Chaz Smith is a viral content creator who has millions of followers on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and more. He has been producing viral comedy shorts for over a decade, making him one of the veterans to social media content creation. But he is not just funny, he is also faithful. He is now using his God-given platform to produce a new kind of content…Bible stories. His new venture What Had Happened Was is an animated series telling Bible Stories on YouTube and other social channels that will be available for people everywhere for free. He is beginning with the Book of Daniel which launches next year. In order to get the series across the finish line and available for free he has launched a kickstarter to crowd fund the project. UrbanFaith editor Allen Reynolds sat down with Chaz to discuss the project, his faith, and how we can keep that same energy sharing the good news as believers. The interview is above, more about Chaz Smith and the series is below. Contribute to his kickstarter here to help this show come to life!
At its core, WHHW bridges the gap between the world of entertainment, history, pop culture, comedy, and the Bible. In its first season, WHHW will retell the Biblical story of Daniel. The eight episode miniseries will highlight Daniel’s royal lineage, captivity, and how he was forced to serve foreign kings in a distant country. As the story unfolds, viewers will watch how Daniel and his friends encountered threats that challenged everything they believed in, but their actions ultimately ended up impacting the course of human history. In addition to the first season, WHHW is slated to include at least two more, which will depict the lives of Joseph and Esther.
“My hope is that WHHW will bring the stories in the Bible to life in a way that they’ve never been seen before. My aim is to combat the difficulty some have while reading the Bible,” said Smith. I want to tell the stories in a way that’s funny, smart, and easy to understand without bending the truth or watering anything down. WHHW is a blend of memes, pop culture, cartoon and anime references, engaging storytelling, historical and cultural context, and high quality animation. Whether episodes of WHHW are watched alone, with friends, or with family, I want to create something that uses the stories in the Bible to ultimately help people see who God is from a completely different perspective.”
I’m Chaz, and I love making people laugh! I’ve been a content creator since 2013, and gained millions of followers and hundreds of millions of views across all social media platforms, but storytelling is where my heart is really at. I’ve been committed to creating uplifting content that brings joy to people. For the past 2 years, I’ve been working on my latest project, What Had Happened Was. The series is a colorfully animated, comedically narrated web series, dedicated to retelling biblical stories in an entertaining, insightful, and simple way for people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. WHHW serves as an intersection of my experience in the social media space, heart for storytelling, love for animation & desire to produce quality entertainment content for this generation. This project means so much to me because it’s far bigger than me. I see this as an opportunity to use stories and laughter to help the people of this generation make sense of the world––and who we are.
Marriage is one of the most important institutions in the lives of believers. Unfortunately it is rarely spoken about beyond the headlines of culture wars in the news or as the excuse some believers hide real conversations about sex behind. A lot of believers have a hard time keeping it real about how hard it is to be married. Kevin and Melissa Fredericks, aka KevOnStage and MrsKevOnStage, rarely hold back on keeping it real in conversations.
With over a million followers on social media (which don’t happen for church folks), they are some of the most busy and influential believers on the internet. Their authenticity and creativity have helped them connect with the “churchy” and unchurched alike. But like all married folks they have had challenges in life and in marriage. Their new bookMarriage Be Hard is a candid look at their marriage and the lessons they have learned along the way through reflection, therapy, The Love Hour podcast and real work. They hope to help couples everywhere to get past “just making it” in marriage to thriving through their insights.
UrbanFaith sat down with Kevin and Melissa to talk about their journey and their book. The full interview is above, more information on the book is below.
ABOUT MARRIAGE BE HARD
Discover the keys to upholding your vows while staying sane in this hilariously candid guide to relationships, from the husband-and-wife team of comedian Kevin Fredericks and influencer Melissa Fredericks
Growing up, Kevin and Melissa Fredericks were taught endless rules around dating, sex, and marriage, but not a lot about what actually makes a relationship work. When they first got married, they felt alone—like every other couple had perfect chemistry while the two of them struggled. There were conversations that they didn’t know they needed to have, fears that affected how they related to each other, and seasons of change that put their marriage to the test.
Part of their story reads like a Christian fairytale: high school sweethearts, married in college, never sowed any wild oats, with two sons and a thriving marriage. But there’s another side of their story: the night Melissa kicked Kevin out of her car after years of communication problems, the time early in their marriage when Kevin bordered on an emotional affair, the way they’ve used social media and podcasts to conduct a no-holds-barred conversation about forbidden topics like jealousy, divorce, and how to be Christian and sex positive. (Because, as Kevin writes, “Your hormones don’t care about your religious beliefs. Your hormones want you to subscribe to OnlyFans.”)
In Marriage Be Hard, the authors provide a hilarious and fresh master class on what it takes to build and maintain a lasting relationship. Drawing on interviews with experts and nearly two decades of marriage, they argue that• Compatibility is overrated. • Communication is about way more than simply talking. • Seeing divorce as an option can actually help your marriage. • There’s such a thing as healthy jealousy.Real marriage is not automatic. It ain’t no Tesla on the open road. Sometimes it’s a stick shift on a hill in the rain with no windshield wipers. But if you get comfortable visiting—and revisiting—the topics that matter, it can transform your bond with your partner and the life you’re building together.
Written for those tired of unrealistic relationship books—and for anyone wondering if they’re the only ones breaking all the rules—Marriage Be Hard is a breath of fresh air and the manual you wish existed after you said “I do.”
I have a confession to make. You might want to sit down for this: I am a young Black woman and I enjoyed the filmThink Like A Man.
Whew. Feels good to get it off my chest.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard that there was a film slated for 2012 based on the book, I did the obligatory eye roll and didn’t expect much. The past few times I made the grudging trek to the theatre to see movies with predominately Black cast — primarily so that I could keep my membership in the Black community — I was mildly disappointed. I say mildly because I have sadly grown to expect very little from Black movies. In real life, I find my community to include a wealth of comedic talent, natural artistic abilities, an eye for concepts that are abstract and often complex, and yet … on screen it seems that we often fall flat.
Nevertheless, Think Like a Man (TLAM) was everything you wanted a romantic comedy to be. It was witty, keen, and resonated for me as a young unmarried woman in her late 20s. I kept whispering to my best friend, “This is hilarious … This is so on point … This is so true!” He agreed.
But of course, EVERYONE doesn’t agree. Rahiel Tesfamariam, the founder and editor of Urban Cusp (a website I deeply respect), posited that TLAM served up “patriarchy with a smile.” Rahiel writes:
… Harvey, Tyler Perry, T.D. Jakes and countless others are making millions branding themselves as cultural gurus who understand the plight of black women.
Only a patriarchal mind set would constantly paint women with stereotypical, pathological brushstrokes and serve it up as digestible truth. As if real-world paternalism wasn’t enough, we can also have it to look forward to in black cinema.
She goes on to outline the four stereotypes of Black women found in the movie: the single mother, the promiscuous Jezebel, the never-satisfied control freak, and the emasculating powerful executive.
The problem here, though, is the article forgets the purpose of a romantic comedy. Have you ever seen a good rom-com where the women and men in the movie don’t have some serious flaw? That’s the whole point! Let’s break down these alleged stereotypes:
1. Single Mother – I’m not sure if “single mother” is a stereotype or if it’s a reality for many women, of all races. I’d be more inclined to believe that Regina Hall’s character was a stereotype if she were irresponsible, unable to care for her child, and dependent on welfare. But she wasn’t. She was the mother of one child who balanced healthy friendships, relationships, and a career. She was a single mother you’d be proud of!
2. Promiscuous Jezebel – Meagan Good’s character, Maya, just doesn’t fit this stereotype. She’s only shown sleeping with one man prior to her onscreen counterpart, Zeke. If anybody was seen as promiscuous, it was the man she was sleeping with who failed to remember her name and left the morning after. Was she more trusting than she should have been? Possibly. Promiscuous. Not sure on that one.
3. Never Satisfied Control Freak – I’m having trouble with the premise that Gabrielle Union’s character fell into this stereotype. She wanted the man she was dating to improve his career and commit to her…. Where’s the control freak part? Furthermore, when attempting to remodel their apartment, she asked for his input prior to making any decisions and only proceeded after he passed the reins over to her. Yeah, calling her a control freak is quite a stretch here.
4. Emasculating Powerful Executive – Here is where I can concede that there was a possibility that Taraji Henson’s character, Lauren fell into a stereotype, just not the one that Rahiel pointed out. What stuck out for me wasn’t Taraji’s power role, it was her ridiculous expectations for a man. She expected him to have a certain kind of career, pedigree, and power. The sad part is, while this is a stereotype, it’s one that I see in real life, much too often.
I’d be more inclined to believe that men are stereotyped in the film more than the women. You have:
1. The Reckless Rebounder – Kevin Hart’s character, Cedric, is the recently separated man who leaves a good woman he loves and embarks on a tour to get back on the dating scene and do nonsense in strip clubs.
2. The Playa – Romano Malco’s character, Zeke, is the ultimate player who wines and dines women, sleeps with them, then disappears.
3. The Mama’s Boy – Terrence J’s character, Michael, plays the ultimate cliché, the adult male who can’t quite let go of his dependence on mama.
4. The Normal White Guy – Gary Owen’s character, Bennett, is the White friend who has it all together and is in a happy marriage.
Unfortunately, though, calling out TLAM’s stereotypes of men doesn’t appear to fit in Rahiel’s overall theme that Steve Harvey and the film’s producers are serving up patriarchal ideals.
One other criticism lobbed at TLAM, not only by Rahiel but by others, is the lack of a spiritual message or any discussion of faith. In her commentary at The Washington Post, Rahiel says:
Matters of faith have historically been so deeply embedded into the black American psyche that’s its practically dishonest to reflect black women navigating concerns about love, family and careers without any substantive “God talk”…. Maintaining centrality in the character’s lives by providentially coaching them through life’s most important decisions, Harvey symbolically played the role of God.
Wow. Considering Steve Harvey’s frequent and often Tebow-like references to God in his comedy and on his radio show, I’m sure he’d be offended by the statement. As a Christian, though, I understand why matters of faith may have been strategically left out of the movie. A good portion of the movie centers around the “90-Day Rule,” in which Harvey posits that women should not have sex with a man until after 90 days of dating, because a good man who respects you will stick around for that long to “get the cookie.” The Christian perspective as outlined by the Bible, however, is in direct conflict with this advice. Sex outside of marriage is simply not an option for committed Christian couples. Steve Harvey knows this. And there clearly are contradictions inherent in his “God talk” and “relationship guru” personas. I cannot defend him on that. But this film is a separate matter, and I think viewers should judge TLAM for what it is, not what we want it to be.
How exactly could a movie with such a heavy focus on Steve Harvey’s 90 Day Rule also expect its characters to rely heavily on spiritual themes or guidance? If the characters did that, then they’d toss the book and its advice in the trash, and we would never have had a premise for this hilarious film that gives us something relevant to talk about with our friends.
In short, expecting a movie that does not purport to represent Christian values and themes to include references to “matters of faith” is a bit odd.
Think Like A Man is a keen, entertaining film with characters that I recognize from my daily life, but I believe many people expected it to suck — and probably for good reason. Unfortunately, when you start with low expectations, there is opportunity for self-fulfilling prophecy to take hold. You assume the movie is going to have you up in arms, so you find a way for the movie to, well, have you up in arms.
Give it a chance, if only for the lively discussions afterward.
A STAND-UP GUY: Michael Jr. says his approach to comedy didn't change after he became a Christian; his faith just gave him more important things to talk about.
Comedian Michael Jr. was a newcomer to New York City in 2001 when veteran comic George Wallace caught his show and gave him his big break. That same night, his manager invited him to church. He’s been mixing funny and faith ever since. News & Religion editor Christine A. Scheller talked to Michael Jr. about his work and that of fellow comedian Reggie Brown. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
URBAN FAITH: We recently interviewed Reggie Brown about his Obama impersonation at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Do you have any thoughts on his performance?
MICHAEL JR.: I don’t think enough people knew he was an impressionist. Some people look alike to some people, let me just say that. There was at least a percentage of people in the audience that really thought that was [President Obama]. Then when they hear what he’s saying, nobody wants to look like they’re dumb. I think what he was doing was some funny stuff.
Do you do race jokes in your routines?
Not really. I’m an observationist, so I notice some things that people do like if two white guys are walking down the street right toward one another, they make eye contact. They have a tendency to smile and tilt their heads down towards one another. For black people, we do the opposite. We frown and tilt our heads up. I actually do those motions on stage and it’s like an “ah ha” moment for everyone in the audience, because everyone has seen that before, but very few have really acknowledge it. Comedy’s best friend is tension and there’s a little bit of tension there already, so I look for something that’s a little harder to get at and try to make that funny.
Your BlackBerry video is really funny. It’s not about race, but it’s a smart use of it.
We wanted to make it feel like it was the real deal. If you look, I never laugh in the whole thing. There’s literally nothing funny being said; it’s just visually funny.
At what point did you become a Christian, because one of your routines is about learning how to pray?
I grew up in Michigan, but then I moved to New York. I got a place to live and I started hitting the clubs. I performed at one club, The Comic Strip Live, and George Wallace walks in. He sees my show and he walks up to me afterwards and says, “You’re really funny. Let me ask you a question: Why don’t you curse?” I was like, “I don’t know. What if my grandmother walked in or something?”
He laughed and said, “I’d like you to do a show with me and my best friend.” I go to do the show and I don’t even know who his best friend is. It’s me, him, and Jerry Seinfeld. After the show my manager said, “Michael, you wanna’ go to church with me tomorrow?” “Church? I just got two standing ovations, why do I gotta’ go to church? That don’t make sense.”
I went to this church called the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, and this dude is up on stage talking about Jesus. He ain’t screaming. He ain’t yelling. He ain’t got no perm. He’s just talking about Jesus. He did an altar call and I was like, “Nah, I don’t know what this is about. I gotta’ read the pamphlet first.” So I told myself I’d read the whole Bible before I went up to the altar. I didn’t know the Bible was that big. It took three months. I went up to the altar. Now I understand some stuff. I used to just think I was funny, but now I understand that I’m funny for a reason. There’s a purpose behind this funny. I don’t just happen to be funny.
Did becoming a Christian change how you thought about and performed comedy?
I just got broader. I got more knowledge, more understanding about myself and the value of other people as well. My comedy was pretty much the same. It was always clean, so I just went up on stage and talked about the same things, but from the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. As I started getting the Word in me and the truth, being in different atmospheres, being in different churches I started to notice different things, so naturally that’s what you’re going to start talking about.
You made a documentary called The Road Less Traveled about doing comedy in jails and shelters. Are you still performing in those places?
We’re in the process of solidifying a non-profit. Initially it was something that I felt in my heart clearly that we should do it. We filmed it, but it was all new then. I just performed at an abused women’s event. We do that type of stuff as much as we can.
What is the key to getting people laughing when their life circumstances are challenging?
The whole reason why I did the film was that I understood that when a comedian gets on stage he wants to get laughs from people. God changed my whole mindset, like Romans 12:2. Instead of going up there to get laughter from people, God said, “Go up there and give them an opportunity to laugh.”
Now when I go to these homeless shelters or wherever I’m going, I’m not trying to get anything from them. I’m just trying to give them an opportunity to laugh. When you’re giving somebody a gift, it’s different, because now they’re like, “Wow, is this for me?” And they’re much more willing to receive it as opposed to me trying to take something from them.
What do you have coming up?
In September I will be filming my first comedy special, and we’ll put it out on DVD. That’s pretty exciting. I’m writing a comedy film right now, which is exciting. I’ve never written a full length film before. It’s about two little kids from a black family and a white family that live right next door to each other and they end up agreeing to visit each other’s churches. We’ll see what happens as the comedy ensues because of the differences. At the same time, some ministry will go down as well. I don’t know what that is yet. I just do the jokes and then God shows up for the rest.
ACTING PRESIDENTIAL: Obama impersonator Reggie Brown onstage at the Republican Leadership Conference on June 18, before getting the hook. (Newscom photo/Lee Celano)
The top story in politics from this past weekend was the gathering of GOP candidates at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. But the main topic of conversation around water coolers on Monday morning wasn’t what the candidates said but what was said about them on Saturday night by an intrepid Barack Obama impersonator. After delivering jokes aimed squarely at President Obama, the Faux-bama suddenly appeared to (forgive us, Mrs. Palin) “go rogue” with sharp zingers aimed at the GOP contenders. It was at this point that the performer’s microphone fell silent, and he was abruptly escorted from the stage.
An equal opportunity comedian, Reggie Brown is undaunted by the criticism from multiplequarters regarding his performance, and particularly the race jokes he shared during his act. UrbanFaith news and religion editor Christine Scheller spoke to Brown by phone Tuesday afternoon. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
URBAN FAITH: Have you ever had this kind of response before to one of your performances?
REGGIE BROWN: No, this the beginning. This has been amazing.
What’s your reaction?
I love it. It was an opportunity to get in front of a huge audience. When I first got the invitation, I was extremely excited to come down and speak at the leadership conference. … I’ve been building a reputation in the corporate world, with speakers bureaus and other private events, but for the most part, a lot of America didn’t really know who I was yet, and this gave me the opportunity to get out there. I did my job, did my material. From what I’ve heard, everyone thought I did it very, very well, including pretty much everyone at the conference who came up [to me afterwards]. I’ve been getting thousands of fan mails and new subscribers. Even the organizers thanked me and told me I did a great job.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, it sounded like the Republican Leadership Conference president sold you out. He said he would have pulled you sooner and had no tolerance for racially insensitive jokes. What did you think about that?
I don’t even want to touch that. People are intelligent enough to know when I delivered the jokes and when I was pulled. That was in the beginning of my material and it wasn’t until later when I brought up the candidates that I was pulled off the stage. From what they told me, I was over my time.
Do you get more gigs with Republican organizations than with Democratic ones?
So far, yeah. I think I have worked more for Republican parties than Democrat, but I work with Tim Waters, who was the number one Clinton impersonator and he said during [Clinton’s] reign, he found that to be true also. He said, “You’ll always find the opposing party hires you more.”
There was some debate about your race jokes in African American media outlets. What do you think about that?
My mother’s white and my father’s black, so I would have that in common with the president and I wouldn’t do anything towards any race to set them back … For my jokes to be called racist initially by a lot of reviews that came out, it’s absolutely ridiculous.
I thought they were done in a tasteful manner. It’s nothing I would have felt ashamed with if I was in that audience and someone said it. I don’t think the president took offense to it. He actually cracked jokes at the Correspondent’s Dinner referring to his background. When he opens a door on a topic, that opens it for me as well.
I don’t ever want to offend anyone in my material. Basically what I do is bring humor to situations. That’s comedy. I think it was one individual who made that statement. The media took it and started running with it. I urge people to watch the full appearance. I felt that I did well and everyone else pretty much has too.
Do you feel like you can’t win doing race jokes as a biracial person or can you address the topic from both angles?
I can address things from both sides, especially nowadays, it’s more common for people to be biracial and mixed. … I know it was tough for my mom to raise me in the neighborhood we grew up in, especially taking us to certain pools and doing things like that. Now it’s just becoming more widely accepted and that’s a beautiful thing.
Do you have any tips for a comedian trying to work a tough room?
You just need to know your audience. I performed at a comedy club in Times Square really late one night, doing my political jokes and a lot of the material that normally kills fell flat, but it was because at 1:00 in the morning at a comedy club, most of them wanted to hear the F-bombs being dropped and I came with really witty political humor. I didn’t do too well. I got off stage and saw the next couple comedians, and immediately they’re like eff this, eff that, and everyone was rolling on the floor. So, you just have to know your audience and anticipate what they want.
YES, HE CAN: Reggie Brown says Obama's own jokes about his background open the door for him to be more daring about race.
Did the Republican Leadership Conference audience laugh less at the Republican jokes than at the race jokes as reported?
That audience was awesome. They were amazing. That’s why the performance was so good. As a performer, for the most part, doing what I do, you gain off the energy. After I got pulled, they were coming up to me, [saying], “Why’d they pull you off the stage? You were the best part of the conference for me.” … They were great. Even when I was getting the oohs and ahhs, I was still getting a strong reaction.”
On your website, it says you offer clean comedy for corporate events. Is that qualifier based on anything in particular?
Basically, it’s the character protection. There are other guys out there trying to do the Obama character and they’re doing it in ways that I feel are disrespectful, not only to the president, but to … I’m not even going to go there, but I just don’t agree with what they’re doing. There’s a YouTube video of this guy drinking 40s and smoking joints as the president. That’s ridiculous. That does nothing for the progression of comedy in my mind. For comedy to be funny, it’s gotta’ be witty, intelligent, and have something behind it. That’s what we do.
Are you primarily a clean comedian even when you’re not doing the Obama character?
Yeah, for the most part. I’m an actor first and foremost, so I would accept roles that aren’t necessarily clean. Sometimes in my material as myself, I tend to keep it PG-13, but I’m not one of those guys that goes out there and just swears, swears, swears. It’s gotta have some intelligence behind it and some motivation behind it.
What are you up to next?
A surprise appearance at a major sporting event on Thursday, but we have tons of bookings coming in. … Most of the time, I’m a surprise guest so I can’t really reveal where I’ll be, but you’ll be seeing a lot more of me very soon.