Artist Interviews
September 14th, 2002

On September 14th, 2002, I had the opportunity to interview Christian comedian Bob Smiley at Festival Con Dios in Atlanta, Georgia at the Perimeter Mall. Bob is definitely one crazy guy, but his heart is most certainly in the right place. He serves as the ‘do-anything guy’ at Festival Con Dios. He makes announcements, sells merchandise, and even manages to get in most every picture you’re trying to take! Check out Bob and his latest CD “I’ve Got A Funny Feeling About This” at his website:

Brent: So you’re Bob Smiley?!

Bob: Yeah, I’m Bob Smiley!

Brent: Where did you grow up; where are you from?

Bob: I grew up in Texas; little really small town in North Texas. Only had 281 people in it, so I was asked to leave pretty early. (Laughter) It’s fun. I’ve always thought that small town people were a little more creative because we don’t have anything to do. I know it’s cliché, but we used to just sit outside of the store and play the dozens, or we’d just talk and stuff. You’d kind of become creative because there’s not…we didn’t have a movie theater, couldn’t afford a Dairy Queen. You just kind of sit around. I joke on my CD that when we were playing hide and seek because we only had one tree in the whole town…it was like “8, 9, 10…here I come! There y’all are!” kind of thing. Yeah, I grew up in Texas and it was fun. It’s like anywhere else only we have a lot of guns (Laughter).

Brent: I actually forgot to mention that I’m from a website called Christian Guitar Resources…sorry about that!

Bob: Okay, so I need to be plugging guitars? (sarcasm) When we would sit on the porch at the store…we would play guitars, which changed my life… (laughter)

Brent: Did you have any interesting jobs before you made comedy your full time job?

Bob: I worked in a little coffee hut… They took a photo-mat place and turned it into a coffee shop. I was sitting in one of those little booths and to your right and to your left you had drive-thru windows. The cars would pull up and I’d sit on a stool and I had my little coffee thing in front and I’d make coffee for them…then when it would slow down I’d drink coffee all day. So that was fun and interesting…hyper all the time. You’d get to hear little bits of songs and stuff from the people pulling through, so you’d hear that and say, “Hey, can you turn it to so and so radio station?” That was kind of fun and interesting. I loved to read, so I got to read a lot. I ran a calendar store in the mall for three months when I was in the middle of touring the first year I did that…to kind of make ends meet and stuff. That was fun. I worked at a video store growing up. Other than that I mowed lawns…that’s how I made most of my money. Throughout college my brother and I would mow lawns and we had a little company we called Smiley Brothers Mowing Company and our catch-phrase was “We give you ‘mower’ for your money”…which is, you know, kind of a bad joke… I was young then! (laughter)

Brent: How did you end up getting into the comedy business? Were you just funny all your life? (laughter)

Bob: Yeah, I was pretty funny and I had good teachers who encouraged me to be funny. They weren’t the ones that stifled you or anything. Everybody told me that I should be a comic, but I never wanted to be a comedian. Here’s how I got to where I am today standing here talking to you. I went to college, got my degree in elementary education because, you know, there’s lots of girls in the class and it was easy! When all my friends were doing zoology and stuff like that I was building a bulletin board and all the easy class stuff. I wanted to teach; I thought that would be a noble profession, but I was a starving college student. They had a couple stand-up competitions and first prize was $500…so that’s rent for like 8 months if you’re a college student. (laughter) So I did those competitions and I won, but not because I was good, but because everybody else was horrible! There was this guy standing there saying, “I’m gonna say knock knock, you say who’s there!” (laughter) Stuff like that… I got up and won those competitions and that was my junior year. My senior year they had battle of the bands, so they didn’t have any stand-up competitions. Before I started teaching I thought it would be fun to have money in the bank because, you know, teachers don’t have that. So I got a job as a photographer and I did it for one year…paid off my college, paid off everything. I decided to quit in the spring and get an odd job and start teaching in the fall. The week I quit my pager went off and it was a Nashville number and I didn’t know anybody who lived in Nashville. I called it and said, “Hey, this is probably a wrong number, but I’m Bob Smiley and…” and he says, “Oh yeah, I’m Rick Wooten…I used to go to school with you and watched you do these stand-up competitions. I’m now road managing a guy named Clay Crosse and we leave for tour in two weeks. Clay thought it would be cool to have someone come out and entertain the crowd and do some stand-up and stuff. We also need someone to do the merchandise, so I thought of you because I thought you were funny and did clean comedy.” So they called the college because college holds on to all your numbers so they can ask you for money later. They had all my numbers, man. So they gave him my number and he called me…I left two weeks later, went on the Clay Crosse Tour, did that. Clay and I got along and I did the summer dates with him…then the Newsboys saw me and asked me to do their Take Me To Your Leader tour, and boom, that’s it. That’s the long story. The short story is that God just opened up these doors and I kept walking through trying not to trip over anything and here I am today. Never wanted to do this, but I get to travel, meet people, get free coffee, you know…I get a ton of free hotel shampoo. Which is good, because if I ever start using shampoo, I’m gonna be set! (laughter)

Brent: So where do you get most of your material from? By watching people or…?

Bob: Everyday life! I love to sit in the airport and watch people. I see people walking around and I try to…

(At this point a couple of my friends head towards the parking lot to get a jacket from my car and Bob sees this)

Bob: Hey! Don’t walk away, I’ve got good stuff here! What are you doing?! (laughter) I’ll sit in the airport and watch people and try to think up stories about them. You know, where are they going, what are they doing, what made them wear this…that sort of stuff. Plus, weird stuff happens to me all the time. I think one of the blessings God has given to me is that weird stuff happens to me all the time. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but no matter what I can usually take something out of it. Whether it’s for stand-up comedy or just another life experience that makes me a better Christian or a better person. That’s where I get all my material at…from constantly keeping my eyes and ears open and just moving on.

Brent: So how was the first day of the Festival Con Dios tour yesterday?

Bob: It was great! Oddly enough, we’ve had most of these road crew guys with us. I did the Love, Liberty, Disco tour with the Newsboys. (to friends) Did you see that?

Friends: No…we didn’t.

Bob: Okay, good! (laughter) The Newsboys made me wear this all white disco suit and I’d just bleached my hair blonde, so I looked like used q-tip. Absolutely embarrassing! (laughter) We had this big inflatable balloon that held like 3,000 people! You should’ve seen me with a bicycle pump trying to air that up… (laughter) We would do parking lots just like this. It was the Newsboys’ early vision of Festival Con Dios. So we’ve had these road crew guys, a lot of them, from that first tour and they did both legs of Festival Con Dios last year and then this year. I know you asked me a question and now you’re getting the entire history… (laughter) So long story…longer…I was born in Dallas, Texas… (laughter) So we know these guys…it’s almost like a family reunion now except these people don’t throw things at me, so it’s a little different than my family reunions. These guys know how to set up all this equipment, we’ve done the shows before…obviously there are new bands trying to get accustomed to all this…but the first day went really smooth I think because we picked up kind of where we left off last year.

Brent: Does that ever get old doing the same shows every day? Tell the same jokes or what?

Bob: You get a sense of what works and what the crowd is really into. I try to have a spiritual message in everything I do. I tell a lot of the same stories from town to town because you’ve got people coming in who have never heard you… You know, Audio A, they play the same songs…they play ”Ocean Floor” and all those… I kind of do the same thing with the same set…but I ad-lib. On stage I’m very hyper, not like now when I’m very calm. (laughter) I do a lot of interaction and stuff like that. It’s different, but I have a core group of the same stories I tell.

Brent: What’s a typical day in the life of Bob Smiley like?

Bob: It’s really stressful… I wake up at the crack of…11. (laughter) No, I really wake up about 9:00 and I’ve offered to go check in all the drivers at the hotel and stuff. So I’ll go over there and check everyone in and I’ll go shower, believe it or not… (laughter) Then I’ll check my e-mail…I still answer all the e-mail that comes through my website. That takes me a little bit. I’ll download all that and come back over here. I’m reading The Bible In A Year…the chronological order… I got that in July, so I’m trying to catch up to September, so I’m reading and trying to….read…

(At this point Ben Cissel (drummer from Audio Adrenaline) drives by in his MG convertible painted up like their LIFT album art and Bob starts towards him like he’s going to chase Ben)

Bob: Hey! Free tickets! (laughter) If you catch him in the car and you track him down you get free tickets to the show…but I think I’ve already got mine. I never take that for granted, though! So I read the Bible and then I set up my merchandise and usually do a couple interview from really intelligent, smart, and great people (laughter, makes kissing noises)

Brent: Of course!

Bob: And then I start at 3:00 and try to meet as many people at the gates as possible when they open the gates. Then I’m on from 3:30 until the end of the night. I open it and close it and I’m on between every act. Some of the kids on my message boards were joking asking if I was going to be running around like I was last year. Last year no one could catch me because I was having to go check with this sponsor and do all this other stuff…so they said they were just going to start tripping me when I run by so they can get a word in. (laughter) So look for scraped knees by the end of the tour.

Brent: Ever have any embarrassing moments on stage?

Bob: Tons! Probably the worst one was a show in Ohio at this packed out, gigantic youth conference and it was awesome. I got up there and I did really well with the back of the crowd…everyone was laughing and joking… But the front group really wouldn’t look at me and was kind of uncomfortable and I was like…what is the deal, man? I’m not that bad looking; I do six push-ups a day! (laughter) I sat down and as soon as I did I looked and my pants were completely ripped from right there…and of course I’m saying on the recording it’s right there and they have no idea where I’m pointing…just trust me, you don’t want to know!

Brent: (laughter) You could just describe where that’s at…

Bob: (laughter) The, uh…upper thigh area… (laughter) My pants had just been completely ripped right there. Obviously they were uncomfortable because it was just ‘right there’, you know, in their face. I don’t know if they thought I was just trying to make a fashion statement…you know, crazy Bob up there…or if they wanted to tell me but didn’t know when. I was up there for an hour, so… That was embarrassing. I toured with the Supertones and we had a basement flood in a theater one time and I went up to talk and the microphone shocked me. My voice is high anyway, but when I get shocked I scream like a schoolgirl! I lost my voice on an early Newsboys tour, the Take Me To Your Leader tour, in Midland/Odessa (TX)…and the road manager, who we’ll just call…Satan…you know, make up a name there! (laughter) He made me go on even though I had no voice at all. He said to just whisper into the mic and we’ll turn the mic up. It must’ve been tortilla night or something…but they were giving out tortillas or kids had brought them or something. It was some kind of fundraiser thing… So as soon as I got up there I’m up there talking and it’s like having Charlie Chaplin up there…you know, no words, it’s just me. So kids started throwing tortillas at me. That was probably the worst… So I got pelted for tortillas for the first minute and a half.

Brent: On a more serious note I guess…what are some things that God’s been showing you lately through the tour or just life in general?

Bob: I think God has just shown me that every day is a battle. Every single day you wake up and you’re faced with new trials and tribulations in life. Some of them can be very small…some could be that I get a good idea for a comedy bit and my pen won’t work…something as ridiculous as that to frustrate you…or something big like losing a loved one. Every single day is a battle, so you’ve got to be prayed and studied up and ready to go out and fight the battle. If you truly believe that Christ died on the cross for you and that God has a great plan for you, you need to live every single day going out there asking God to give you an opportunity to make something great and positive happen. If you go out there wanting that then God will give you that opportunity. As I’ve been traveling around I’ve been looking for opportunities not just on the stage, but some way to witness to people. Like last night there was a kid over in the corner. I didn’t know what his deal was…I didn’t want to get into it too personally, I could just tell he was kind of sad. So I just went over and prayed with him. I feel like that was an opportunity that God gave me that normally I might’ve been too busy running around doing stuff to notice. So that’s kind of the latest thing going on in my life. Plus my wife is pregnant and due in October, so we get another tax deduction! (laughter) We’ve been really in heavy prayer about having a second child and all that, so my prayer life is really strong and that helps me throughout the day as well.

Brent: That’s pretty much all we have. It was great meeting you…we appreciate your time.

Bob: Alright! Thank you!

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