My Life as a Bystander
By Jeremy Reynalds
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- While
I’m a news and talk radio junkie, sometimes I’ve just
got to tune out the serious and lose myself in something fun and
However, finding something that’s both funny and clean
can be a challenge. That’s why I was glad to find comedian
Jeff Allen’s new book My Life as a Bystander. It
kept me reading – and laughing.
The back cover of the book reads, “Comedian Jeff Allen
says, ‘Standing on the sidelines works great. Then someone
skins their knee, the baby's carrying a poopy diaper like the
Olympic torch, and your wife's butter knife whizzes by your left
temple.' Can Jeff stay on the sidelines? Can you?
‘My Life as a Bystander’ is a laugh-out-loud look
at marriage, family, and other reasons why men lose their hair
prematurely. Featured vignettes for couples of all ages and marital
experiences tell Jeff's personal story interwoven with his always
side-splitting observations about life.”
In a recent telephone interview I asked Allen the reason for
the book’s strange sounding title.
He said, “As a comic most comics are observationalists.
We stand by and look at life. I got married, and thought I could
direct traffic through my house and not participate in it. (However),
I learned through various 12 step programs that God wanted me
to be a participant. God dragged me into that kicking and screaming.”
Allen said he hopes that people understand the book for what
it is – entertainment.
“It is fun,” he said. “It’s written with
the intent to be lighthearted. It is great plane reading. It’s
an odd title, but it works. There are so many books out there
with agendas. I figured out that this is the only book without
an agenda. It’s basically for humor.”
Allen BC (Before Christ)
I always like to know more about the authors of books I read,
so I asked Allen to tell me about his life.
“I had just started getting into cocaine six months before
I met my wife,” he said. “She was aware of this. I
could go out on the road and binge, but she didn’t see the
bad side of it before we moved to Boston (and I was home all the
time). Then you can’t hide it for long. I had given her
the illusion that I lived a pretty stable life.”
Of course, substance abuse wasn’t the only issue being
faced by the young Allen marriage. Allen said he had been raised
in a home where men didn’t do anything around the house.
However, his wife’s experience was the opposite.
“When we got married, her attitude was, of course, ‘you
are going to clean up,’ and I remember her pushing me out
of bed to get up with the kids. I was used to sleeping till noon
or one. I had some adjustments to make. At first I pushed back.
Then you realize it’s only fair that you do your part.”
’An Ignorant Moron’ Searches for Christ
Reflecting on his old life when he was searching for meaning,
Allen called himself “a professed atheist and an ignorant
He explained that one day a number of years ago he was golfing
with “a devout believer.” The individual quoted from
the Bible, a book for which Allen didn’t hesitate to express
his fervent distaste. When the friend asked Allen what it was
about the Bible that Allen didn’t like, Allen admitted that
he had never read it. His golfing friend told him, “You
are not an atheist. You are a moron.”
Allen said during this period in his life he was so unhappy that
his wife would look at him and ask, “Why can’t you
enjoy your job?” Allen would respond, “What’s
Allen was experiencing a full-blown crisis about life.
He said, “Every day I woke up, there was a crippling question
about the meaning of life. I studied Buddhism and eastern philosophy.
The whole point of Buddhism is to get rid of my desire. Apathy
caused my marriage and career to fall apart. The next step from
apathy is cynicism. I started paying attention to politics and
the state of the world.”
Allen started watching the news – intensely. “I believe
that it was God Who put the desire in me to ask what was the point
of the world,” he said. (But) every intellectual place I
hit a wall, (although) I didn’t mope 24 hours a day.”
Watching the news didn’t help. The void that Allen felt
was still there, and it began to enter his job performance.
“I showed up to work, but I was so angry,” he said.
“The rage was beginning to pervade. At times my wife would
come in and leave.”
Allen’s tumultuous internal conflict wasn’t making
for happy audiences with his comedy routine. He was trying to
work through his inner turmoil in his outer job performance.
But what Allen had to work out wasn’t what people wanted
to hear. He said, “A little old lady told me, ‘You
are rotten from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.’”
Allen wasn’t doing any better with his marriage relationship
than he was at work. He and his wife Tami separated and were 10
minutes away from filing divorce papers when driving to the court
house she asked him to pull over.
“I said, ‘For what?’ She said, ‘I think
I am making a mistake.’ At that point we were married eight
years. I said we either go now or we’re in it (for good).”
However, things were still pretty rocky for the Allens, and his
wife took off for the summer with the children, leaving Allen
with a lot of time on his hands.
Allen said, “I thought that when she left with the kids
I wouldn't be married at the end of the summer. She would deny
that. Believe me, living with me was pretty draining. I was mopey
and sappy, and when I wasn't, I was ticked off.”
It was at this point he turned to some Bible tapes that had been
lying around the house for a number of months. Allen’s golfing
friend had signed him to receive sermon tapes from Denton Bible
Church (www.dentonbible.org) (DentonBible.asp), but he had never
opened them. There were so many of the unopened tapes lying around
that Tami Allen had even threatened to throw them out.
But now, in a quiet house without his family, Allen opened one
tape–the very first one he had touched. It “happened”
to be a teaching on Ecclesiastes dealing with the meaning of life.
Although Allen said he had tried reading the Bible, he had never
understood it. But now, he said, he was “hooked.”
The ‘Ignorant Moron’ Finds Christ
Allen, who said he got saved on Aug. 17, 1997, listened to 18
months of Bible study tapes in about two months.
“I couldn't get enough,” Allen said. “My career
was changing as I was changing. I was trying to clean up my language.
The material didn't change much. I changed. I tried to smile more.”
Allen said he was beginning to experience “the residual
effects of reading the Bible and really beginning to understand
that there was a God, and that if I was created, then I am as
valuable as the next guy.”
No News is Good News!
Allen said the book has been out since May, “and I have
no clue how the book sales have been going. No news is good news.”
However, to ensure that when Allen finally does receive news
it’s good, he’s hoping that people will buy My
Life as a Bystander. I agree with him, so with that in mind,
I recommend that while you’re thinking about it, you go
online to buy a copy at www.thinkbigusa.net/JeffAllen.
After all, haven’t you always wanted to make a comedian
Additional information about Allen is available at www.jeffallencomedy.com
Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the
founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency
homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org
He has a master's degree in communication from the University
of New Mexico and is a candidate for the Ph.D. in intercultural
education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with
five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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