Tim Ketchersid is a lawyer who was working as a campus pastor at a mid-size church in Farmer’s Branch, Texas, when he felt God nudging him toward one of the desires of his heart – serving as a stand-up comedian.
In 2018, Tim and his wife went away for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. During that time, they created a bucket list of things they wanted to do while they still had the health to do it.
“For me, one of the things that made the list was to do stand-up comedy. I wanted to be funny on purpose,” said Tim. “I was talking to a lawyer friend a few days later and we agreed to take a comedy writing class together in Dallas.”
Tim and his wife had already embraced the idea of being done with work by the time they were 65, which was five years away. He shared his plans with church leaders to develop a healthy transition from the job he had held for 16 years.
“We had actually been members of the church for 30 years and my father was the senior pastor until he stepped down from that position several years ago,” Tim explained. “We had no interest in attending church somewhere else, so we wanted to make a smooth transition and remain members of the congregation.”
He hired a coach to develop a three-year plan that took less than 18 months to achieve. Tim was able to walk away from full-time ministry work at age 61 to pursue his dream.
Seeking the stage
As soon as he shared his dream with his wife, Tim sought stages upon which to perform a stand-up routine. Fortunately, there are several comedy clubs as well as bars, restaurants and theaters hosting open mics in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. That made it possible for him to perform about 150 short three- to 10-minute routines in 2019 alone.
“Many clubs have open mic events that are just like karaoke, except people come on stage to tell jokes rather than sing songs,” Tim explained.
After spending some time on stage and discovering he truly enjoyed stand-up comedy, Tim told his wife of 40 years that he wanted to make a run at comedy as a business. Initially surprised at his decision, she is very supportive today.
After testing out some routines on various stages, Tim created a clean comedy show for a local theater. That enabled him to expand his routine from just a few minutes up to 45. He was well received by the audience, but then COVID put an end to live performances for 18 months.
“I would do comedy wherever I had an opportunity to be in front of people, whether it was at a club or business conference,” he explained. “Given my age and the style of comedy I perform, I’m a good fit for corporate audiences.”
At open mic events, sex is a frequent theme among comedians, but Tim focuses on relationships in general.
“It’s important for me to be authentic and vulnerable on stage,” he explained. “So I have jokes about being a lawyer and preacher’s kid. I make fun of going to the doctor and of my relationships with my wife and kids.
“I was on a cruise ship with a Canadian comedian who hosted a meet-and-greet for guests,” he added. “I asked how he wrote his routines, and he explained he prefers talking about things that happen to him. So, I try to adopt that approach as well.
“I read the Comedy Bible in which one of the contributors suggested keeping a notebook to write down two ‘ugh’ moments everyday about things that make you stop and say ‘ugh,’” said Tim. “Some of the best humor often comes out of negativity, such as things that make you angry, drive you crazy or are just weird, stupid, tough things going on in life.”
Some of Tim’s favorite jokes come out of observable situations because people often relate to those things happening to themselves. He is mindful of things that pick him up or irritate him throughout the day.
For example, he often tells a joke about making an appointment to see a doctor and having to fill out a bunch of forms online. Then, when he arrives at the doctor’s office, someone hands him a stack of the exact same forms to fill out again.
“People can relate to that because they’re experiencing the same crazy themselves,” Tim noted.
Performing comedy routines is much different from preaching on Sunday mornings. Often, the lights shining on a comedy stage are right in Tim’s eyes, which makes it difficult to see people and notice if they connect to his jokes. That’s not the case at church, where he can look around a room and make eye contact with many people.
“When I am at church, I am not trying to win approval or create a friendly relationship with the audience. I feel like I already have that,” said Tim. “As a comic, when I get on stage, sometimes it doesn’t feel like a safe place to be communicating with people.
“I want to give people a reason to laugh. But, sometimes, I get in a space where it’s really challenging to do that,” he explained. “There are times I connect with the audience and everything just clicks. There are other days when I’m convinced people insist on not laughing.”
Avoiding negative attention
One of Tim’s goals is to be funny on purpose. He usually knows what he wants to say to generate laughs before he gets on stage. But, he must be mindful about drawing negative attention to his church congregation in the process.
“I would frequently submit materials to the senior pastor and executive pastor outlining what I wanted to talk about on a comedy stage,” he explained. “I told them I didn’t want to create any problems for the church. So, if they heard something I thought was funny, but it really wasn’t, then I relied on them to tell me so I could keep it out of my routine.”
That meant that Tim didn’t often ad lib his routines with off-the-cuff remarks.
“I wanted my material to be repeatable so I could take it just about anywhere and get people to laugh,” he explained. “Off-the-cuff content depends on the moment to be funny. It requires more risk. I want to know for sure what I am going to say and do.”
Preaching on Sundays made Tim comfortable in front of crowds. But, comedy requires different skills, especially when it comes to timing the right words at the right time.
Some colleges now offer degree plans in comedy, but Tim’s training centered on comedy writing classes. They were short and sweet courses with a continuing education vibe rather than a formal classroom experience.
“Anyone can write a song with no formal training. But, at some point, training is needed to present the song in a way people expect to hear it. Comedy is no different,” said Tim. “I watch people who had no training in comedy and I think, ‘That’s not very funny.’ But, they could make it funny with extra training.”
Tim attended courses and sought coaching from well-known comedians in Dallas, Nashville and even Los Angeles.
“People don’t need training to be funny,” he explained. “But if you hope to make money doing stand-up comedy, it sure helps. It requires training and lots of repetition.”
Comedians often pay booking services to help secure gigs, or performances. Tim pays a subscription fee to have a profile on several sites where people can go shopping for an entertainer. Then, when someone books Tim for a gig on that site, he pays a small fee to the service as well.
To really break into the industry as a master comedian, Tim would have to spend more time in New York and Los Angeles, which is something he is hesitant to do.
“I watched Steve Martin’s MasterClass on comedy. Steve said if you’re going to be discovered, then you have to be within ‘eyeshot’ of people making booking decisions,” Tim explained. “On the local level, I can go to a club and ask for time on stage. Like most comedians, I don’t have an agent or a manager. It’s all pretty much self-help in finding decision-makers and building relationships with them.”
When starting out, Tim would often arrive at clubs without a clear plan in mind about what to say on stage. He would simply listen to other comedians and make a decision about what jokes he would perform from his repertoire.
“If I were to start over, I would go into clubs with specific routines that I had practiced and polished,” he explained. “What everyone else was doing would be irrelevant. I would be ready to do my thing and just wait to be given permission to go on stage.”
While other people are often scared to death to speak in front of others, Tim truly enjoys performing on stage in front of an audience.
“As with anything you want to do, if it is part of your calling, then you just need to do it,” said Tim. “You’ll probably mess up a bit when you’re trying to figure it out, but you’ll still enjoy doing at it. You’ll get better and people will notice.
“With regard to stand-up comedy, I feel I am pretty good at it. I am funny and I can make people laugh,” he added. “People notice that I enjoy doing what I’m doing.”
Committed to a purpose
“I remember struggling with who am I and what am I going to do with my life,” Tim explained. “My father knew right out of high school that he wanted to be a pastor. He died a few months ago, but was still going into his church every day at age 86.”
Tim admits he never had that type of clarity when it came to a career path for him. In fact, he thinks that for most people, the idea of a lifelong calling is a myth.
“I think it boils down to finding something you enjoy doing and staying committed to it. Your calling or purpose can change multiple times over the course of a lifetime,” he explained. “I feel very good about where I am today, but I also felt the same way about where I was 15 years ago.
“I feel making people laugh is where I need to be right now until the Lord calls me to do something else, which would be fine, too,” said Tim.
Making a transition
A few years ago, it was clear to Tim that he needed to make a career change. His coach at the time recommended the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.
“A transition is different from a change. A transition begins with something coming to an end,” said Tim. “I realized that my work at the church was coming to an end and I had no interest in trying to revive it.
“When you sense something is coming to an end, then you can be okay with that and start looking for what’s next,” he explained. “A transition doesn’t signal that your purpose in life is coming to an end. Rather, it’s going in a different direction.”
Tim tells a joke about a man meeting with his financial planner to talk about retirement. The planner encourages his client to stop at Walmart on the way home to get fitted for a blue vest because he will likely be spending some time as a greeter. Rather than greeting shoppers, Tim’s goal is to build his comedy business to a point it can become a significant source of income.
“I have some modest goals around income for it,” he explained. “Right now we aren’t relying on my business to put bread on the table. But, I would love it if, within the next three years, it could grow sufficiently enough to maintain the lifestyle my wife and I want to live.”
Tim considers himself retired already, but that doesn’t mean he lacks purpose for his life.
“I am only going to do what I want to do, when I want to do it,” he explained. “I will still serve legal clients I have had for years. But, I am not going to open an office and bill 2,000 hours this year. That’s a heavy type of work. I’d rather spend 2,000 hours trying to build a stand-up comedy business.”
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.