Jeff Allen has been doing comedy for four decades and his work has been seen on every cable comedy show in the U.S. including Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and VH1’s Standup Spotlight. His one hour special, Happy Wife, Happy Life® aired on the Odyssey Channel, Family Net and the Worship Network. He was a featured comedian at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and the Montreal Just for Laughs International Comedy Festival, the most prestigious comedy Festivals in the world. He also headlined his own national comedy tour, Jeff Allen & Friends: Funny People of Faith.
It is fitting that Jeff Allen should be in town to perform his special brand of comedy at an event in support of the military. Jeff was all set to join the Air Force, largely because, as he puts it, “I had nothing else going for me.” More on that later… As it happened, right before Jeff was to take his physical he got a job offer from a comedy club. So the twenty-two year old with nothing to lose headed to Cincinnati and began his comedy career in 1978. His career was not without it’s initial challenges, such as being informed by a club owner that he “was just not funny” and should consider a different career path.
So far a not so unusual tale of a comedian who seemed to find his calling just in time. Except… this Jeff Allen, who works at Church and faith venues around the country, is the same Jeff Allen who used to get mail addressed to “Mr. Psycho.” Jeff wasn’t always a happy, well?adjusted comedian. At one point, he was a victim of alcohol and drug abuse, living a depressing life and struggling to get by from day to day. Finally, the threat of losing the one person who had been his touchstone through those struggles made him turn to a new source of strength.
Jeff met and later married Tami, but as drinking and drugs slowly blew Jeff’s career apart, their relationship suffered as well. After years of rage, sadness and pain, Jeff and Tami decided to call it quits. With divorce papers signed, they were 10 minutes from the courthouse when they decided to try again. With two children, and barely any career left, Jeff hit rock bottom, turned to Alcoholics Anonymous, recovered himself, and through generous help from a total stranger, found comfort in God. Jeff says, “The single greatest gift I get from my relationship with Jesus is peace. For the first time in my life, I am at peace in my own skin. From that peace, I am able to do what I love to do – make people laugh. I’ve been a comic for 20+ years, and right now I’m having the time of my life.”
Jeff is not afraid to be brutally honest about his past failures as a parent and a husband. His credo addresses those failures right on, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” It’s about making it real. “I have always worked from the inside out.” And where inside once was a lot of rage, Jeff, through his faith in Jesus Christ and support of his wife and family has softened and found that instead of beating himself up over his failings, he could use those painful experiences to relate to, encourage, and ultimately entertain his audience. As a Christian and a comedian, Jeff fully believes he is living out Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He encourages others to “get a plan.” And Jeff’s comedy plan is to keep it clean and funny, very funny.
One wonders if Jeff tailors his comedy routine when speaking to a military audience. For Jeff it’s pretty much the same things he has always talked about. “There’s not much difference, I still talk about life, about breaking sacred cows, finding the humor in marriage and every day life.” It’s not a difficult thing for Jeff to stay clean in his comedy, recalling the sage advice of Jerry Seinfield (talking about clean versus crude comedy), “Why do a joke for 300 in a club (where vulgarity is par for the course and that line between good and bad taste ‘just isn’t there’) when you could be doing it for 300 million on the Tonight Show?”
So we return to Jeff’s appearance on stage November 5 in support of our veterans. Jeff’s connection to the military was not solely his aborted attempt to join the Air Force. Jeff’s father had also been in the service in the 82nd Airborne (Says Jeff, “I wanted that special services uniform!”). Also, Jeff’s son Aaron enlisted soon after 9/11 and had a deployment with the 101st Airborne in Iraq.
Jeff spent some time entertaining on the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in January of 2002 just after the invasion of Afghanistan, entertaining troops in Bahrain, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It was quite an eye opener. “(The Air Force) does thing’s the right way! And pilots are by far the coolest!”
So it comes full circle for the man from Saulk Village, Illinois, from plans to join the military, to a complete about face toward a comedy career, and ending up on a stage making people laugh AND supporting our troops back here in the Midwest. For Jeff, it’s a no-brainer:
“It’s a good cause, and we need to laugh, the Creator created us to laugh.”
Information for the “We Love Our Veterans!” (Saturday, November 5) fundraising event (tickets are $30), with ALL PROCEEDS GOING TO LOCAL VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS such as Wounded Warrior Project, Vietnam Veterans of America and the VA Medical Center, can be found online at www.the-stand.org/wlov.fcum or on Facebook @We Love Our Veterans.
(information for this article came from a personal interview and from Jeff’s website, www.jeffallencomedy.com)
“Funny and Clean, But Comedy...and Life...Wasn’t Always That Way for Jeff Allen.”, originally uploaded by FatherDalton.