Jack Legg recently started the CHAMPION CITY COMEDY SHOWCASE in Springfield, Ohio. The May 10 edition stars Brian Million along with Jack and other local comedians. Jack answered some questions that Andy Ingram was pondering and like all things with Jack, the answers branch out everywhere. (Editor's note: This show and interview took place in 2014. The interview was great but the show, mostly the venue, was really wierd. The showcase lasted one night.)
AI: Mr. Jack Legg, you are a biblical scholar and pastor and social activist. What got you in to also writing and performing comedy routines?
JL: I think comedy serves a few different purposes. First, it is fun. Plain and simple, it is fun. I grew up in a faith tradition that seemed to emphasize solemnity and seriousness over frivolity and fun. Laughter breaks the curse. When you live in the midst of a broken world, when you inhabit a space that is scarred and distorted, laughter doesn't fit. It is somewhat otherworldly. Joy and mirth and laughter... these are acts of rebellion against the powers of darkness. By laughing and having fun, we are reclaiming a bit of the good creation God intended. Second, humor, at its best, can speak truth against evil. By mocking or making fun of something, you claim mastery over it. For example, I have done an entire stand-up set on pornography. I took an aspect of this world that plays a part in imprisoning people and keeping them in bondage, and I made fun of it. It was silly and fun, but it also took something some people find big and scary and turned it into the butt of the joke. Using satire is also a great way to speak against something evil or unjust while also getting a laugh.
AI: Are there similarities between pastoring and comedy or is that just inviting cheap shots from the skeptics?
JL: I will say that I learned more about preaching from stand up comedians than I ever learned from other preachers. I do not mean I learned theology from comics . . . but I did learn to communicate. You can have the strongest, deepest, most impressive body of theological knowledge in the world, but what good does that do you if you don't know how to connect with people? In a comedy club, you hit the stage cold with nothing but a microphone, and you have five minutes to connect with the crowd. If you can preach, you may be able to do stand up; but if you can do stand up, you can definitely preach. In fact, Sam Kinison (politically incorrect comedian and noted screamer) started out as a Pentecostal pastor before he switched to comedy. A good pastor must be able to form a relationship with people, synthesize big ideas into digestible thoughts, and communicate truth clearly. A good comedian should do all that, and get laughs.
AI: You have started a monthly comedy showcase in Springfield, why?
JL: Because I want more stage time! Well, that, and I love the art form so much I want to see it thrive in my neighborhood. There is also somewhat of a nostalgic piece to the whole thing because I performed stand-up comedy for the first time here in Springfield back in 2010. That show does not exist anymore, but it gave me my start.
AI: What are the details for this comedy showcase?
JL: Right now, we are having the show at Ruby's Pub in downtown Springfield. The show is the second Saturday of each month at 8:30 PM. Each show features several local comedians (from Dayton, Springfield, and Columbus). We are called the Champion City Comedy Showcase. We may branch out to other venues for other shows, or change the frequency of shows based on popularity.
AI: Have there been any famous comics to come from Springfield?
JL: Jonathan Winters was a Springfield native! He was born in Bellbrook, but spent much of his life here in the Champion City. Winters was a brilliant stand up comedian who was known for his quick wit and capacity for improvisation. He recorded numerous comedy albums (which he won Grammys for), starred in television shows and movies, and even voiced Papa Smurf in the beloved cartoon series. Sadly, Winters passed away last year... but I think he would approve of the comedy showcase.
AI: The cliche is that good comedians are just overcompensating for some emotional baggage in their upbringing, what's your story?
JL: Interesting. All of us have emotional baggage, so I am sure that figures into it somehow. Personally, I think the best humor comes from places of pain and anxiety. I have told secrets on stage at comedy clubs that I have not told anywhere else. Such as the time I got caught looking at "inappropriate websites" at a Christian college, or my startling lack of athletic ability, or even stupid things I have done in the past. I am working on some material now all about terrible things I have done. There is something transformative about taking painful things from the past and converting them into laughter.
AI: You are performing stand-up right now, what other comedic formats do you enjoy or see yourself getting in to?
JL: I like to write satire whenever possible. I have done some acting in minor roles and a tiny bit of improv. I could see myself doing some more of those things, or even playing a role in producing some videos or movies.