By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Christian comedian and actor Bone Hampton lives by a simple motto: “What doesn’t kill you makes you funnier.”
Hampton fell into comedy when he was in college. As a member of the University of North Texas football team, he didn’t see much playing time. Only starters would go to away games, with one exception — one different non-starting player would go each time to get more experience. Before one away game, Hampton was surprised when the coach said he was going.
“I was like, for what?” The coach’s reply — “They want you to go to the game because you always make them laugh.”
Hampton started thinking that he might be on to something. That thought was encouraged early on by some big names in comedy. When the movie “Necessary Roughness” was filmed on his campus, Hampton got a part and met the comedian Sinbad. Sinbad invited Hampton to be part of an ABC Special that was in the works. The show was eventually canceled, but Hampton got a huge boost of confidence from being invited.
“Sinbad thought I was funny enough to be on his ABC show,” Hampton said.
Then while still in college, Hampton entered and won a “Wanda Impersonation Contest,” based on a character from the show “In Living Color.” That led to meeting Jamie Foxx.
Encouraged by others
“At that point I was like, that’s Sinbad and Jamie Foxx, two of the top-notch comedians in the world, [who] said, ‘Hey, man, you’re funny.’”
After college graduation, Hampton performed during open mic time at Steve Harvey’s Comedy House in Dallas. He got a good reception his first time up. The second time, he got booed off stage.
“As I was walking off stage, Steve Harvey grabbed my arm and said, ‘Don’t worry about them. You’re going to be all right,’” Hampton said.
Harvey then chastised the audience because they didn’t realize Hampton’s brilliance because he kept it clean.
While performing the next six months there, Hampton asked advice from every comedian that came through, including Yvette Wilson, a comedian and actor on “Moesha.”
She encouraged him by saying, “The fact that you can be funny and be clean — if you pull this off in [Los Angeles], you probably can write your own ticket.”
When he got to California, he had his fair share of rejection. But Harvey had advised him how to handle it: “You’ve got to remember, the fact that you walked up on stage [means] you have more confidence than all of the people in the audience put together.”
Hampton’s faith stayed strong despite the challenges of the entertainment world. There was continuing pressure to use profanity in his act, but Hampton knew he had to answer to God — and to his mom — so he kept it clean.
Guided by faith
Several former pastors have helped guide him, as has Scripture. One of Hampton’s favorite passages is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“What I hear as a comedian is Jesus saying, ‘Uh, Daddy, … I know I signed up for this. I know we agreed that I’m going to come down here, live a little bit and then get up on this cross and get crucified. I know. I know! I’m not trying to backtrack, but I’m saying, if you have a Plan B, let me know about that right now. Otherwise, I’m good.’”
The passage reminds Hampton that he doesn’t have to feel bad if he asks God for an easier way out of a situation. “If even Jesus asked His Father … then it’s okay.”
When Hampton found the Christian Comedians Association (CCA), a group started by Chonda Pierce, he first was told he couldn’t open for Pierce because his jokes were “too black” for her white audience.
But after another comedian bombed, Pierce went to her team and told them Hampton couldn’t do any worse.
His first time opening for Pierce, Hampton got a standing ovation. Chonda was amazed and took him under her wing.
One principle Hampton lives by is that something isn’t automatically right just because it’s all you know.
“You have to test what you think is right against, first of all, the word of God.”
If the issue is not addressed in Scripture, then look at how it affects people, he said. Hampton keeps this in mind when performing.
“When I’m on stage, I have power. I can control the mood of the room. [I] want everybody to leave feeling better than they did before they came in.”
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