Christianity and comedy may not immediately seem like natural allies. But Justin "Goldiee" Goldsmith has proof that they are connected. "If you think God doesn't have a sense of humor, just look at the person next to you," Goldsmith deadpanned.
Last Friday, April 16, Goldsmith was one of four clean, Christian comics to perform as part of the "Soulfunny: Comedy for Cause Show" at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center. The show featured the comedic talents of G.L. Douglas, Davell Taylor and Steffon Vann, as well as performances by William Calloway and “All in the Family” Mime Cuzins.
"It's clean entertainment that the whole family can come to," said Vann, who is also the owner of Soulfunny Entertainment, a comedy brand that includes the Soulfunny comedy show, radio hour and cruise.
The show is part of a four city tour and each performance will donate 20 percent of their profit to a local charity. Proceeds from the show in Hollywood were donated to
Broward County's HANDY (Helping Abused Neglected and Disadvantaged Youth) program.
"We really want these shows to not be just about us making us a profit," said Vann, "We want to be able to make a difference."
Vann began his comedic career 10 years ago. In the beginning, he often had to perform in comedy clubs where expletive and raunchy-filled jokes were the norm. "Obviously, in those environments, those comedians are the ones who are doing any and everything," said Vann.
However, the former model, who was raised in the Baptist church, never felt comfortable with that sort of material.
"I made a conscious effort to never become that," explained Vann.
That decision to remain clean has not hindered Vann's career as he has performed on BET's "Comic View," and at the Essence Music Festival and T.D. Jakes' Mega Fest.
Eventually, he decided to create Soulfunny Entertainment in 2007 because he felt that there is an untapped market for Christian comedians, said Vann.
However, he is always careful about how he markets his comedy style.
According to Vann, clean, Christian comedians have to market themselves carefully because they are often perceived as being too clean (i.e. not funny) for mainstream audiences, while religious institutions are worried they will be inappropriate for their venues.
However, some churches have no problem embracing Christian comedians.
"I'm a big fan of Steffon Vann," said Vincent Jones, assistant pastor of The Faith Center in Sunrise, "he's [performed and worshiped] at our church several times."
Jones, who enjoys comedy but not the vulgarity often found in comedy clubs, said the Soulfunny show brought much needed variety to the industry.
"It's time for fresh, clean entertainment in South Florida," said Jones.
However, other audience members were not so particular. "It doesn't really matter if they're clean or not," said 23-year old Catherine Cail, "I just like it if they're funny."
And while most comedy is geared toward adults, the "Soulfunny" show is appropriate for all ages.
For Davell Taylor, a five year comedic veteran, there is no need to have different material for different ages.
"Funny is funny, said Taylor, when you got [material] that is funny even kids will get it."
Taylor's routine spans a wide variety of topics from poverty to traditional church service and includes impersonations of Michael Jackson, zoo animals and other characters.
"I'm animated with some of my jokes, so even if they don't get the concept of the material, [children] still will see the face and laugh anyway," said Taylor.
His impersonations were a hit with 10-year old Precious Swinton.
"I understood most of it," said Swinton, "I thought it was good."