“When I was a kid, only Batman had a cell phone. He had a car phone. Man, can you imagine having a car phone? But technology has not altered our lives, other than perhaps how we go about them. We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice – do I make the world better today somehow or do I not bother?” (Tom Hanks)

Michael Jr. is a well-known comedian and actor. His entry into comedy was almost preordained. Years ago in a crowded Grand Rapids, Michigan movie theatre, the projector malfunctioned. The film snapped, the house lights came on and, acting on a dare, young Michael jumped in front of the restless crowd and took centre stage. When the theatre manager tried to usher him out, the audience demanded he stay… and Michael Jr. discovered his gift.

Exceptionally gifted at combining story with thought-provoking life principles, Michael Jr. exhibits what it means to be a comedic thought leader. Using comedy and dynamic storytelling, he brings laughter and encouragement to audiences all over the world as he inspires audiences to discover and activate their purpose. This unique skill set has landed him on stages like The Tonight Show on NBC, Tedx Talks, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. You can find him in Sony Pictures’ feature film War Room, as well as starring roles in Selfie Dad, Laughing On Purpose and More Than Funny.

A joke has two main phases – the set-up and the punchline. The set-up takes the audience on a journey. The journey is developed when a comedian uses his talents and resources to get the audience to think in one direction. The punchline occurs, but that direction has changed in a way the audience is not expecting. The results are a revelation that is filled with joy. A key moment in Michael’s experience was when he realised that many people, including himself, spent all their energy on the “set-up” stage (getting stuff – degrees, houses, cars, etc.) and never get to the “punch-line” (finding one’s purpose and acting on the contribution that one should make). That specific night, after many nights performing in the same theatre, he walked out the stage back door and noticed a homeless man sitting in a doorway. The homeless man slept there every night, but Michael had just not seen him before – his focus had been on himself, not on others, apart from his audiences. This revelation caused him to re-evaluate his personal “punchline” and start exercising comedy with a conscience.

Real growth takes place when one moves from the place of accumulation to giving it all away – offering yourself for the benefit of others and meeting real needs. As Michael Jr. notes: “People think that they’re here to measure their worth in finances or in receiving gifts and attributes from other people or getting pats on the back. The truth is that your worth is really about how much you can help someone else and how much you really understand that God has made you for a purpose”.

So, what’s your punchline? Like a punchline, we are called on to “deliver” – to move from being part of the audience in life to contribute in meaningful ways. Harry Emerson Fosdick (On Being a Real Person) summarises: “In all strong characters, when one listens behind the scenes, one hears echoes of strife and contention. Nevertheless, far from being at loose ends within themselves, such persons have organised their lives around some supreme values and achieved a powerful concentration of purpose and drive”.

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