We are doing a blog series on those in the PCC community who work in different facets of the entertainment industry about the advantages or obstacles they face as Christians in their field.
Nick Hoff – Stand-up Comedian
- Could you give us a quick bio of yourself and what you do in the arts/entertainment industry?
My name is Nick Hoff and I’m a comedian/actor living in Los Angeles. I’ve been in commercials and on television, but mainly I spend about 40 weeks a year on the road telling jokes.
- Did you always want to be a comedian?
No. It wasn’t until 4th grade that I realized I wanted to be a comedian. I completely wasted the first ten years of my life.
- How forward are you about your faith with others in the industry?
I’m honest when asked. It’s not something I wear on my sleeve, but I also don’t shy away from my faith either. These last two years I’ve been on the road with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, which has been great because they are both Christians, even though they don’t often wear it on their sleeve. Well, I guess Larry doesn’t it even have sleeves. But, they were a good example of not having to compromise their beliefs, but at the same time not being over-bearing and turning people away from their humor.
- What are your biggest struggles as a Christian in your field?
A) Getting to church on Sunday after working Saturday night. It’s so easy to feel lazy on Sunday morning after a long weekend. “I’ll just listen to the podcast,” I tell myself. That usually means that my wife will listen to the podcast and fill me in on what I missed.
B) Knowing (and remembering) that there’s something more important to life than comedy. Being in the creative industry, I feel like I’m always working. There’s always something funny to be found. The more I can think in joke format, the more productive I am. I even write jokes in church sometimes. When I was broke, I would justify this in my head by saying that I would tithe a few jokes each week for Rankin to throw into the sermon. I never did, but being able to turn off that part of my brain to focus on God is something that I really struggle with.
C) Believing in something that is so easy to make fun of. The Bible is an easy target. Lots of comedians take shots at it and label believers as foolish. . . and many audiences accept that view as fact. Without faith, there’s no reason to take the Bible seriously. A talking bush? Walking on water? Circumcision? (Circumcision!!! Are we kidding?) I feel fortunate that my faith has never been based on the words of others, but rather my internal compass.
- Is it risky to be labeled as a Christian in your field?
Yes, I would say it is. If only because it could possibly pigeonhole you into only performing for certain audiences. I want to perform for everybody, so having any polarizing label might limit my reach. I want to be the best comedian, period.
- Would you label your art “Christian?” If so, what does that mean to you? If not, why not?
No. I’m a Christian who is a comic, but not a Christian comic. Lots of Christian art has a bit of a hokie stink to it, doesn’t it? When I’m flipping the radio, and I come across a Christian music station, I can instantly tell. Not that it’s bad, but a lot of it has a formula that makes it feel basic and contrived. I don’t know, maybe it’s all the major chords. It’s the same as when I see a Kevin Sorbo movie and he’s got his shirt on, I know it’s gonna be cheesy.
- What advice would you give to Christians who aspire to do what you are doing?
First of all, be funny. Second, set moral standards for yourself that you won’t let lapse. It would be easy to let the seedy comedy business take you into a gradual spiral of filth, but if you have a line drawn in the sand early, you should be able to steer clear of spiritual problems. . . or at the very least, limit your vices to tobacco and heroin. Did that just get me uninvited off the blog?
I always try to ask myself, “Would God be proud of what I am doing?” And, the answer to that most days is, I don’t know. I can see the good in making people laugh. I get messages constantly of people telling me they were going through a rough time and they saw my show and felt like they had some relief. I’ve tackled some difficult social topics in an attempt to help people move forward in their line of thinking. I’m sure God has a great sense of humor, but I’ve also crossed a line that I wouldn’t have if he were sitting front row. It also sometimes feels silly that I’m spending my life writing jokes when there are huge problems in the world. Should I be doing more tangible things to help my fellow man? Probably, but I’m sure I’d feel the same way if I were a Christian accountant.
- Do you have any jokes about God?
Yep. I’ve had a few throughout the years. The most recent one came about because I was talking about prayer on stage, and I told the audience that I pray from time to time. I said, “Some people pray to God and some people pray to Jesus. I pray to God because it’s like….put your supervisor on the phone. I don’t need Jesus picking up and making small talk, I’ve got real problems down here…go get daddy.” You can use that one, Rankin, but I want my $20 back from the basket.