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Christian Living

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All in the Family: Comedian Michael Jr. on Faith, Fatherhood, and 'Selfie-Dad'

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Comedian Michael Jr. has made an indelible mark in recent years for his innovative approach to stand-up.  Heralded as a comic with a conscience, the Michigan native believes that comedy should be more than just set-ups and punch lines. Instead, it is the opportunity to laugh no matter what the circumstances are.

As a follow-up to his successful comedy special More Than Funny: Everyone has a Punchline, Michael Jr. is back and better than ever with a new lighthearted inspirational family movie just in time for Father’s Day called Selfie-Dad.

Originally planned to be a theatrical release in movie theaters nationwide, Selfie-Dad will now pivot and make its debut on various digital home video venues, Friday, June 19th.  Also starring fellow comedienne Chonda Pierce, James Denton (Desperate Housewives), popular Christian singer Jamie Grace, and Karen Abercrombie (War Room), the movie follows a well-meaning dad shaking off a mid-life crisis and reconnecting with his family.

Separated by nearly 1,400 miles, Michael and I did our part recently to ‘flatten the curve’ by conducting this interview by means of a phone conversation.  In it, we discussed the core message of Selfie-Dad, why now is the right time for a light-hearted family film, and how God’s people sometimes perish for a lack of purpose.

First off, how are you making out in this Coronavirus pandemic? Are you and your family doing all right?

Yeah, it's going good, man. I get to do what I love to do, which is be a dad and husband. Comedy is maybe number four at best. So, I'm really enjoying this a lot, man. We're just hanging out, playing basketball, playing some pickle ball, and laughing a lot. I'm really enjoying this and I'm getting a lot of creative work done as far as writing and (finding) creative ways to promote the movie. There are just some really fun activities going on. So, I'm actually enjoying it a lot.

For someone who has never seen Selfie-Dad, how would you describe it to someone?

There's a lot of Christian films out there, but this one has a completely different tone than what you would expect from a Christian film. It has a great message and it's about family, but the tone is different. So, it takes some turns that you wouldn't normally see in a typical Christian film. There's a dad who actually isn't really being that good a dad. I’ve got to be real with you. It took a lot of work for me to act like an amazing dad. It took a lot for me to do that. My daughter would say it probably didn't take that much. I think people are going to enjoy the movie, especially those who have seen me in movies like War Room and others.  This movie has a slightly different spin in a way. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

To me, the character you play, Ben Marcus, seems to be a guy going through a mid-life crisis.  Why do you think people struggle so much during this time in their life?

Here's what I really think happens. God's people perish for a lack of purpose. So, Ben, the character I play is actually lacking in understanding for what his purpose really is. Everyone who reads this article needs to realize there's a purpose that you have, and it's like a well-written joke. I do standup comedy for a living and I understand there's a process when you write a joke. Anytime you even laugh, this process has taken place where there's a setup and then there's a punchline. The set up is when a comedian will use his talents and resources to get the audience to think in one direction. The punchline occurs, but that direction has changed in a way they're not expecting. The results are a revelation that is filled with joy.

Life is the same way. There's a setup. A set up is about what you have received, but your punchline is about what you're called to deliver. And I think what happens when people reach what is being called a mid-life crisis, they have gathered a bunch of stuff. They have a great setup, but where much is given much is required. So, if you have all of this set up and you're still not sure what you need to deliver, a lot of times people make the mistake and they think what they need is more set up. Man, if I could just get married, if I could just get a bigger house, if I could just get a raise … I went through this as well as a comedian. I thought if I could just get more laughs (everything would be better). But what you really need to understand is what is your punchline?

In this movie, Ben Marcus, has a great setup. He has a family; he's got a nice steady job. He's got this talent, this skill, but he's looking for something more. But he realizes what he's looking for isn't what he actually needs. This is amazing because when people go to my comedy shows, they're showing up looking to laugh, but it's not always what they need. So, the same thing is going to happen for people that come and see this film. You're going to be looking for one thing, but you will be pleasantly surprised at what it is you find and how much you actually need that thing.

The movie Selfie-Dad is obviously a comedy.  With everything going on in the world as it is these days, why is this the right time for a light-hearted faith film like this?

I wouldn't necessarily call it a comedy. However, it is super lighthearted, and you are going to laugh. One of the very interesting things about how this film turned out, and I wasn't really expecting it, was I knew it had a great story. The way everything comes together with the comedic things, the story and the way the family comes together (was great). I think this is really a significant time for people to just sit back and enjoy a film about how to grow, how one person can go from where he was to where he really needs to be. I think the entire family can really enjoy this.  Specifically, I also think dads will like this film in a really significant way.

What message lies at the heart of Selfie-Dad?

I feel like the core message is if you really want to change for the good, the way to do it is through God's Word. No matter what, you're going to consume something. Something's going into your heart like my character Ben’s. Something was going into his heart and then it changed to YouTube going into his heart when he made a decision to purposely put God's Word into his heart. That's when things really started to grow for the good. He didn't know that. He didn't understand it. He doesn't necessarily know what's going on at first, but something happens when he makes this slight change (in his life). It doesn't change the fact that he has a great sense of humor or that he likes to do silly things. It actually kind of enhances it and makes it more understandable, more pliable, which is very similar to me as well. I was doing comedy long before I was a Christian, but once I became a Christian, I saw the true potential of this and I'm still living and striving toward that potential.

Like so many people in the business world, Ben Marcus allows work to take over his life to the point where he is neglecting his family.  How can people overcome this temptation for the tail to wag the dog?

I don't know if it's foolproof or not, but a lot of times people think that they're here to measure their worth in finances or in receiving gifts and attributes from other people, or getting pats on the back. The truth is, your worth is really about how much you can help someone else, and how much do you really understand that God has made you. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. I think if we can really understand that it just puts us in a much better place. It almost gives you more confidence to help someone else. There are people out there who really need your help. I actually think that everyone has not just a purpose, but everyone has a certain people that they're called to.

What is the plan for distributing this film?  Obviously, theaters are out for now.

The plan is each one of the actors are going to get the actual film itself and we're going to go to the theaters and turn our headlights on in our car and we're just going to roll the film through our head lights and play it on the side of the movie theater. So, I'm excited about that. That's what we're doing. (laughs) We're actually going to release it on digital home video everywhere, which probably makes more sense. I'm more excited about that one. It will be available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. It will be on all of those digital platforms so people can watch it with their whole family right there in their house. I’m actually pumped about this because now you're watching a movie about a guy with his family, with your family in the house. The popcorn is less expensive, but you will probably have to clean it up off the floor. The movie theater people just waste popcorn. But it's just fine. Maybe one of your family members could play different parts of movie theater employees. Imagine you're at a studio movie grill and one or two family members could play waiters and you are just sitting there in your recliner with it pushed back. That would be pretty dope, but you’ve got to clean up your own popcorn. Don't waste any of the sweet drinks because that is going to be bad.

I like it. Sounds like a plan. Final question, after people have seen Selfie-Dad, what do you want audiences to take away from the viewing experience?  What is your greatest hope for the film?

I hope people will get a different look at life. Christian films can be lighter for sure. In order to get a message through it doesn't have to be heavy. I think people get that when they come to my live comedy events. But also, I want people to understand that reading the Bible actually works. I don't even care if you don't take action on this stuff. It's not about reading it and then doing it. That's great. That's an A+. But if you just read it, it actually takes effect. Whatever goes into your heart is going to show up in your walk. Literally, just reading it actually does make a difference. In this movie, when the dad starts reading it is what actually happens. He doesn’t necessarily do anything; he just reads it. He changes what's coming in and that changes what's coming out.

Watch a trailer for Selfie-Dad, releasing on premium Video on Demand, June 19th:

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