Chonda Pierce isn’t sure if the title “Queen of Clean” fits.
When the comedian, actor and author first heard it, she said she was concerned people “might think I had a housekeeping business. But if they saw my house, they might think differently,” she joked.
Early in her career Pierce also was labeled a “Christian comedian.”
“I didn’t know that was going to be such a controversy at the time. But when I really gave my life to Christ, I was proud of it. When I found out I wasn’t going to hell, I was really excited,” Pierce said with a laugh. “I didn’t know it would have limitations down the road. But at this point, doing this for 27 years, I’m very proud of the work I’ve done and what we’ve accomplished and the strides we made for comics now.”
Though she is obviously experienced and talented in the field, she is still nervous about an upcoming tour.
‘Needed’ more than ever
“Life is so hard. [While worrying about it], it just seemed like out of the clear blue I had this complete calm that my job has never been more needed in my entire career. That gave me nerves because now I really, really need to be funny!
“I guess of all the titles out there somebody gives you in my line of work, I pray they just say I’m funny.”
Though highly successful by the world’s standards, even being recognized as the best-selling female comedian of all time by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Pierce knows where her success originated.
“For me, it really happened almost supernaturally,” she recalled “[I]t was almost an amazing script of how the pieces were put together in order for me to get an audience. Back in the day, we didn’t have social media; we didn’t have cell phones. Unless you were a strong force in Hollywood, it just wasn’t going to happen.”
During Pierce’s heyday when she was selling out arenas, one day she was singing “Mercy Saw Me” for a mic check and noticed men wearing orange jumpers. She remembered that local prisoners were working at the arena.
“I saw them stop what they were doing and sit on their chairs, with many of them putting their faces in their hands, just weeping. I think it was one of the first times I realized that my show was not just about comedy — that it was about reaching people’s hearts. I’ll never forget the scene of that and it has reminded me often of why I do what I do.
“The comedy has always been the opening act; it’s always been about something a little bit more than just being funny.”
Pierce’s favorite verse also keeps her on track: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63a).
“That really keeps my ego in check. It’s like, don’t listen to your own press too much,” Pierce said. “Don’t get puffed up when the crowd is really big. Or … don’t get depressed when it’s not.
“It’s not really about our jobs or our mental state or our physical being. It’s about the condition of our heart. It’s like that verse. How you feel about yourself, the mistakes you’ve made in your past, how funny you are, how not funny you are … that puts everything in perspective.”
Pierce never starts a tour without knowing its direction, and this year she will address how tiring COVID-19 debates are and what’s happening worldwide.
“It dawned on me that many times we run to the wrong place first to get information,” Pierce said. “I realized that needs to be the message: where do we really run? You talk to your doctors; you try to be really smart; you listen to your pastor; but at some point, you’re going to have to trust your heart and trust God.”
Though Pierce recognizes the power of laughter and appreciates non-message-driven comedians, God never allowed her to go that route.
“I have always felt like my stories, my pain, my testimony are to mean something. You have a whole world of people who are going to need your encouragement. They are going to need to know what it’s like to start a climb in the writing business and struggle with a bad day, and yet still do the job. People are needing our testimonies more than ever.
“People measure success in a lot of odd and different ways. But if you can buy a meal today because of what you do in your gifting, then you’re successful. I look at people with the mansions and all that stuff in Hollywood and they don’t look all that happy to me. Just being able to go down to the diner or feed my family or put one of my kids in school because of the art of comedy, I’ll feel greatly successful.”
Pierce’s nationwide tour began Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 14. To find dates and more information about her work, including DVDs, CDs, books, movies and other merchandise” visit www.chonda.org.