Marcus D. Wiley is one (heaven) of a funny guy.
Best known as the laugh-out-loud sidekick on the syndicated Yolanda Adams Morning Show, Wiley is a wildly popular standup comedian on the American black church circuit (yes, there is such a thing), youth conferences and other Christian-based events.
Wiley performs Saturday at the Johnny Mercer Theatre.
He’s equal parts Eddie Murphy and Al Sharpton, without the lewdness of the former or the hot-air prosthelytizing of the latter. Wiley’s standup is infused with gospel fervor, observational fun-poking (not just for Christians, as you’ll see in this interview) and a finely sharpened sense of everyday wit.
Then there’s Bishop Secular, his hip ‘n’ holy “altar ego.”
The 36-year-old lives in Houston, where Yolanda Adams broadcasts every weekday. He also teaches a course called Human Communication at Texas Southern University.
Connect Savannah: Watching you, it occurs to me that preaching is not so different from standup comedy. You’re trying to put a message across.
Marcus D. Wiley: Basically, I’m not a preacher, but my dad, grandfather, great grandfather, all these cats were. If I was going to be a comedian, I didn’t want to be on the stage cussin,’ using vulgarities and all that type of stuff. It just so happens that my comedy has some type of message to it, most times. It’s hard for me to do jokes that are not going anywhere, that don’t at least make you laugh and go “Oh, yeah.” I kind of like conscious comedy, or laughing with some intelligence. You’ll never catch me onstage just doing jokes, like “You ever had a booger in your nose?”
What you do is another form of observational comedy. Because of your audience, is it pretty easy to find a common thread?
Marcus D. Wiley: Definitely. I didn’t want to be corny. A lot of Christian guys who do comedy – the ones I saw coming up, they were kind of corny. Even the Christians didn’t want to go see ‘em. I wanted to talk about real stuff, you know? The freedom I had in my dad’s church, and growing up in very spiritual household, they allowed me to be myself. And so I just wanted to bring that to the stage.
I’m married, I’m a Christian and I’m saved, but I don’t like my wife all the time! She don’t like me! That’s not a secret that Christians hide from one another – we should talk about it! I wanted to be able to talk regular – I don’t try to act like everything is all good, all the time, all that stuff.
To be completely honest, I’m not a Christian. But you made me laugh. It’s very real – you can draw from things that everybody in your audience can relate to.
Marcus D. Wiley: My college roommate was Muslim. And he comes from the same background as I do as a Christian, being a Muslim. And so when we lived together, we had so many similarities. And the thing was, you would hear “Christians and Muslims can’t live together” or “They believe in two different Gods.” And man, this guy has been one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had in my life.
So I don’t get hung up in all that, man – who’s Christian, whose Muslim, who this and who that. We’re all people. You got to treat people right.
Can you tell me about Bishop Secular?
Marcus D. Wiley: Bishop Secular came out of the changing of how pastors look. No one wanted to be a pastor when I was coming up. It seemed like it was a terrible job to have, going around praying for people all the time, you got to go visit the sick. They just seemed a little unhappy when I was growing up.
But today, the pastor looks like a professional athlete, an entertainer, a singer … he looks good, man! It’s a good look. And so I just exaggerated that with Bishop Secular.
What he does, instead of using things out of the Bible, he uses secular things to make a point. He uses secular messages, secular songs and all that. Secular means it’s not sacred, but it don’t mean it’s bad. You brush your teeth, it’s not sacred; you go to work, it’s not sacred.
Are there still places you won’t – or can’t – go in your act?
Marcus D. Wiley: Not really. I haven’t really found away to throw sex in there, but I think everything has a time and a place. I think everything can be said. The thing with me doing it mostly in churches and things of that nature, you just have to do it tastefully. You have to find creative and innovative ways to say it. But I think all topics at some point should come up. We’re the only ones hide stuff, we meaning people in church or whatever. We hide stuff. But BET and MTV and everybody, man, they put it in your face.
I try to talk about everything, Bill. I try as much as I can.
Marcus D. Wiley
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8
Phone: (800) 351-7469
Artist’s Web site: www.marcusdwiley.com