Chonda Pierce is an entertainer with a Christian faith, a Southern twang and a laser wit. The “Queen of Clean,” as she’s known, travels across the country and delights audiences with her standup comedy routine. It’s easy to laugh at her quips about her mother, her years of sitting in pews, piano lessons and the need for designated “menopause parking” spots.
She will bring her humor to the Gallo Center on Friday.
“We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll laugh some more, and then we’ll go eat somewhere,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday. She promised to do “a little bit of everything,” including some songs, stories and “mostly comedy. The takeaway for the night is for people to wet their pants because they’re laughing so hard.”
Growing up as the daughter of a pastor gave her plenty of funny material, she said. “I come straight from the world of wooden pews and hellfire preaching. Some of it probably did a little damage – that’s where I get my warped sense of humor – but most of those days gave me solid roots,” she said on her website (chondapierce.com).
But a decade ago, just a few years after she had launched her successful comedy career, Pierce’s life suddenly went dark, as she struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. In online and print interviews, she has talked about her subsequent hospitalization and the help she received through antidepressants and group therapy. At the time, she was convinced her career was over.
“What I’ve longed for probably most all my life is to be able to look at the body of Christ and tell the most absolute truth and for them to accept you right where you are,” she said. “When Jesus comes, he’s going to unravel all this mess. But for right now, all we have is each other.”
Her humor returned, and she’s hit even greater success, with eight DVDs that have gone gold and four that earned platinum, eight books, three movies, five Emmy nominations and a slew of guest spots, including that of co-host for the 2012 Dove Awards. She appears at the Grand Ole Opry, where she got her start in entertainment, playing Minnie Pearl. She also entertained U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2011, where she stayed in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces and dodged a few bullets.
“It’s a dangerous area, a war zone,” Pierce said in one 2013 interview. “I had to wear my Kevlar and my helmet. You listen to every word (the security people tell you). When they say duck, you duck! There were times firing went over your head, but I was there because you want to love on somebody’s child who is out there fighting for freedom.”
She said it was unusual for a Christian entertainer to be invited on the tour. She was known for carrying her Bible and trying to put together place names in the Old Testament with the land she was touring. Young soldiers would come up to her, wanting a hug and to tell her that their moms were big fans. There were times her faith became a magnet, she added.
“You get in a Black Hawk helicopter and it starts taking on fire and then the machine guns start firing from where you are, everybody cozies up to the Christian girl (for divine protection),” she laughed. She was there just before Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. She said the entertainers had heard that U.S. officials had located the terrorist, but she wasn’t allowed to talk about it at the time.
Pierce was in Modesto in 2001 in a show at then-First Baptist Church of Modesto (now CrossPoint Community Church). She told a reporter then that her humor “is geared to my faith,” but her show is the kind most anyone would enjoy.
Such as the fact that her mom often said that most things “would lead to beer. Music would lead to beer. Dancing would lead to beer. I couldn’t wear an outfit because it would lead to beer.” She said the first time she heard the Hoyt Axton song “Joy to the World,” made popular by Three Dog Night – “Jeremiah was a bullfrog/Was a good friend of mine” – she knew what her mom would say: “Frogs lead to beer.”
That kind of humor cuts across denominations, ages and beliefs. That’s what she promises to bring in her evening of comedy.