After Charles Marshall graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, he set his sights on becoming a singer/songwriter, but a medical issue put an end to those dreams.
“I started having trouble with my voice in the early 1990s,” Marshall said during an interview from his snow-bound home in Atlanta earlier this week. “I was already doing a lot of comedy and a lot of humor between songs, so I started relying more heavily on the humor and less on the music.”
Although Marshall loved music, the very first album he purchased as a youngster was by The Smothers Brothers.
“I bought it for a dollar,” Marshall said with an easy laugh. “I memorized every bit on the album.”
The shift from music to comedy was a fortuitous one.
“My career just really took off,” said Marshall, who travels about 100,000 miles a year. “It became more of a national career instead of just a regional one.”
When it came time to change gears, Marshall knew he didn’t want to rely on the club circuit – or the obscenities or vulgarities necessary for club humor – for a living.
“When you do clubs, you’re traveling in excess of 300 days a year,” he said, “I didn’t want to rely on the language that club comedians do. That’s not my life.”
Family is a priority for Marshall and his wife of 21 years. In fact, he schedules dates around the activities of his children, ages 6 and 8.
“When the kids were younger, there were no piano recitals,” Marshall explained. “Now, we put their activities on the calendar and make sure I’m home for them. It’s a priority with us.”
His children are a rich source of material, too.
“They rarely intend to, but they do give me so much to talk about,” he said. “They’re just living life, but I constantly get new things from them.”
Access to Atlanta’s airport also plays an important part in Marshall’s life.
“As a traveling performer, you’re always connecting through Atlanta, anyway,” Marshall explained. “John Maxwell, a very popular motivational speaker, moved his entire operation here. He paid for the moving costs for his staff to come here from the West Coast just because of the convenience of the Atlanta airport.”
One of Marshall’s most popular bits involves his parents idea of discipline.
“We didn’t have all these modern parenting techniques like time out,” he says. “Time out hadn’t been invented back when I was growing up. I wish it had. My parents had five kids. They didn’t know anything about time out. My parents thought time out was the break they got between whipping all of us five kids.”
He also talks about his mother’s idea of how to handle a child who misbehaved in public.
“My mama woulda started spanking me right there inside the store and wouldn’t have cared who was watching” he said. “It was a different age back then. Back then, mamas weren’t so concerned with who would see. Total strangers would have helped your mama spank you out the store. It was a community project.”
In addition to loving to make people laugh, Marshall chose Christian comedy because he’s passionate about encouraging his audiences.
“I want my audiences to be encouraged and know that they have a god on their side and who is passionate about their success in life,” he said, getting serious for a moment. “If there’s anything I can say that will help them (a) avoid some of the things I’ve done and (b) live a more successful life, I’ll throw myself on the sword.”
Marshall also believes Christian comedy plays an important part in getting God’s word out.
“In the Bible, there is a scripture that says Jesus called his disciples ‘fishers of men,’” he said. “I like to think of Christian comedy as the tasty worm on the end of the hook.”
Marshall will bring his fresh, funny, tasty look at life to Sulphur Springs at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23, at First United Methodist Church. His appearance serves a two-fold purpose: He’s the first performer in FUMC’s new art series.
"In a rural community the arts often get second shrift,” says Carol Allen, director of worship arts at FUMC. “And while it is difficult, the effort it takes to bring art into the community is worth it in terms of education, culture and just pure enjoyment. Isn't it nice to drive across town rather than across Lake Ray Hubbard for an event? Our hope is to bring two events per year to our community."
And although there is no charge for the show, a love offering benefitting “Imagine No Malaria” will be collected.
According to Phillip Harris, director of youth ministries at Wesley United Methodist Church, “Imagine No Malaria” is an initiative of the United Methodist Church “to raise $75 million to help fight the spread of malaria, mostly in Africa.”
Since November of last year, WUMC has sponsored a “swarming” fund-raising campaign. Wood and metal mosquitoes, created by Wesley UMC member Max Massey, are available for $10 each.
“For $10, you can pay someone to put mosquitoes in someone’s yard,” Harris explained. “It costs $10 to have the mosquito removed. However, if you don’t want any mosquitoes showing up on your lawn, you can purchase anti-swarming insurance for $20.”
WUMC hopes to raise enough money to purchase 320 nets — the equivalent of one for every member of the WUMC congregation.
In addition to hosting the Marshall’s show, FUMC invites the public to a dinner at 5:30. No reservations are necessary for either activity. Seating will be first come, first served.
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