Comedian John Crist brings ‘Emotional Support Tour’ to Dayton this week

Nashville-based comedian John Crist is coming to Dayton on his “Emotional Support Tour” for a one-nighter at the Schuster Center.

Crist, known for his clean comedy and viral sketch videos, has a broader appeal than the Christian comedian label gives him credit for. And while a good chunk of his material does heavily feature religious references and free Chick-fil-A plugs — per his upbringing and affinity for chicken sandwiches — inanity is pointed out on all sides, cementing Crist as a well-rounded yet nuanced comedian.

There’s a moment in his most recent special, “John Crist: Would Like to Release a Statement,” when a callback from an earlier bit appears to arrive to Crist from the ether. It was as if lightning had hit the room. The audience erupted and Crist fell over, as if in disbelief that this particular line came back around.

Crist says he doesn’t plan for those moments; they just happen. Some things can only be written on stage, and they either evolve into recurring bits or disappear as quickly as the sound dissipates in the room.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Crist said, on the spontaneous arrival of inspiration. “You gotta put yourself into position to make it happen more frequently.”

And though it might not happen every show, there’s a good chance that what one audience gets is different from another. A show in Dallas is likely not the same as a show in Dayton, but Crist rolls with the changes wherever he goes.

His stage presence is frenetic and wired though his phone persona is much more subdued, despite ricocheting from hotel room to hotel room, somewhere between Duluth and San Jose, perhaps in need of some emotional support.

Originally from Georgia, Crist grew up the son of a pastor. Although his first open mic was in a Chili’s around 2009, he cut his comedic teeth in the church circuit for the decade following.

Now Crist is regarded as one of comedy’s fastest-rising stars, selling out theaters and accumulating billions of views on YouTube — not to mention the release of his 2022 book, “Delete That: (and Other Failed Attempts to Look Good Online),” and comedy video podcast, Net Positive.

Crist is often labeled as a Christian comic — making the top ten results in most “best Christian comics” lists, repeatedly referencing Christianity, etc. — though the other belief he has is that labeling is up for others to decide.

“Every human wants to kind of qualify every experience they have,” Crist said. “Being from the South, my dad being a preacher, being homeschooled, all those things… I talk about that stuff because that’s the lens I have and always will see the world through.”

And he has a point: comics talk about what they know, and the thing that John Crist arguably knows best is his faith. There are allusions and direct crowd work related to that faith in his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean non-Christians won’t enjoy John Crist — in some ways, they might enjoy him more because of the absurdities he points out about Christians. But by that same token, John Crist doesn’t need an audience of Christians to get laughs; his observational, anecdotal style of humor is accessible from nearly every side.

“Any comic staying true to the art form,” Crist said, “is trying to keep all groups honest.”

Many of the topics he tackles, especially toward the end of his most recent special, err on the side of anti-woke, anti-PC, reducing Portland down to Suburus and soy milk lattes and comparing getting “canceled” to getting COVID-19.

“I’ve already been canceled — I can tell the truth now,” Crist said in the special, going on to say he now has the “canceled antibodies.” It’s a funny tag, but one might feel he’s making light of his being “canceled” with too glib of a statement.

In late 2019, sexual misconduct allegations arose against Crist. He scrapped the remainder of his aptly named “Immature Thoughts Tour” and Netflix postponed his stand-up special — though the footage was subsequently used for his self-released YouTube special “What Are We Doing?” in 2022.

Crist took some time off stand-up, eventually owned up to his actions and went to rehab. He’s newly sober from alcohol and says he’s more popular than ever before.

“I’m still the same guy that I was… maybe a little bit more free,” Crist said, on how his material changed after the allegations. “A lot of the videos I make now are not so much in a box of Christianity. We’ve been able to branch outside of that box. And the show now… it’s for everybody.”

Like baseball’s Pete Rose or comedy’s Roseanne Barr, Crist has an asterisk on his career but he continues to sell out shows across the country — from his home, The South, to the Gem City (which is nearly sold out).

John Crist might have initials that resemble those of a known religious leader, talk about faith and eat at Chick-fil-A once in a while, but the only label that matters to him is “comedian” because that’s what he is, and he does it as honest as he can.

More details

What: Comedian John Crist’s Emotional Support Tour

Where: Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25


Other info: Comedians Caleb Elliot and Derrick Stroup will open the show

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