Religion

Christian comedian took a 'nice, slow ride' to making it as a comic

Clean your room

Fold your clothes

Put your stuff away

Make your bed

Do it now

Do we have all day?

Were you born in a barn?

Would you like some hay?

Can you even hear a word I say?

—From "Momisms," by Anita Renfroe

Millions have heard Anita Renfroe on YouTube sing her "Momisms" to the galloping tune of the "William Tell Overture." Renfroe, who crams tons of mom sayings into the 3 1/2-minute composition, talked with The (Modesto, Calif.) Bee recently at a new experience in her life — a physical therapy appointment in Atlanta, where she lives.

She said heavy rain flooded her basement while she was away for a conference about eight weeks ago. The 47-year-old Christian comedian discovered the water when she slipped on wet stairs. But, she added, it's OK. The accident will no doubt become material for future shows.

"Everything I do is my life," she said as she began a 10-minute workout on a stationary bike.

She didn't start out as a comic, she said. She was a fairly serious student as a child and grew up to marry a Baptist pastor, even though she was never a stereotypical pastor's wife.

"My inability to have an edit button between my brain and my mouth was a bit of a liability," she said. "But on the plus side, I could play the piano, so he decided it was an OK chance."

They met — where else? —in church.

"I grew up in Virginia, where my dad worked for the federal government," she explained. "Then he got transferred to Mississippi. When we went into the church, my husband was singing with his sisters, and my mom elbowed me to say he was pretty cute. I was 19 when I saw him and 20 when I married him."

Wasn't that a fast romance?

"Not so fast by Mississippi standards," Renfroe replied. "He was 26 when we got married, so at least one of us was an adult."

The journey to becoming a professional comedian was a slow one, she said.

"I'd be doing the music for women's conventions," she said. "Invariably, something would hit me funny and I'd have to do that from the stage. People would say, 'You're really funny. Could you do more of that next year?' It was an incredibly, excruciatingly slow process becoming a comic. It was a nice, slow ride. I didn't come through the clubs or any normal ways people make it as comics."

Renfroe does individual comedy concerts in addition to her appearances the past three years at Women of Faith conferences, which she enjoys.

"It's probably the world's largest pajama party, with lots of laughter, inspiration and help," she said. "There's lots of sharing emotions built around the speakers' stories. I think people not only feel informed, but transformed. They make decisions to change their lives based on what they've heard. I don't think it gets any better than that for women.

"I sing and I do parodies and stand-up comedy. I talk, which is what I used to do before we learned to call it comedy.

"People ask me all the time, 'Do you write it up?' I say, if you just wake up and live, it's all funny. Sometimes not right in the moment, but eventually."

It was at a comedy conference in 2007 that Renfroe unveiled her now-famous mom song, which went viral on YouTube. No one knows exactly how many hits it has garnered, but it's safe to say the millions of views pushed Renfroe into a whole new comic orbit.

"We only put up a portion of the song at first," Renfroe said. "Then other people started posting the whole song. We had them take it down because of copyright infringement.

"We didn't know YouTube was the way to stardom. I wish we had an accurate count. We do know that each time it was on the 'Early Show' it drew 3 million (hits)."

She had been touring for a few years before becoming an instant celebrity.

"I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years," she said. "I was working up to this. I tell people it took me 20 years to live it and two minutes to make it rhyme."

Renfroe doesn't get tired of singing "Momisms," which is a good thing, because she said most audiences would riot if she didn't include it.

"It's great. I'm thankful that I had a stroke of genius once."

It's also a positive thing in these negative days, she said.

"I think women are stressed to the point of breaking," she said.

"It was bad enough before the economy took a dive. Now, if 10,000 women are laughing at the same thing (at a Women of Faith conference), that says something. The fact that you are loved (by God) gives you permission to laugh at life a little. I want my comedy to offer people hope."

Renfroe said being on the road with other Christian women helps her stay tapped into her own faith.

"I get to spend time with very spiritual women; that's a good start," she said. And, she added, "I'm pretty much like everybody else. You have to pick up the Bible and meditate and pray and listen to God. My favorite Bible translation is 'The Message,' by Eugene Peterson. They have that for the iPhone now.

"My day changes from minute to minute. I like the fact that I can pick up my iPhone apps any time of the day and hear from God. It's great."

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