Having toured with Jerry Seinfeld and other comedy greats, Michael Jr. isn’t afraid to make fun of himself. As a matter of fact, he goes out of his way to do it. To him, laughter is medicine and there are a whole lot of sick people in the world in need of a dose of what Michael has to offer them. From prisons to orphanages to churches and beyond, Michael Jr. is healing the world with his own brand of clean comedy, and in this exclusive interview we learn just how he does it.
While attending a men’s event in Atlanta on Father’s Day week- end 2013, I encountered the funniest clean comedian I’ve seen since Sinbad first stepped on the scene. His name is Michael Jr.
Very few comedians today can hold the attention of an audience of more than 2,500 people for over an hour, without uttering one profane word or using crude humor to make them laugh hysterically. I witnessed Michael Jr. do it, and it was amazing! Afterward, I connected with Michael and learned what drives his passion to make people laugh, and why he chose to be family-friendly.
Please tell us where you’re from and did you have a favorite comedian who inspired you to get into comedy? I’m originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and I didn’t really watch comedy when I was growing up. I do remember my parents and family members playing Eddie Murphy’s albums and laughing, which kind of stuck out to me. But, I didn’t really have a favorite comedian growing up.
I remember you saying at your show in Atlanta that you had a learning disability so, you looked at things differently. How did that help you develop as a comedian?
It’s awesome that it became a tool that I was able to use to share various angles on life that most people may not be able to see. Although, today I have been blessed to think and understand the majority viewpoint; I still have this expanded perspective that most people don’t think about. So I’m able to use the majority perspective to help audiences relate to the main part of the joke, and then I make them laugh by tying that into this expanded viewpoint I have on that same subject. So, it’s just a phenomenal tool that I have that I use both on and off stage. God knew what He was doing when He gave me this gift. I’m just grateful to have it.
I can vouch for that gift you have because you had me really laughing hard. You remind me of a young Sinbad or Bill Cosby, because you’re both funny and you don’t use any profanity in your show. Why did you choose to be a clean comic?
When I was 14 years old, a friend and me made a pact that we wouldn’t curse anymore. We didn’t really know anything about faith or God; we just didn’t want to keep cussing. So, I’ve always done “clean” comedy. In retrospect, I can clearly see that God was at work in my life early on. Because, had I started out cursing in my shows, after I became a Christian it would have been too much work to try and clean it up. So, it was great that God put it in me to stop using profanity long before I started doing com- edy. Now, it’s a perfect fit for the lifestyle that I live.
What was your first really big break as a co- median? Doing the Tonight Show was cool, and it was great as far as notoriety is concerned; but, the biggest break I had was more of a mental and spiritual one. God showed me that, instead of getting laughs from people, I should be looking to give them an opportunity to laugh. That changed everything for me! Now I didn’t have the pressure of trying to make people laugh at my jokes. I think that’s why a lot of comedians use profanity in their shows, because it’s all about making people laugh. But, when you don’t feel like you have to make people laugh, it removes the pressure and you don’t have to take drastic measures to be funny.
Another interesting and cool thing about you is that, you actually go into prisons and do shows, and you even wrote a children’s book. What motivates you to do these kinds of things? I would always hear people say it, and I read it in the Bible a whole bunch of times that, “laughter is like a medicine.” So, one day God said to me, “If laughter is like a medicine, then why don’t you take it to the sick?” So, instead of selling laughter to the sick people who have no way to pay for it, why don’t I just give it to them? It’s that simple for me. I understand that some people have health insurance and can afford to pay for the medicine and so you charge them; but, am I only going to take it to those who can afford it? No. I’m also going to make it available to those who can’t afford it, but need it.
So, one night while walking out of this show, I saw this homeless dude across the street. Here I am, signing autographs and taking pictures with people and all I could do was focus on this homeless guy. The whole time I was thinking, “How can I give him an opportunity to laugh?” That’s when I really got motivated to truly take it to people who can’t afford it, because they deserve to laugh too.
I just want to be an example to other talented people and encourage them to use their gifts to help others and not just focus on how much you want to get paid. Don’t focus only on the invoice, but also consider what the inner voice is saying. Be others centered and not self-centered. It goes back to what I was saying about pressure too. When you’re giving someone a gift, there’s no pressure. If they like it then great, but if they don’t, there’s still no pressure on. It’s just my job to present the joke and give them an opportunity to laugh at it. If people get it, then great; but if they don’t, that’s fine too. It’s that same mind- set that I use when I go into a prison or homeless shelter. If I only get 10 people to laugh out of 100 people in at- tendance, at least those other 90 were in a room where laughter was shared. There’s no pressure for me or the audience.
Talk about your new DVD that’s out?
Yes, it’s called “Laughing On Purpose”. We filmed it in Dallas, Texas and shot it over two shows where 4,000 people came to each event. It’s just 70 minutes of family friendly comedy that the parents and kids can watch together. I’m really excited about it and it’s available right now on my website, along with my upcoming tour dates at www.michaeljr.com
(Originally published September 2013)