Chonda Pierce doesn't approach comedy the way a lot of her fellow stand-ups do -- for one thing there's no anger in her family-friendly approach. It's working. Pierce -- the top certified female comedian in RIAA history -- has eight gold and three platinum DVD collections to her credit, and has just completed her newest project -- filmed in June at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
"For one, it turned out to be a sweet tribute to my mom, who passed away this year," she tells Billboard. "It also was recorded in my hometown of Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium, which is such a sweet and magical place."
Having worked to perfect her craft for years, Pierce feels she has gotten better with time. "After an amount of time, you tend to get comfortable in your own skin. I think my material is funnier than it's ever been. I'm more relaxed about who I am and what I do, and it just seemed like everything came together." She's also elated over a new production partnership for her DVD's. "It's also my first endeavor with Image Pictures, who are a fantastic group of people."
Pierce feels there is a market for those who can identify with her brand of humor. "It does speak well for those who are looking for an alternative in comedy. I think the formula that I have found works for my demographic and my group of fans. When you get an award for selling so many DVD's, it really needs to go to the people who bought them. I'm very humbled by it, but as my husband puts it, my concerts and DVD's are like a 'rolling chick flick," she says. "We laugh a little bit, we tear up, we have music, there's just a variety of emotion, and I think that's what sells. I love the authenticity of just being me, the stories I have, and the life that I have lived. It's all very honest and open. I've told the best and the worst about myself. I don't need a shrink, I just show them my DVD's."
As for her approach, she says that you have to talk about what you are familiar with, and for her – that was a church pew on Sunday morning. "I grew up in the Bible Belt, and comedy always starts out with what it is that you know. People will say 'Now, you don't cuss.' Well, I remember the taste of ivory soap. That's something you don't forget," she says, smiling.
"It's not that I was trying to make a moral stance," she says, but also allows that growing up in the church has made her who she is. "However, my faith and my moral standards are also going to flow over into my craft. You don't take your faithful hat off to go to work, it stays on all the time," she admits, while saying that her comedy has definitely evolved. "Where I started out with church humor, after 15-20 years, the topics are kids, menopause, and that hairy husband you're married to."
Her inspiration for her material? None other than a comedy legend. "I fell in love with Minnie Pearl. That's how I got interested in comedy through impersonating her for six years. I saw her work on the Opry, and mesmerize a crowd. She kept it clean, and the joke was always on someone else – an imaginary person she conjured up in her imaginative mind. The characters of Grinders Switch, TN had many flavors of people that she knew. She always used to say 'Love them, and they will love you back.' I think it was about the authenticity of her craft and demeanor."
In addition to the new DVD, Pierce will also be the subject of an upcoming documentary about her unique brand of humor. She hopes it helps to spread the word about her successful career. "Everyone wants to be appreciated for what they love to do. I'm not necessarily aiming to be a household name, but I've still got a little love to collect out there!"