenario doesn’t top yours? It’s a let down.
Kathi – Oh! It’s so true!
Jason – So, that joke has been tucked away, because it’s so funny, and talking about it, either I have to leave it there, or, it just doesn’t go there. I think it goes somewhere else. Maybe it’s in a movie. Maybe it’s some type of skit or short or something.
Kathi – Right. The other part of that, that’s so funny, is the juxtaposition of the joy of jumping on the trampoline, with this kid who’s a bully. When you think ‘bully’, you think, (okay, I watched too much Happy Days growing up) leather jackets, jeans. Basically, Fonzie is what comes to mind. Probably not how this kid is dressed. That is funny, in your brain, to think about a bully participating in something that is so joy-filled.
Jason – Right. Then, my nephew not picking it up. Your timing is perfect. Dude, you got a perfect time to throw a rock. I’m not condoning rock throwing, but you know.
Kathi – But we also don’t condone bullying. Yeah, so that one’s been sitting in the hopper and there is going to be a time and a place where that’s going to be perfect. I also see the physical comedy of jumping. Oh my goodness.
Jason – Absolutely. So, that’s an example I took to a writing group.
Kathi – What did they do with it?
Jason – “Okay, this is incomplete.”
Kathi – “Have mercy, but this is good.”
Jason – “This is so good. You all will like this one.” So, then the other thing: This is my favorite one. My favorite writing concept is taking the ideas and testing them on people. Regular non-comedian people, in everyday conversations. Regular person, I’m just in conversation, bringing it up. If we laugh again, I’m like, “Okay, there it is.” That’s so rich. Then, because it’s conversation, and the person doesn’t know that this professional comedian is having a writing session with them. That would mess a person up. They’d get too nervous. “Okay. Let me think. Okay. The chicken. Then he crossed the road.” They just start adding their stuff to it.
Kathi – So, you’re testing it out on mere mortals, to us regular people.
Jason – To see if it strikes the common chord. But it’s happening in just a friendship? People add funny stuff into the conversation. So, now, that’s giving me more. We call it a ‘tag’ in comedy. Just another thing to drive home the point. That’s another insight.
Kathi – Oh, your battery is exhausted.
Jason – It is tired. Let me go here. Uh oh. We got back up.
Kathi – Boom. I love it.
Jason – It doesn’t look as good.
Kathi – No, you look beautiful. Okay, so that joke is now giving birth, but you can’t leave it on the delivery table. Hey, listen, do you want to be called a comedian? You are, obviously, but I know you preach on Sundays, you do all the things, so how do you want to be called?
Jason – It’s a funny story. Here’s what I learned. This is why it’s important for people to use comedy. Before I was really a comedian, I’d been preaching. I’d been preaching, probably, about a year longer than I’d been doing comedy. So, I’d be showing up to places to speak, to preach, and they’d introduce me as the preacher/speaker, and people would treat me just nice. “Hey, how you doing? Thank you, sir. Thank you for coming.” But then, as I started getting into comedy, and they would announce me as the comedian? People wanted to hear what I had to say. People would come up and talk to me, where they typically greet preachers and say ‘hi’, people want to hang around comedians.
Kathi – That’s true.
Jason – So, I started saying, “Please don’t call me a preacher. Please don’t call me pastor.” Especially in my tribe, titles are everything. It’s like, “Reverend Jason Earl”. It’s like, “No! Please! Don’t do that.” It bothers me now, if people try to put a title. Even if they call me Pastor, I’m like, “Jason, please.” So, if I have to take one title, it would be “comedian”.
Kathi – Okay, good to know. So, Comedian Jason Earls, we talked about how you go from concept to, really kind of working on this. The ways you work on it. You take it to other comedians, you take it to mere mortals. Who are you more scared of? I would be more scared to take it to other comedians. Or, are they helpful and nurturing in the process?
Jason – That’s the importance of having the right people on your comedy writing team. Your comedy buddies. Typically, understanding that even comedians’ voices, there are jokes that I’ve come up with that I’m like, “That’s not my voice.” And I’ve given some to Michael Junior. I’ve given some to other people. There’s one joke that I gave that I was like, “Maybe that one had my voice.”
Kathi – “Maybe I could change my voice.”
Jason – I really look at, if God gives me a joke for somebody else, and I use it, that’s called stealing.
Kathi – Yeah.
Jason – So, I give those to people whose voice fits. Sometimes it’s comedians, but if I’m going to give it to other people, especially on stage, that’s what you call giving birth, but before, during the carrying process, I’ll give it anybody. It doesn’t matter. I want everybody to see the baby.
Kathi – You’re so proud. You’re such a proud Papa. No, wait. You’re Pop. Such a proud Pop.
Jason – Yeah, I should probably stick to Pop.
Kathi – Okay, so you start to get the concept, you test it out on some people, then, how do you figure out what it is? I one time heard Patton Oswald and Jerry Seinfeld have a conversation about something that’s a ‘bit’, something that is, I can’t remember what they called it, but you would use it as a talk show. But nothing is more valuable than a ‘bit’. The ‘bit’ is the ultimate. You do other things. You’ve done music videos. You’ve done short videos. I’ve shared your stuff, especially when we’ve been in such a racial divide in this country. I know we’ve been in it a lot longer than we’ve been talking about it, but I’ve shared a lot of your stuff online. How do you know where to put that stuff?
Jason – I guess it’s like a mother knows what school to put their child in? Sometimes you don’t know until you put them in there, and it’s like, “Oh, that was the right decision.” Typically, on stage, there’s a certain cadence that your show, or your set, has. Sometimes, you’re like, “Let me talk about it. Let me mention it first, and if they bite on it, let me go a little bit further. If they don’t, let’s pull that back and put that somewhere else.” Then, a lot of times, it’s just spending time with the thought, with the idea. Sometimes, you can tell, “Okay, this would really work well, doing an interview, if somebody’s interviewing me.” Like, if somebody asks about my family, “You got any nieces and nephews?” “Yeah, man. I love my nephew. In fact, my nephew’s having a hard time, ‘cause he’s being bullied, by a dude on a trampoline.”
Kathi – You know, it reveals a lot about you, that you care. That little nugget reveals a lot about you. I can probably be used in different places, ‘cause there are some stories that I’ve used on stage, but I’ve also used in books. I’ve used in videos and things like that, but not everything goes everywhere. You talk about, when a bit or a story impacts people, it can establish it’s own economic stability. What does that mean?
Jason – So you have this funny, this joke idea, then you give birth to it. When you give birth to it, that’s when you go out in public. It’s on stage. You put it out for the first time. The baby is born. But the goal of having a baby isn’t to have a baby. The goal of having a child, a baby, is that child will grow up, and as that child grows up, it will grow up independent, on it’s own, and establish it’s own economic stability, and it’s own impact. So, whenever I give birth to a joke, I’m hoping, and looking at how can I get that joke to grow and evolve to the point where it can create its own stream of income. It’s own stability and not only that, it also impacts people. So, there’s certain jokes I might tell, maybe for some people it’s one liners. For me, “I’ve been Googling.”
Kathi – Yes. Your music video.
Jason – So, I asked my son, did he know how to find his wife? He’s like, “Yeah, Dad. I’ll Google her.” So, that’s a funny joke. But then I thought, that’s more than a joke. That’s a song. Imma write a song about a guy looking for his girl, and we’re going to call it, “I Been Googling”. So, I wrote a song, “I’ve been Googling. Googling.” Then, I had it produced. I went to Virginia, recorded it at a studio. Then it became its own iTunes song. You can get it on iTunes now. So, it’s like, “Okay, people really like it. So, let’s see what else we can create from it. Let’s create a sticker, a decal. Then it becomes a t-shirt. Then, maybe in the future, it can become a how-to-date book. How to find a wife for some young Christian boys. Don’t let me get on this trip. We seem not to know how to teach boys how to pursue females.
Kathi – Amen.
Jason – So, they become college students, or young adults and have horrible relationships, because they weren’t taught how to have relationships when they were young.
Kathi – Well, I think we know what book you need to write. It’s so true. I know when something has produced income. When somebody books me, and they say “Hey, but could you be sure to tell the Starbucks story?” I’m like, “Oh, they booked me because of the Starbucks story.” You know what? I’m going to be up there, doing this retreat. We’re going to have four hours of talking, but that five minute story is what got me the gig. You want to have stuff like that, and they take time, and crafting. It’s not just the first joke, the first ha-ha. It’s building that out, whether it’s a comedy routine, or it’s a speech. You’re adding all that stuff to it.
Jason – This is really important, comedian and non-comedian people. When you have a funny idea, and you put it on stage, and people laugh at it, the temptation is to say, “Yay! Look at it! It’s done!”
Kathi – “It’s so pretty. We can put a bow on it.”
Jason – Right. No, actually, when you’re in the joke business, the funny business, a laugh can be the most distracting thing. When they laugh, they give you this endorphin rush satisfaction. There it is. Now, you’re caught up in your own self. This is why laughs cannot be what completes you, and where your identity lies. You will get so caught up with that, you will forget to do more work and forget that there is a lot more meat on the bone, or funny, that needs to be developed out of that joke.
Kathi – Yeah, you know what? So, I told myself, and I told Roger to hold me to it, I wasn’t allowed to share the Starbucks story until there was a point to it. That’s so hard to do. I knew it was a killer. It was such a great story, but for a while there, I didn’t have the point. So, you got to do the next layer of work. I knew it was such a good story. Trust me. I tried really hard to find the point, really quickly. That’s what I want to talk about in our final episode. How to make the point. How do we go beyond telling stories and helping people feel good as they walk out of the church, or walk out of the auditorium, and get to that place where our words – because God has given us the words – are changing lives. So, that’s the last episode. So, you guys are definitely going to want to come back. Jason, thank you once again for being on Writing at the Red House podcast.
Jason – Thank you. And thank you, everybody for hanging out with us.
Kathi – They are getting super-sized episodes. I said, “Jason, we’re going to do 15-20 minutes.” And Roger said, “If you get under 45 minutes an episode, I’m going to buy each of you a pony.” I knew it wouldn’t work. You guys, thank you so much for being here. You’ve been listening to the Writing at the Red House podcast. Come back next week. You’re not going to want to miss it.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items
Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Jason Earls is on a mission.
The comedian from Virginia’s Eastern Seaboard doesn’t live to make you laugh; he makes you laugh to help you live.
A husband and the father of six children, Jason’s got a thing or two to say about how to navigate life. His warm personality and impeccable comedic timing has made him a favorite at comedy clubs, churches, businesses, and in front of students and members of the Armed Forces.
Jason is a nontoxic comic: You can trust him to deliver without the offensive turn or twist.
Once voted Seattle’s Favorite Comedian, Jason has also been featured on Focus On The Family’s Date Night Challenge, Trinity Broadcast Network, and the Date Night Comedy Tour. In addition, he was named ITM Live’s Best Comedian. He has been sought after to produce content for marriage and family events which has earned him the title, “Comedy Familiologist,” pointing back to his desire to connect with audiences from all walks of life.
Jason has performed throughout the country and abroad, and when he’s not on stage, he’s most likely with his wife,Terri, at one of their amazing kid’s ridiculous sports events in his home city of Dallas, TX,
Step into a room where Jason commands a stage, and you will certainly experience something special — a refreshing brand of humor that really does help you live.
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