ELKHART — A frequent guest at the Grand Ole Opry, Christian stand-up comic and author Chonda Pierce is ready to make Elkhart laugh.
Known for her Southern twang and talent for telling entertaining stories, Pierce grew in the Bible Belt of South Carolina before moving to Nashville, Tenn., where she got her first big break. Her Girl Talk tour comes to downtown’s Lerner Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday, March 21.
Tickets for Pierce’s show are $22.50 to $27.50 at thelerner.com, by phone at (574) 293-4469 or at the theater’s box office, 410 S. Main St.
Here is an excerpt with Pierce’s interview with The Elkhart Truth:
Elkhart Truth: You got your start impersonating Southern comedian Minnie Pearl at the famous Opryland USA amusement park in Nashville. Was she one of your comedic heroes?
Pierce: “I was not familiar with her as a youngster, but I wanted to be an actress, and the only part I could get in a particular show they had cast me in required a lot of dancing that I didn’t know how to do
The only way I could save my job was memorize these jokes, and I did, so I started to do some research and trying to find out who she was and watching movie clips. It changed my life. People always have that moment when the light that comes on, and for me, that’s how it was watching her making people laugh.
I fell in love with it. I didn’t want to be a singer anymore. I didn’t want to be an actress. I just wanted to tell people funny stories and watch people laugh and be a comedian, but growing up in such a conservative, Christian home, good Lord, comedy, you’re going to go to hell.
And yet, Minnie Pearl, she was so true to herself and she was just a good person, and it taught me that you can still be entertaining and energetic and do what you do and still be a good wife, a good mom, a Christian woman and just be funny. It was a great inspiration.”
Elkhart Truth: How did growing up in a conservative household influence your sense of humor?
Pierce: “Sometimes I wonder if that plus being the middle child equals sarcasm. I got a lot of whoopins because of it.
I remember one thing my mother was so adamant about was that we couldn’t wear Sunday underwear. You know that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday monogrammed underwear? Well, she would burn Sunday underwear because she thought that was sacrilegious.
And I’m a 6-year-old kid saying, ‘Really? So, it’s better to wear dirty Saturday underwear to church?’ So in other words, I think it’s that middle child mentality that allowed me to push back on some of their ideology and go, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t think this is in the Bible.’”
Elkhart Truth: You tour all over the country, so how does your Southern-influenced comedy translate when you visit somewhere like Los Angeles or New York City? Is comedy universal?
Pierce: “I think there’s moments where they’re laughing at me and not with me. Either way, they laugh, so I don’t mind.
It is what it is. The minute I open my mouth, they’re going to know I’m a country girl for the South, so why not allow that to work for me instead of trying to push back on it? Talking about redneck country living, it works. Jeff Foxworthy is as funny in Los Angeles as he is in Atlanta. Funny is funny.
You can be dirty and funny or you can be clean and funny. I choose to be clean, and that sometimes takes a little more work and more clever ideas to get that point across or to make people laugh. Sometimes people laugh because they’re nervous. I like people to laugh because something is really, really funny.”
Elkhart Truth: You’ve been dubbed the Comedy Queen of Clean. Do you embrace that title?
Pierce: “I don’t mind it at all. It certainly pleases my mother.
I don’t mind it because we’re in a world where people need to know what they’re getting with they’re dollar, if that makes sense. Just to break it down in black and white, I’m a mom and if I shell out $20 for my kids to go to a concert, I kind of want to know what it is they’re going to, and if you’re a smart parent, you’re going to find out and do the research. Sometimes, that title helps a family understand what they’re getting into.”
Elkhart Truth: Why is your newest tour called Girl Talk?
Pierce: “That’s the great thing about being in a group of women. We can talk about everything from men to menopause to our Spanx to our botox. I love to talk about all those things.
Every one of my tours has always been about some thought or some truth or some little nugget that I’ve learned that I want to share. Girl Talk is a whole lot of what we talk about and, in a way, a whole lot of what we don’t talk about, and sometimes that’s even more important, the things we need to be talking about and we don’t.
Heck, we don’t even talk anymore. We text. We email. We’ve forgotten what the gift of a conservation is, and so a lot of the tour is reminding us of that and to let go of the things that don’t matter. Our cellulite and our wrinkles, they just don’t matter, but it’s our relationships and talking about those relationships that’s more meaningful.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.