Sometimes it can feel as if the days of the variety show — like those of Carol Burnett and Red Skelton — are long gone. However, there is still at least one such type of show in the Christian entertainment industry — one with a strong evangelistic component.
“Trevor Thomas Live!,” a touring comedy show, is the creation of Trevor Thomas. He grew up with a Christian heritage but had no family background in performing arts.
“I am the background,” he said. “I’m the only one in the family who the bug bit.”
Performing came naturally to Thomas.
“One of the first times I went to the movie theater to see a movie, I came home and started reenacting it,” Thomas said. “I just had an interest in performing ever since. Even as young as preschool I can remember wanting to go to a performance school.”
His parents recognized his passion and got him into professional work as a child. He added performing at school and then later was part of a creative ministries team at church.
Though Thomas loved both God and entertaining, he didn’t actively pursue a Christian entertainment ministry. It evolved naturally to encompass the call he already felt.
After high school, the rest of the church’s creative ministry team moved on.
“I was the last man standing,” he said. “I just started performing by myself in my home church, and then I started getting invited to go other places outside my church.”
Not only is “Trevor Thomas Live!” unique, but when school and work schedules allow, it’s also a family act.
In contrast to having been the only performer in his family while growing up, he married another performer, Sawyer, an accomplished vocalist. As her job allowed, she toured with Thomas.
It didn’t take long for his daughter to be bitten by the performance bug.
During the parts of the show when Trevor and his wife were both on stage, they and the sound man would take turns watching their daughter in a stroller, moving it to the front of the stage when needed.
“One night, Claire, our daughter, lifted up the bar off the stroller and undid the belt and got up on the platform with us. She’s been coming up ever since,” Thomas said.
“Trevor Thomas Live!” delivers encouragement to both believers and non-believers and doesn’t apologize for being entertainment while also being “gospel-driven, evangelistic, worshipful (and) edifying for the people.”
“Our slogan is ‘Laughter, Inspiration and Life Change,’ and that’s the progression of every program,” he said. “It begins with laughter, variety, light-hearted stuff. Then we inspire with the gospel, and then we give them a life-change challenge.”
A typical show includes some standup, but most of the humor comes through various characters.
Embracing the saying that “art imitates life,” Thomas believes that funny is in the everyday.
“I think, whether consciously or subconsciously, everybody’s hungry for communication. I believe the form of performance entertainment we do is relative because it’s a form of communication and is relative because everyone wants to laugh.
“I learned a long time ago that if people laugh, they will listen to anything else you have to say. That’s kind of the way we cast the net in order to draw it in.”
Doing about 180 shows a year over 30-plus years, Thomas has had some interesting experiences. Looking back, one of the funniest was when he was single.
“There was a rat in one of our motel rooms. I had to get my sound tech who was staying in the room next door to call the front desk. I couldn’t figure out where the thing went,” Thomas said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do to get the rat out. Once we got it out, we weren’t going to stay in the same room, so we ended up leaving.”
Challenges and rewards
He is thankful that is his worst hotel story. But even if he had to deal with more horrible hotels, the positives that come from these engagements far outweigh the negatives.
One night he was performing at a church in Mississippi. The pastor told him he was going to pick up his brother who was in a nursing home. Thomas didn’t think much of it.
When the pastor and his brother got back, Thomas saw he was in a wheelchair.
“At the end of the night, [the pastor] said, ‘I’ve not seen my brother laugh in more than 20 years, and tonight I saw him laugh,’” Thomas said. “It’s just as rewarding as knowing that somebody came to the Lord and God used you through what you were doing because God uses the whole thing on different levels.”
Through the years God has taught Thomas how to rely on His faithfulness.
“Everything that God, whether blessings and bonuses or heartache and tears — everything that God does throughout your life, regardless if it’s in ministry or whatever your career is, the things that He allows to take place — are only there to draw us closer to Him and make us more dependent on Him.”
To learn more about Thomas and “Trevor Thomas Live!” go to trevorthomaslive.com.