- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2003

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - Brad Stine stalks the stage like a hyperactive child, spouting caustic jokes about airplane travel and bad drivers, like a hundred other comedians.

But there are early signs on Mr. Stine’s new DVD, “Put a Helmet On,” that something is different. When he talks about being afraid to fly after September 11, he says he thanked God after landing safely.

“I’m a theist,” he says. “I do believe that there is an intelligent designer. I do believe that there is a purpose and value to life. And I do bring up God a lot in my shows.

“You know why? Because I miss him. I miss God in my country.”

Then you notice the audience, which is clean-cut for a comedy show. And there’s that fellow in the front row — a pew, really — laughing uproariously.

It’s the Rev. Jerry Falwell, of Moral Majority fame.

Mr. Stine, 43, a veteran of the mainstream comedy club circuit, has taken to preaching to the choir. He performs his Christian comedy act in venues such as Mr. Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., where the DVD was filmed.

“They lionize all the comics that are edgy, like Chris Rock, George Carlin, Dennis Miller,” Mr. Stine says. “They always curse a lot, they always say sexual things … and they’re rattling cages, smashing taboos. So I decided to go into the Christian arena and rattle their cages.”

Mr. Stine says he was embarrassed by the way Christianity was represented in American culture.

“We’ve come to say that Christianity comes in this spineless, milquetoast, aw-shucks Branson, Missouri, ‘Hee-Haw’ comedy show mentality.

“And I say, `Says who?’”

Mr. Falwell calls Mr. Stine “a brilliant communicator, who differs from other Christian comedians because of his depth and content.”

“He doesn’t mind getting controversial in order to jar people into thinking. But he’s so gracious in the way he does it, that even those who disagree with him don’t get angry,” Mr. Falwell says.

Mr. Stine started in show business with a magic act. He worked in clubs and added stunts such as sword-swallowing and fire-eating. Gradually, he phased out everything but comedy.

Because he’s a Christian, he decided his act would have no vulgarity. “It was hard … but it forced me to be a better comic,” Mr. Stine says.

Mr. Stine headlined the top comedy clubs in the country, and his act has been on MTV, Showtime, A&E; and “Evening at the Improv.”

“I was a successful comic,” he says. “I had a home that I bought. I had a family that I was raising. I had a marriage. I was making a good living as a professional stand-up comedian without using one curse word or one gratuitous sexual reference. I proved that I could compete.

“But there came a point where I felt something wasn’t complete, and I prayed. … The next day, I got a call to do a Christmas special for a Christian cable network. There were little subtle nudges that maybe I should do some work for Christians.”

He moved from California to Tennessee last year when he signed up with a management and a talent agency that asked him to commit to the Christian market.

Other Christian comics use gentle humor to make their points. But Mr. Stine’s confrontational style is firmly in the tradition of comics like Denis Leary and Bill Maher.

“I’m kind of the antithesis of those guys,” Mr. Stine says. “I feel like I can compete with them, intellectually and comedically. I just happen to come from a different point of view.”

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