Skip to main content

Comedian Pursues Laughter Through Tragedy

Share This article


Chonda can tell any story from her life and make it fall-down funny… but it’s also true that she’s experienced great sorrow and pain. Much of her childhood trauma stemmed from her father, a pastor, and his frequent infidelity. More than once young Chonda innocently walked in on situations that confused her, and later, when she understood more, angered and disgusted her. “My father had a girlfriend in every church. And on the rare occasions he was not having an affair with one of the local ladies, he was locked away in his room under a heap of depression,” she explains.  

The abuse he doled out to his family was both verbal and sexual in nature, she says, including angry words and whippings with a belt. At the same time, Chonda adored her mother and deeply felt her pain and humiliation. Shortly before Chonda graduated high school, her dad left the family, which brought both financial hardship and great relief.

A couple of years berfore that, one of the other great heartaches of Chonda’s young life occurred. Her older sister, Charlotta, was driving to work on a rainy morning, when she hydroplaned into the path of an oncoming car. The vehicle hit hers on the driver’s side, and Charlotta, just twenty, was killed instantly. “My faith in God was not shattered, but it sure was starting to show some cracks,” Chonda admits. “Mom was devastated, Mike (her older brother) and I were crushed, Cheralyn (her younger sister) was a lost soul.”  

Two years later, when Chonda and Cheralyn were finally rebounding, both had starring roles in the school musical, Oklahoma. On the last night of the show, Cheralyn wasn’t feeling well. After a couple days and several tests, they learned the cause: leukemia. It was a rough next few weeks, but thankfully, the family learned that Mike, Chonda’s hero, was an exact match for a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was scheduled for a few days later on a Monday…but would never happen. “Cheralyn died on Saturday morning,” Chonda explains. “Only twenty-one days from her diagnosis.” She was just fifteen years old.  


Chonda married her best friend and high school sweetheart, David Pierce, in 1983. The pair were deeply in love and welcomed their first child, Chera, into their home about a year later. They worked various jobs, including Chonda imitating country legend Minnie Pearl at the Opryland Theme Park. She loved it and received great reviews, though after six years, she yearned to be a stay-at-home mom and left the job.  

Chonda continued imitating Minnie at various gigs for extra money, and because she loved it. At a convention for South Central Bell, Chonda, as Minnie, introduced the president, and soon started ad-libbing as herself. The crowd ate it up. “THAT was the breakthrough moment in my career,” she says. From that came more invitations to entertain at conventions and gatherings, and in time, Chonda started touring with her own comedy routine. By then, they had a son, Zach, and David was truly happy to stay at home with the kids. As Chonda shared onstage about the various traumas in her life, she found it resonated, especially with women. “I found that the more I shared about myself, the more they would talk to me. My comedy and confessions were becoming comfort and compassion for others. And the one receiving the most healing was me.”  

Managing finances was not a strong suit of either Pierce, and unfortunately, Chonda hired some well-meaning, but incompetent managers. “Yep, his firm was collecting a total of 52% of my income, which left only 48% for the government to take,” she quips. Though making plenty of money on tours, they went broke before getting much needed, sound advice from more experienced managers and accountants.  

As her tours and audiences grew larger over the years, Chonda spent more time away from home, which exacted a heavy toll her marriage and family. “The better he was a being the fun parent, the more I felt resentful, partially from guilt and partially from the fact that I hated being the visiting warden. Bottom line, I missed my kids. I watched Zach play soccer only once. I missed Chera’s junior prom. Those regrets still haunt me from time to time.”  

In the early 2000’s, after a decade of touring and all the ups and downs of life at home, Chonda crashed. She was deeply, clinically depressed, and sought help at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. With the love of her family, time, therapy, medication, and slowing down, Chonda found her way back. “I truly believe one can find complete healing from most anything with a combination of both fact and faith. The Bible taught me I am not alone. But it wasn’t until I felt I was truly alone at Vanderbilt that I learned to rely on my faith.”   


The next dozen or so years brought more ups and downs. Chonda adjusted well to meds and was able to continue her work. As the kids became older and more independent, though, Chonda and David drifted in their relationship. He began to drink to cope with his pain. Trying to fund DVD projects, a recovery center, and detoxes for David, their finances bottomed out again. They had to let go of their dream home, and the couple separated for 18 months. Chonda remembers feeling the weight of it all one particular day: “My mother had passed away a few days before. David was struggling and was away in a detox facility. Zach was at school in California, and Chera, well, she was still far away physically and emotionally.”  

By 2014, though they had reunited, David’s struggle continued. “His drinking got worse, and his health began to fall apart, but I didn’t realize how serious it was as I was finishing up a long tour,” Chonda remembers. Soon after that, he suffered bleeding in his brain and didn’t recover. Chonda was with him till the end. She says she has made it through these ten years by the grace of God and the help of very good girlfriends of forty years. “They have taken the sting out of widowhood for me.” Her advice: “Just be there. Listen to them. Talk only when necessary. Because what most widows need is time and a loving friend in the room.” 

Chonda believes that a big reason people respond to her shows, DVDs, and writing is simply the need we all have to laugh. She acknowledges that these are dark days in our world, and we all need some freedom from so much heaviness. She also wants to help people let go of regrets, knowing all too well how they tear us down and that the devil likes to bring them up. “It’s the enemy’s favorite thing to do,” she says.  

And having dealt with deep depression, Chonda wants people to know there is no shame whatsoever in therapy and medication. To that end, she and her beloved big brother, Mike, opened a recovery center years ago in Murfreesboro, TN, which grew into five facilities, called Branches Counseling Center. With a full range of qualified professionals, they help those dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, shame, and weight loss. More information is on their website, “It is a place where my brother and I can both say, “Look what God has done with our broken lives.” 

For more information about Chonda Pierce and to check out her upcoming tour dates, please visit To purchase Chonda's book, please click the link: Life Is Funny Until It's Not.  

Share Your Story

Share This article

About The Author

Julie Blim

Julie produced and assigned a variety of features for The 700 Club since 1996, meeting a host of interesting people across America. Now she produces guest materials, reading a whole lot of inspiring books. A native of Joliet, IL, Julie is grateful for her church, friends, nieces, nephews, dogs, and enjoys tennis, ballroom dancing, and travel.