COMEDY QUEEN: Angie Le Mar
TWO YEARS ago, when Angie Le Mar was approached by The Voice’s Soul Stirrings editor Marcia Dixon about performing stand-up in the church, she thought her friend had lost her mind.
But after taking a leap of faith into the unknown territory, Le Mar has been joyfully entertaining Christian audiences in churches up and down the UK.
It may have come as a surprise both for her and her fans, but it was something Le Mar says her mum had predicted all along.
“My mum is a hardcore Christian,” explains the funnywoman, often dubbed the UK’s ‘first lady’ of comedy. “When I was younger, she used to say ‘you’re going to do comedy in the church one day’ and I used to just look at her and think ‘yeaaah right’.
“And then Marcia called me and she said that she had a strong feeling that I could do some work in the church. So we set up a meeting, but I kept thinking ‘how am I going to get out of this?’ because I knew the church that I grew up in wasn’t ready for stand-up comedy. But she said to me ‘just give it a go’.
The decision paid off for the award-winning comedian and playwright, who once presented the popular Saturday morning show on Choice FM. And having grown up in the church, Le Mar says that performing in front of Christian audiences is like a homecoming.
“Doing comedy in church – it’s almost like going home, because you’re talking about a life that you know. You’ve come back and you can talk about your experiences growing up. When I was doing stand-up back in the day, that experience wasn’t necessarily a part of my set.
“There’s material that I wouldn’t use now because it’s just not where my head is at anymore. Funny is funny but there’s a line that I might not cross anymore.”
Le Mar recalls preparing for her first stand-up show after a 10-year hiatus: “I remember saying to God on the night of the show: ‘God, if this is really where you see me going, I need to see a serious sign of wonder. I need to see it packed, I need to see an overflow. I need to see standing-room only like it used to be back in the day and spare chairs coming out for people to sit wherever’.”
“And then Marcia came out on the opening night and she said, ‘It’s packed out there. It’s really, really full and we’ve had to bring out extra chairs!’ I just couldn’t believe it.”
She adds: “When I went out, they all screamed and cheered and I felt like I was truly home.”
It seems like a sense of “home” is what Le Mar had been seeking for some time. Having previously hit “rock bottom” after a series of “difficult” events, including severe depression, serious illness and career disappointments, Le Mar found herself crying floods of tears.
“I had some difficult times in my life,” says the comedian, who turned 50 last month. “Life has been up and down. One particular thing happened and it crushed me in a way. I did a show [In My Shoes] and it didn’t do well and someone was trying to take me to court. I just felt like, I’m tired of this game. I’m tired of the disappointment, I’m tired of the treachery.
“That went on for a while until I hit rock bottom and I remember crying – I mean really crying. I was just weeping and weeping.”
She recalls making one desperate phone call to her mum in Jamaica when it all got too much. Her mother’s response was simple: “Go to church.” And that’s precisely what Le Mar did.
“I went to church the next day and that was the day I said to God: ‘I’m ready’.”
Following her recommitment to Christ, Le Mar will entertain members of the E5 City Church in Bristol next month, delivering a funny, yet inspirational presentation of life during her next big stand-up show, Full Circle: It’s Time for a Belly Laugh.
The audience will also be entertained by gospel reggae artist Lytie, dubbed the smooth man of gospel.
“Coming full circle means I’m back in the church, but as a different person. This time, I’m having a relationship with God. Before, it was like, ‘God is this, God is that, God’s going to strike you down’, which is just going to make you run out the church. So I’m back in the church in a different way. I’m back in the church because I want a relationship with Him.”
Angie Le Mar’s Full Circle takes place at E5 City Church, 3-15 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft, Bristol BS2 on December 5. For more information, visit www.s2sgospel.com