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Constructing a DIY career in comedy

Steve Penhollow

Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 18, 2019

Tim Hawkins decided to pursue comedy as a vocation out of desperation.

“I tried everything else,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t an idiot. I just couldn’t find my path.”

Hawkins quit his job as a delivery truck driver and convinced his brother to quit his much more lucrative job and become his manager.

“He was working as a headhunter for technical professionals,” he said. “I think my wife put a bug in his ear: ‘Hey, why don’t you be Tim’s manager?’ And he did. He didn’t get paid for two years. For that, he gave up a six-figure income.”

It all worked out. Hawkins will perform at the Honeywell Center in Wabash on April 26.

Likes knowing the boundaries

Hawkins is a self-described Christian comedian. This phrase means different things to different people.

Some Christian comics cater to Christian audiences to such an extent that secular audiences might have trouble appreciating the material.

Hawkins is not one of these. On stage, Hawkins usually just talks about family life in a hilarious, yet expletive-free, way.

“This is just who I am,” he said. “I don’t look down on blue comics. I do most of my stuff in churches. I like knowing the boundaries and I enjoy working within them. I like the challenge of that.”

Starting out, Hawkins said there wasn’t a Christian comedy circuit to tap into. He had to create his own circuit.

YouTube Famous

Things started to blow up for him when people started finding his musical parodies on YouTube. At that point, YouTube was not yet the acknowledged career booster and career sustainer it is today.

“It was in the mid-2000s,” Hawkins said. “The first video that went viral wasn’t even anything we made. Some kid took one of my songs and made a stick-figure video for it. It got over one million hits. We were like, ‘Okaaaay. What’s going on?’”

Those were very different times.

“Comedians were reluctant to put videos on YouTube because they were afraid to burn out their material,” Hawkins said. “We found out: ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no. It’s the opposite.’ You put out everything you can.”

Hawkins cites another Christian comedian, John Crist, as someone who has figured out how to do this.

“He puts out content, content, content,” he said. “Free, free, free. You build your fanbase and a percentage of those people are going to buy a ticket to a show.”

Thanks to YouTube, Hawkins went quickly from five gig requests a month to 200.

“We went from saying ‘Yes’ to saying ‘No,’” he said. “We could afford to be more selective.”

DIY Comedy Career

There are many advantages to Hawkins’ DIY approach to building this career.

“The (comedy) industry can make you famous overnight but there’s a cost,” he said. “There should be a cost. They built it. If you want to use their machinery, you’re going to give them what they want. That’s totally cool. But I don’t want to do that.”

The only drawback to Hawkins’ success is the time he has to spend away from his family.

“You never find the balance you want,” he said. “There’s no getting around it. One of the biggest challenges is what the road takes away from you. It gets very tiresome when you’re family gets the scraps.”

Hawkins said he is working toward taking a sabbatical from comedy soon.

“I’m going to be a grandad soon,” he said. “I need to take some time and reevaluate what I am doing. I don’t want the tail to wag the dog anymore.”


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