Comic Discovers the Meaning of Life
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LIVING LIFE MESSED UP
Jeff grew up with an alcoholic father who had a violent temper. His father’s verbal jabs and at times physical beatings weighed heavily on him. He was thirteen when he took his first drink of whiskey at his older sister’s wedding. He woke up covered in his own vomit, but that didn’t stop him from continuing this new habit. For the next several years, he and his buddies would get smashed every week. After high school he attended community college on a baseball scholarship hoping he would get drafted. Instead, his drinking played an even larger role in his life which got him kicked off the team. He took a job at his uncle’s jewelry store and also began using cocaine. His tolerance for alcohol had decreased and he needed something to pick him back up. He even dealt drugs for a brief period.
In 1978, Jeff went to a comedy club with some co-workers. He tried to work up the courage to try standup. One night, after consuming a lot of alcohol he finally did comedy for the first time. Jeff completely bombed. The shame and humiliation he felt made him lash out in anger. When he got home, he punched a hole in his closet door. The next night he went back to the club to try it again. His second attempt was better. Within six months he quit his job at the jewelry store and began doing stand-up full time. He traveled fifty weeks a year as he tried to make it as a comedian. After four years he was headlining at clubs across the country. “Easy accessibility to drugs and alcohol was part of the comedy scene in the 80’s,” shares Jeff.
He quickly fell into a lifestyle of addiction. Although he was now making descent money, he still felt miserable on the inside. He decided he needed a wife. “If there were dating apps back then, my profile would have read: Alcoholic drug addict with rage issues looking for a single woman willing to overlook aforementioned character flaws,” recalls Jeff. In 1985, he met Tami, a waitress and single mom of one, at a comedy bar in Ohio. Within a year he went from being a traveling comedian to married with two children under the age of four. Jeff had no idea how to be a father or a husband. He couldn’t pay the bills and still buy cocaine and alcohol. He felt guilty about not being the man he needed to be but that triggered shame which then triggered rage.
He decided his marriage was the cause of all his problems, so he made it the focus of his comedy. His goal was to get Tami to leave him. One night he had the brilliant thought to beat up Tami so she would leave him. With a lot of alcohol and cocaine in his system he stood by Tami as she slept with his hands clenched over her. As he reached to pull her from the bed, their seven-month-old baby began to cry. All the rage and frustration welled up inside of him as he smacked the baby on the bottom repeatedly. Tami grabbed the baby from him. The realization of what he could have done overwhelmed him. Jeff asked Tami to take him to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He knew he needed help.
His sobriety date became September 29, 1987. Unfortunately, his life still didn’t look much different overall. He still thought his marriage was the source of his unhappiness. Eighteen months into his sobriety an old lady came over to him and said, “I’ve been hearing you complain about your wife at every meeting…Maybe the problem in your life isn’t your wife. Maybe it’s you.” Jeff did not like what she said. When he and Tami would argue he would yell the loudest and break things (just like his father had done). They eventually started going to counseling, but all Tami could do was cry. Jeff continued to go and the words from the old lady began to play over again in his mind. He began looking at his marriage differently and thinking if Tami wasn’t the problem, then how could he solve the problems in his life.
FINDING A TRUE FRIEND
Jeff met a guy named Phil who was new to standup. He was wealthy and a little older, but something else was different about him. Phil began to get Jeff, who was an atheist, to think about life in a different way. “I didn’t know it at the time, but this is how Jesus taught His followers,” shares Jeff. Phil would ask him questions that at times made Jeff uncomfortable but also showed genuine concern. Phil was a Christian and attended a church in Denton, Texas. The pastor, Tommy Nelson, had a tape ministry. Phil signed Jeff up to receive the biblical teachings of Pastor Nelson on tape. Phil even gave Jeff a Bible (which he tossed into his junk drawer), but never pressured Jeff to see if he was listening to the teaching tapes or reading the Bible. Phil would simply remind Jeff that he was praying for him.
TAKING A DOWNWARD SPIRAL
After seven years into a tumultuous marriage, Tami began having an affair. When Jeff discovered the truth, he tried hard to stay angry, but he couldn’t. He knew his anger, substance abuse, and crushing words had caused her so much pain throughout their marriage. When he confronted her face-to-face Tami admitted to having the affair, but surprisingly Jeff forgave her. He knew he had been the source of pain for Tami for a long time. Tami was still convinced the marriage was over and asked Jeff to finish filling out the divorce papers. On the way to file the papers with the courthouse Tami changed her mind and decided not to pursue the divorce, but the marriage still struggled. Tami decided to take the kids to Ohio for the summer. Deep down Jeff did not expect her to come back.
MAKING A LIFE CHANGING DECISION
Before she left, Tami asked Jeff to do something about all the envelopes of tapes that he had been receiving in the mail from Denton Bible Church. They were in a pile in the floor. One day, when he walked by the pile of tapes he heard a little voice inside his head whisper, “Open one.” So, finally he opened one envelope that had two tapes inside, both titled Ecclesiastes, which were sermons by Tommy Nelson. He went to the junk drawer which held the divorce papers and pulled out the Bible that Phil had given him. He opened it to the book of Ecclesiastes and began reading. He listened to all the tapes for the next month. He says, “I fully realized that apart from God, life had no meaning, but with Him, I could live a meaningful life.” He called Phil to tell him what was happening to him. A short time later he went to Phil’s house while traveling and committed his life to Jesus.
When Tami returned after the summer, Jeff shared with her that he was now a born again Christian. Tami did not know what that meant but did ask to come to church with him a few weeks later. Jeff’s life began to change. He became a better husband and father and started praying for his kids. They gave thanks for dinner. Joy began to return to their house. His marriage grew stronger, and his comedy routine began to get cleaned up. “I stopped joking about my bad marriage and making Tami out to be the villain of the story, and changed my content and tone,” shares Jeff. The anger was gone. He was finally happy.
LIVING A MEANINGFUL LIFE
Despite facing financial difficulties through the years, Jeff was confident that God was going to see them through. They moved to Tennessee in 1997 and Jeff refocused his comedy. God opened doors for them that only He could do. He began to get invited to some of the biggest comedy festivals in the world. He was invited to be a part of Bill Gaither’s Praise Gathering. At the time, he had no idea who Bill was, but he quickly found out. He performed for about 15,000 people at Bill’s gathering and went on to tour on and off with Bill Gaither for the next six years. This opportunity really opened up the Christian market to Jeff.
Tami was diagnosed with breast cancer during the time Jeff was working for Bill. She was going through chemotherapy and radiation. Once night during a taping Bill asked if anyone needed prayer. Jeff shared about Tami’s cancer diagnosis. They asked if they could pray for her. A feeling of peace, love, and appreciation washed over her. He says, “Cancer actually helped solidify Tam’s relationship with God. She surrendered her life to Him, and we only grew stronger in the process.” She has been in remission ever since she was prayed for years ago.
Today every time Jeff goes on stage he prays, “Lord, let Your light shine through. Let them see not the darkness in me, but the light in You.”
To find out more about Jeff Allenand where you can see him, please visit his website: JeffAllenComedy.com.
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