SHAWNEE — A gospel singer-songwriter known for his quirky blend of humor as well as his music will visit the Oklahoma City metro area in December.
The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma is sponsoring “Mark Lowry: Unplugged and Unplanned” on Dec. 13 at Oklahoma Baptist University, 500 W University.
After graduating from college with a youth ministry degree, Lowry began performing at independent Baptist churches nationwide. He is perhaps best known for his performances with the Gaither Vocal Band. His comedic flair on stage with Bill Gaither was an instant hit with vocal band audiences over the years, and his comedy has become a hallmark of the popular Gaither Homecoming tour. He is particularly known as the writer of the beloved Christmas classic “Mary Did You Know?”
In a recent telephone interview, Lowry, 54, often in his own tongue-in-cheek manner, discussed his career of making sweet gospel music and hilarious comedy:
Q: You didn’t necessarily start out as a comedian. What was your first career choice and how did you end up doing comedy?
A: I still don’t consider myself a comedian, really. I think of someone like Seinfeld when I think of a comedian. I started out as a singer and I had to do something in between the songs, so I started telling stories. I was raised in independent Baptist churches, and that’s where I honed my craft. Back in those days, in independent Baptist churches, you couldn’t even have a drum set. No drums, no tambourines. They’d have a piano and an organ and a hymnal. They wouldn’t clap because that would be giving praise to men. They would say “Amen.” They wouldn’t shout or say “Praise the Lord!” because they were afraid someone might think they were doing it in another language because they didn’t speak in tongues.
But they would laugh, so I knew they were listening. And then when I joined the Gaithers ... it really became humor for humor’s sake. At my concerts, all the humor is actually going somewhere. I tell stories and it ends up having a moral. I never say what the moral is, I just hope that the story explains that.
Q: I’ve been to see a “Gaither Homecoming” concert, and you and Bill Gaither are hilarious together. How did that funny banter come about?
A: Now, with Gaither, when I first joined him, I would do monologues and stories that I had done in my solo concerts, and he would sit on the piano bench and interrupt me and throw me off. Then banter became part of it — I started sassing him back. I became like the perpetual 10-year-old on the stage interrupting him all the time. It really was me, I was trying to get him to hush, but then I realized, and he did too, that we were on to something.
So, every good thing that I’ve done, I’ve basically backed into. I never set out to be a comedian. I had to do something while the little old men in the back of the church changed the (sound) tracks.
Q: Where do you get your material for your comedy?
A: I broke my leg riding a motorcycle, and that became a story. My dysfunctional childhood became a story. It’s all from observing life. I try to keep my eyes open. I remember as I was going down on that motorcycle saying, “Stay awake! Stay awake! Don’t miss this,” because I knew something important was about to happen, and I wanted to watch it. I didn’t want to go unconscious and miss it. I hit my head on the pavement, and I had two stitches on my head and shattered my leg. For a year, I did concerts in a motorized wheelchair. I asked the Lord, “Can I please have some material that doesn’t hurt?” I nearly wheeled off the stage a few times. It was an experience.
Q: What is your next project?
A: We’re (Bill Gaither and Gaither Vocal Band) doing a video and we’re trying to come up with stuff for that. The older I get, the harder it gets. I was with them for 13 years and I left and came back. That first year back, we went to Europe. I said, “Bill, what are you doing?” He said, “I didn’t think I’d get back to these places.” I said “Well, your bucket list is killing me.”
Q: What can you tell me about the “Unplugged & Unplanned” event?
A: Basically, I tell people to expect the unexpected. I don’t have a program. If I wrote out a program, I’d forget where I put it. I get up there and I decide what the first song will be and I know what the last song will be — “Mary Did You Know.” That’s the song I’m known for.
People want to hear that, and so I always end with that, but I never know how we’re going to get there. Every night is different.