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Christian comedian knows she can laugh at herself
Comedian Chonda Pierce performs Feb. 9 at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville.

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Chonda Pierce tells jokes about being committed to a psychiatric hospital on her new DVD, "Staying Alive ... Laughing."

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Chonda Pierce tells jokes about being an empty nester on her new DVD, "Staying Alive ... Laughing."
No matter what your denomination is, Chonda Pierce just wants you to loosen up.

The trick, she said — at least in doing stand-up comedy — is to find that balance between what’s funny and what’s stepping over the line.

"It’s an interesting part of our (Christian comedy) genre — clean comedy is not always Christian comedy. But comedy is very subjective," she said. "Everyone is avoiding words that cause people to pay fines or have to go to a racism class. Well, multiply that by 17 different denominations or the definition of the rapture, then multiply that by the men’s and women’s issues.

"And every now and then you step on a mine. You pray you don’t step on enough of them that you don’t blow up your whole career."

Pierce brings her act to the Georgia Mountains Center on Feb. 9 in support of her latest DVD, "Staying Alive ... Laughing!"

Growing up the daughter of a minister in South Carolina, Pierce said her chosen career path wasn’t one her mama would have wanted her to follow. But a six-year stint impersonating Minnie Pearl at a theme park gave her a different perspective on comedy, and rather than joke about other people or the audience, Pierce said she soon learned to make fun of herself instead.

"(Minnie Pearl) created an entire city of people, and the joke was always on an imaginary person or herself," she said. "That was a safe way to go."

As a Christian comedian, Pierce said that’s a good way to start when trying to please a range of comedic expectations.

"If people are going to actually know we’re Christian, they’re going to come with a little bit of an expectation that you better not embarrass God," she said, adding that most of her material comes from simple, everyday experiences.

"Most of it does become, of course, stuff that happens to me and my friends around me," Pierce said. "Actually, you feel like you’re having a conversation with a bunch of friends, and I love that aspect of my job. At the same time, you have to discern what out of your household can be used."

Last year, Pierce experienced a bout with depression that led her to stays in two clinics. But even this isn’t spared the comedic sword, she said, and elements of that experience have found their way into her routine as well.

And while some audiences are offended by this, Pierce said, don’t be. After 20 years in the business, she just sees it as another way she’s growing up.

For example, in her "Staying Alive" video, Pierce tells a joke about sleeping with her husband. When some audiences get offended by this, she reminds them, "I basically just told you I sleep with my husband.

"(For) a brand new comic out of the box, that might be the end of their Christian comedy career," she said. "I’ve been around long enough that I’ve gained a little bit of trust with my crowd. I can be myself. At the same time, I am finding some of the authentic moments I’m going through, that makes a Christian crowd a little nervous.

But all this is simply part of being comfortable in her own skin.

"I think the best part of who I am now is I’m not tiptoeing ... I cannot please an encyclopedia full of denominations; all I need is to please my God."