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NOT ALWAYS A LAUGHING MATTER
Though Nazareth makes his living as a funny man, he says there’s a side to making it in comedy that doesn’t always show.
We watch the Grammy’s, the Emmys, and the Oscars and are fascinated by the glamour, the wealth, and the accomplishment of the stars. But how often do we stop and think of the ones who didn’t make it?
For every one of the Hollywood stars you see on TV there are hundreds who don’t make it. Some end up attempting suicide, others get hooked on drugs or alcohol or come down with a huge dose of depression.
Comedians can tell the story of one fellow comedian who wanted to pursue fame in Hollywood. When he found out that his chances were slim, he jumped to his death from the top of a building next to the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd.
Nazareth attended the funeral for another comedian who he had worked with a week before his death. This comedian was the host of a reality TV show in the '80s. He suffered heart failure because of cocaine.
One of Nazareth’s friends with whom he’d performed several times in the clubs died because of alcohol. These people never make the front pages. Satan buries them real fast.
Nazareth says he is not advising anyone to not take a chance on Hollywood. “What I’m trying to say is if you think you have a chance in Hollywood, don’t go there without Christ, armored with His word, completing trusting in Him,” he says. Do not go only on your own strength. You cannot last too long alone on that battleground. The great funeral director (satan) is waiting there. Remembering the fallen stars “is a reminder for me to stay close to God,” he says.
FROM ISRAEL TO KUWAIT TO THE US OF A
Nazareth is a very funny man and has been from his earliest years. He tells you with a smile and a wink that he’s been a paid professional since age three when his mom would send him into the room filled with unpleasant relatives with the directive, “Tell them jokes and I’ll give you money!” Nazareth enjoyed the laughter and the “pay.”
He moved to America from Kuwait at age 19. He settled in Toledo, Ohio because as he says in his routine, his family heard people use the expression, “Holy Toledo” so that must be the best place to live in the great US. Nazareth went to college in Ohio and then landed a job in an accounting firm. He also investigated American life complete with drugs, alcohol and women. But he knew in his heart that he wanted comedy. So he moved to LA and began waiting in line at comedy clubs for 3 hours or more to do his standup routines – often after midnight to a drunken audience. He even had a proposal to do a sitcom based on his life.
When you ask Nazareth how he got saved, he quips, “I was Caller Number Nine on the Christian radio and the prize was [salvation]" …then he laughs heartily. But the truth goes more like this.
On one occasion he met a Japanese American comic who invited Nazareth to church. Nazareth always wanted to fit in so Nazareth thought, “Why not?” and he went. The message that day was on tithing. His companion was hugely embarrassed and apologized over and over thinking that Nazareth would be offended. Instead, Nazareth was drawn to the preacher’s openness and forthrightness. During that next week, Nazareth says even strangers would come up to him and say “You need Jesus;” like the checkout clerk at the grocery store who asked him if he wanted Jesus in his heart.
As it turned out, the pastor who preached on tithing was moving to a different church. Nazareth was so attracted to the man’s heart that he followed the pastor, but when he went into the church, he sat in the back with the deacons in case he needed to make a hasty retreat. He says he doesn’t remember anything that was spoken that morning until the pastor made the altar call and Nazareth ran down the aisle as fast as he could to get saved. The next week Nazareth was baptized. He was so excited he immediately led a Marine named Adam to the Lord.
FOLLOWING THE COMEDIAN
The pastor and Nazareth became friends and the pastor began to tell Nazareth that he wanted to come and hear his routine. Nazareth had begun trying to clean up his act, but of course he still performed in clubs with other comedians who had no regard for a clean act. So Nazareth held the pastor off. Nazareth had planned to leave comedy. The pastor was surprised at such an announcement and encouraged him that his comedy was a gift from God and he shouldn’t so readily give it up. An elderly person in the church came to him and told him to use his comedy for the glory of God. In fact, the pastor had been thinking of having a church comedy night and wanted Nazareth to perform. Nazareth agreed and they set up and planned for 15-20 people. The first night just by word of mouth, 400 people came to hear him.
But the road wasn’t easy. Nazareth says he was hung up on hundreds of times, he starved, and pastors routinely responded incredulously, “…comedy in the church???” In the midst of all this, Nazareth had determined he would not date. He told the Lord that he couldn’t trust himself around women after the past he’d led.
A GOOD WIFE WHO CAN FIND?
When Naz’ father became ill, he asked his son to travel to Gaza to attend to some family business there. Nazareth resisted at first but then honored the dying man’s request. Nazareth was met at the airport by his married
cousin. The cousin, his wife and his wife’s sister took Nazareth to dinner. The cousin warned them that Nazareth would probably try to convert them because he was now a born-again Christian. At once the cousin’s wife’s sister chimed in, “So am I,” to which Nazareth responded, “Will you marry me?” She assured him she would pray and fast for three days and give him an answer. After three days she came to him saying, “I’m hungry, let’s do it!” Nazareth returned to the U.S. and the couple did not see each other for one year during which they talked and emailed. Now they have been married for 7 years and have a family. He and Maha have two children – John, age 5 and Carol, age 3.
A ROUTINE FOR ALL AUDIENCES
Nazareth plans for every comedy routine to meet four audience types; teens, single adults; families; and seniors. He sees comedy as a universal language and does the I love America Tour to encourage a love for the country that he says Americans have lost. He says many people “…are not appreciating being Americans.” He asks himself what he can do with comedy to stir people to be proud and encouraged about their country and receive the gospel at the end of his show. He is planning 6 more America Tours together with a Christian illusionist and a Latino comic whose wife was recently healed of cancer; another element of the show, which Nazareth says, brings encouragement to people. Nazareth continues to speak to many crowds of youth and at other venues. He recently performed at a Colorado rally with Zell Miller, Ann Coulter, country star Clay Walker, MercyMe and others.
Nazareth says he has only one real frustration in life, and that is that he can't run in airports anymore.
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