Catholic comedian Judy McDonald finds humor in religion
Self-proclaimed “Catholic Comedian” Judy McDonald told her audience the first miracle she ever witnessed was when her food turned from solid to liquid after she ate Cajun food for the first time. Real-life moments like these made up McDonald’s performance, sponsored by Sheil Catholic Center, on her life as a Catholic, The Golden Girls and everything in between.
McDonald performed Tuesday night in Norris McCormick Auditorium and her set poked fun at Catholic stereotypes: pew guilt, confession and a visit to Rome, or what she liked to call “Catholic Disneyland.”
“I hope the people become more confident in expressing who they are,” said Paolelli, co-chair of Sheil’s education committee.
McDonald encouraged the audience to never stop asking questions about their faith before the end of her set.
“The more you know about your faith, the more you understand, the more God delights,” McDonald said.
McDonald sat down with North by Northwestern before her performance at McCormick Auditorium Tuesday night to talk about how she became a comedian and stayed true to herself.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?
I grew up watching stand-up comedians like Johnny Carson and all those guys, and I never understood that I could do this for a living until my freshman year [at the University of San Diego] when I went up and did it. I was like, “Oh my gosh. People get paid for this? That’s awesome.” I stayed in school. My parents spent $100,000 on my education, and now I go around being a smart aleck. So, money well spent.
When was the moment you broke into the comedy industry?
It was on my college campus. It was somebody knew somebody who could get me up at The Comedy Store in L.A. I just did it once, and they said, “Come on back.” It was one of those things, I fell into it almost. I didn’t know I could do it. I just kept thinking, “Oh, this is silly. Too bad I can’t do this forever.” Turns out you can. It’s one of those divine things, I think. I think [Jesus] allowed me to discover it and have a passion for it. If you can have a job that you love going to, it’s not a job. It’s a good thing.
You label yourself as the “Catholic Comedian” and explore the humorous side of being Catholic. What does that mean?
My faith is so a part of my life, it just reflects back in my comedy. I observe basically what happens every day. Being Catholic is just funny. I think God has a sense of humor, and I’m just reporting back on what I observe.
Do you find it difficult to make religion funny?
I don’t make fun of religion. I’m making fun of mostly myself. I’m just reporting back on what I struggle with and what I encounter. It’s just taking truth or the actuality of what’s happening and then putting my own spin on it. I’m never really scandalous. It’s just reporting back on the human condition. It’s bound to be funny or sad. We laugh so we don’t cry.
Do you think people who are not Catholic or who are not religious can still relate to your comedy?
I think so. When I started out in the clubs, at The Comedy Store and Laugh Factory, I did this kind of humor. It’s just observational. Laughter, I think, is universal. Laughter brings old and young and Muslim and Catholic and everybody together.
What do you think of comedians who make fun of religion or use more vulgar humor in their acts?
They’re going to Hell. No, to each their own. That’s just not the route that I went down because my mom came to all my shows in the beginning. And my mom always said, be careful what you say, somebody always knows your mother. I can’t judge any of them. I just stick with this. This is just what I do, and it seems to work so far. I’m not getting a real job any time soon.
What are you hoping to do next?
Well, you know, just pay my health insurance, basically. Just continue to do this. I don’t really care if I ever get famous famous. I just enjoy getting to make people laugh for a living. That’s pretty cool. And I don’t have to do math.
Do you have any advice for students looking to make a career out of stand-up comedy?
Stay in school. Get that business or medical degree, because you can always be a funny doctor, but you can’t do surgery if you’re just a comedian. They say to be a writer, you must write. So to be a comedian, you must comedian. Keep a journal and start writing down things you think are funny. Just try it out on all your friends until they get annoyed. The only way you’re gonna know if you’re any good at it is if you get up and do it. And you might fall on your face several hundred times, but who cares?