Don’t Shoot the Messenger
Genesis of My Heart, My Comedy: Jeff Allen Interview
By now, many of Jeff Allen’s fans know about his unique comedy recording of My Heart, My Comedy. And with the upcoming scheduled airings, AP thought it might be interesting to ask Jeff Allen a few questions about the project.
Jeff: The truth is, I never chose to do this. The fact that My Heart, My Comedy became a big deal wasn’t even planned. I was supposed to shoot a second Bananas film. The folks from Guardian Studios asked if they could film some of the act to provide some B-roll for the Bananas project.
Jeff: Right. As in the “A” stuff is the main thing they film, and the “B” roll is the stuff they use to fill in. I was working out various transitions, and expecting that they’d only use a tiny portion of the performance. Also, Tami and I wanted to try working together, so I asked if it would be OK if I brought Tami into it. Who knew she’d turn out to be the star!
AP: So how did you go from rehearsal to full project?
Jeff: They wound up having a full house at the church from the Sunday service, and they brought three cameras and shot the thing. A month afterwards they phoned me. They said they’d been looking at this and they’d like to release it, mainly because of the stuff Tami shared. They thought it was something really special.
AP: What was the reaction that night?
Jeff: It was during the Sunday night service. They knew they were getting a comedy show, but I don’t think they expected what Tami and I were about to share. We took a Sawzall to our relationship.
AP: A Sawzall?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the power saw they use to cut people out of train wrecks. And trust me, our marriage was a train wreck. Mostly because of my drinking and loss of any sense of esteem, but Tami had a hand in it as well.
AP: I’m not sure I’ve ever viewed anything quite so personal, especially from a celebrity.
Jeff: When Guardian said they wanted to release it, I said I had to talk to Tami. I asked her if she would be OK with our lives being stripped bare on national television. She said if you think it will minister to people and make a difference, go ahead. So we did. Then 700 Club called and did a long interview with us.
AP: How did that go.
Jeff: Very well. They wanted Tami on camera alone, but she didn’t want to be alone. She’s not a speaker. She’s more comfortable talking to dogs. Sometimes she talks to me like she talks to the dog. It’s very condescending. Well deserved, but condescending. I have to keep reminding her that I walk upright.
AP: And what’s been Tami experience since then.
Jeff: Well, for one thing, she didn’t like the way she looked on camera. She, almost immediately, lost 30 pounds.
AP: So, are you working on a new diet plan?
Jeff: Yes, absolutely. Bring your life and marriage to the bring of destruction, recover it, gut yourself on national TV, and watch the camera add 10 pounds to the extra pounds you didn’t realize you already had. Genius.
AP: Of the millions of people who have seen, or will see this, I’m sure it’s had an impact.
Jeff: Oh, I think so. We get lots of email. Marriage classes show it to groups at Sunday school. That sort of thing. A lot of people get to a certain point in their relationship when they’ve had it. Something like My Heart, My Comedy can give you hope, if you’re not already more committed to getting out of the relationship. At one point in our relationship, I told Tami, you’re free and clear… if you want to give this one more shot, you need to know that while I’m trying, I’m not there yet. So if we go home, you’re in to make this work with me. Otherwise, this is your one “get out of jail free” card. So, I said, are you sure? She said, yes, let’s go home.
AP: What an amazing example for people. What kind of example were your parents to you?
Jeff: Well, my parents didn’t do a lot right, but they stuck together. Here’s how self-centered my father was. My mother waited on him hand-and-foot. At one point he decided he wanted to move to Tucson. At that time, my mother was in the hospital recovering from bunion surgery. He told her, when you get better, pack up your stuff; I’ll be in Tucson. And he left! But watch this. Later, when my mother got ovarian cancer, he waited on her hand-and-foot. Whatever she needed she got… to the point that after the funeral, I said to my father, I want to thank you for showing me the way a man’s supposed to treat his wife.
AP: Did you ever think you’d have that kind of an impact?
Jeff: Not at first. A long time ago I was watching the Tonight Show and watched this actor, I can’t remember who, talking about his drinking problem and how he turned his life around. One week later I walked into my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Since then it’s always stuck with me that people who are on camera for a living have an impact on people.
AP: What about the rest of us, not on camera?
Jeff: Well, you know, that’s a great point. For years I performed with the Gaithers, who have a large, and typically senior, following. We’d look at so many older couples who’d been together for 30, 40, 50 years and Tami would get teary eyed, and both of us would think: that’s the way it’s supposed to be. So, yeah, just the example of how you live your life is going to affect the people with whom you come into contact. And if you come into contact with someone like me who then has a transformation and makes an impact on thousands of people, you are still the source of it – I’m just the latest messenger.
Note: written by Arnold Pearson (AP) who is not affiliated with the Associated Press. He’s just some guy.
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