Comedian Bob Smiley is set to appear at the Dodge City Civic Center this weekend, with a show scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13.
Smiley, billed as a clean, Christian comedian, is being presented by the First Christian Church.
Smiley got his start in comedy when he entered a stand-up competition at the student union of his college. The prize was $500, which would cover almost five months' rent at his modest efficiency apartment.
Smiley's competition was one other guy — a grown man in a sombrero with no act, according to Smiley's website.
Smiley won the competition and also won a sort of instant fan club.
Later, Smiley worked as a merchandise manager and emcee for bands like Newsboys, Third Day and Mercy Me.
Those tours led to more exposure and improvements in Smiley's material and timing.
Soon church youth leaders were asking him to entertain their sugar-high youth groups. Keeping the interest of those young audiences led Smiley to perfect a machine gun delivery that is his trademark today.
Call him a Christian comedian or a clean comedian, it all makes for hilarious family entertainment.
Smiley, who has been touring with popular Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, has nearly 30 tour dates booked between now and the middle of May — from Florida and Connecticut to California and Washington state.
The venues range from the Meltdown Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. to the Bass Pro Shop White River Conference in Springfield, Mo.
The Globe spoke with Smiley Tuesday afternoon by phone and he talked about his busy schedule.
"We just added three more dates this afternoon, so I guess I'll be able to keep up my collection of hotel shampoos," he said.
Smiley finished his 2012 schedule in mid-December and took a three week Christmas break on a cruise with his extended family.
"There were three comics on the ship, and one of them really struggled trying to get through his 'clean' show. That was grueling to watch. There was a couple there who had seen me perform and after the show they told me it was all they could do not to yell out 'Let this guy get up there and really entertain everybody!'" he said.
So the cruise not only made Smiley anxious to get back up on stage in front of an audience, it also gave him a lot of new material.
"I'm chompin' at the bit to get to Dodge City — it's my first show this year — and I've got some new bits to try out there about the cruise."
Smiley says he'll talk about "weird" things that happened on the ship such as times he mistakenly thought someone was waving at him because they recognized him only to find out they weren't.
Page 2 of 2 - "I always talk a lot about my family – my wife and kids. And I have some thoughts about the Olympics — kind of my wish list of events they'd have," he said.
Smiley is hoping to see a lot of Dodge City families at the show.
"You know, lately there hasn't been a lot to laugh at, with the holidays and all, so I hope people come to the show and we'll laugh together," he said.
For the community
Smiley's Dodge City appearance is sponsored by First Christian Church.
Richard Crockett, associate minister, said the church wants to interact with the community and not be isolated.
"We've sponsored some large events like the Bethlehem tours over the past few years and we decided to push it back to January this year to give our members a chance to relax and not feel so pressured during the Christmas season," Crockett said in an interview at the church Tuesday.
The church's Bethlehem tours required the work of over 200 volunteers and were enjoyed by up to 3,000 people.
They chose Bob Smiley from recommendations made by other churches and after viewing tapes of his act. The fact that Smiley has been touring with Christian comedian Tim Hawkins also helped.
"This is not a fundraiser for us," Crockett said. "We just hope to see about 1,500 people at the Civic Center to enjoy a good show. We think of it as something we can do for the community."
Tickets for the show are $5 general admission. Tickets are available at First Christian Church at the corner of Third and Spruce. Tickets will also be available at the door on the day of the show.