SIKESTON -- Forget comedy clubs and cable television, if you're in need of a good laugh, church is the place to be. Well, as long as gospel comedian Keyth Blissett is in the house.
"Traditionally, you don't really think of church as a place where you can laugh and make jokes, but with this, you can," noted Blissett of Sikeston.
In 2001, while performing in a church play, Blissett created the character, Rev. Lennox Thomas, a pastor of the "Fifth Stock Share Holding a Piece of the Pie Stationary Yet Movable Upward Bound to a Higher Ground Church," where the motto is "We walk by faith, but we ain't scured to fight."
"It was all pretty much improvisational," Blissett said about his first bout as Rev. Thomas. "I just made things up as I went."
Donned in a long curly-haired black wig and wearing "Bubba teeth," Blissett also wears a suit that's too small for him with mismatched socks when he portrays Rev. Thomas in his production called "Laffta Fo Yo Soul."
"Rev. Thomas makes crazy announcements about upcoming church activities," Blissett explained. "Then Rev. Thomas acts like his Uncle Cluck Thomas the professional Blessing Earl (Oil) Gun Slinger."
Uncle Cluck uses his "Earl" to make the area safer and free of evil spirits. Blissett implements humor as he describes to his audience about the "power of Earl," which Blissett compares to the anointing of the sick. Uncle Cluck uses different (toy) guns full of "Earl" to fit every scenario and blast away the evil spirits.
"The essential message of the Earl" is the same with God -- It doesn't work if you don't believe," Blissett said.
Blissett has performed at concerts, special programs, church services and social functions in Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee. He hopes to one day gain national acclaim.
A lot of Blissett's material is modeled after his childhood, he said.
"I was always the kid in Sunday School class who would ask the teachers questions they couldn't answer or questions that would stump them," Blissett said.
For example, Blissett said he would ask if Adam and Eve had belly buttons since God created them and they didn't have umbilical cords.
"I'd ask stuff that everybody was thinking, but would never ask. With my comedy, I can bring up these topics and ask the audience, 'Don't you remember this?' and just have fun with it," Blissett said.
Another of Blissett's unique characters is "Cheeko the owner and operator of Cheeko's Crispy Cajun Chicken and Check Cashing Company -- Home of fine cuisine where we do serve chitterlings -- just not with corn."
Blissett's performances last anywhere from 10 minutes to 35 minutes, depending on the amount of time he is allotted to perform, he said.
"My act is G-rated," noted Blissett. "I talk about church and things that can be shared in a family structure."
In June Blissett plans to attend the International Urban Music Conference in Arlington Heights, Ill., where several celebrities will be present and in July, he is scheduled to compete in a gospel talent contest in Atlanta, Ga., at the Phillips Arena, where the famous gospel playwright, Tyler Perry, will be the host.
Although Blissett said he would love to perform more in Sikeston, most of his performances have been out of state. For this reason, his family hasn't been able to see his act, he said. However, recently his 9-year-old daughter, Keyonna, was able to watch him perform.
"She told me, 'There were all these people laughing at my dad and it made me feel good.' That made me proud," Blissett said.
Blissett admitted he doesn't know where his future is going to take him as a gospel comedian, but when asked where he plans to be in the next couple of years, he replied: "I hope to be doing more than I'm doing now.
He continued: "But I'll go wherever it takes me, keeping the faith and delivering a positive and spiritual message."
To contact Blissett, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.