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Meredith Hopping Finds New Path During Four Minutes Of Faith

Meredith Hopping performs her stand-up at Nightshop Friday night.
Doug Morris
Meredith Hopping performs her stand-up at Nightshop Friday night.

Normal Community High School alum Meredith Hopping says stand-up comedy made the cut ... when the ISU theatre grad drew up a Top 30 list of things she'd like to accomplish as she was turning 30.

She told WGLT via Skype from her St. Louis home that stand-up made the list because friends noticed her funny nature and kept encouraging her to try comedy. She took the leap three years later.

“I was suffering from severe post-partum depression,” said Hopping. “I have three amazing children ages 9, 6, and 3. Also … Trump got elected and I was feeling pretty powerless. So, I did it because here’s something that’s tangible where the outcome is purely on me.  If people don’t laugh, there’s no one to blame but myself.”

She had what she described as an “amazing first experience.” It was a four-minute stint at The Funny Bone in St. Louis during her “Jesus year.”

“Since I was 33, which is the same year we acknowledge Jesus did most of his ministry and was crucified,” chuckled the daughter, granddaughter and ex-wife of pastors in the United Methodist Church, adding her faith and the funny things that come from that helps inform her stand-up.

“I feel it’s such a privilege because with me and my faith I get to acknowledge the faults with it and acknowledge that I’m still human. It’s been amazing how much people have been able to relate to that and how much they appreciate that.”

Not unlike comic and "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert, who also touts his Catholic faith in public, warts and all.

“I feel it’s important to see, oh my goodness that someone who claims to follow Christ and wants to be a Christian and they’re standing up there and being honest about struggles that having, and it’s hilarious. But part of the reason it’s hilarious because it’s just real. So, when we start to be honest with each other, that’s when the beauty of the laughter come in. It’s such a privilege to be able to share in such a vulnerable way with people,” said Hopping.

She did get the side-eye from members of her congregation for both being in comedy and for some of the content of her stand-up. But Hopping emphasized that she’s a “clean” comic, eschewing profanity including even the mild “s-word.”

“I tried to use that word in one of my sets about pooping while giving birth because all the comedians around me would curse, and I figured that was something I needed to do,” said Hopping. “It just sounded so stupid because it wasn’t me.”

Though considered a “clean” comic, she dives head-first into topics including giving birth and what it’s like to be pregnant.

“I was a virgin when I got married and I lost my virginity at the Radisson Hotel suite in Normal,” she laughed. “I speak very openly about things that everyone experiences but nobody wants to bring out into the open. So that was hard for some people (in my church).”

She’s also not shy about expressing her disdain with friends and acquaintances in her faith who justify their support for the current president. She acknowledged her privilege as a heterosexual white woman allowed her to avoid direct effects of Trump’s rhetoric.

“Things I think are very clear-cut about what a follower of Christ is supposed to live like, and what we are supposed to value in caring and respecting one another. For me as a Christian, that’s kind of the whole point. I’ve been given this life in order to bless and help others. So, my security doesn’t come from anything I’m going to get materialistically, or from the government, or as a U.S. citizen,” said Hopping.

She also feels that despite reporting that Donald Trump became president partially because of strong support of Evangelicals, there is a large, silent contingent of those in her faith who feel otherwise.

“It’s not the vocal majority or most salacious and what is going to get in the media,” explained Hopping, noting the killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson that prompted racist comments from friends and family was a reckoning for her. “While I was surprised Trump was elected … again, my privilege … all of my African American friends were like ‘ok, we knew this was going to happen.’  

Hopping is very open about her politics and how it intersects with her faith, but she emphasized that these feelings are not a major part of her stand-up sets. And she said her comedy has given her a place outside the church … a place where she wasn’t known as a pastor’s daughter, granddaughter or ex-wife.

“It’s about me telling my story, being myself in this place. So it brought about some changes in my life that ultimately are wonderful and paving this path to an amazing future. I truly believe this is my calling.”

She recalled confirmation hitting her while opening for a national act in St. Louis.

“I remember standing on stage asking myself, ‘Why am I not nervous?’” recalled Hopping. “And just going through my head repeatedly was the Joan of Arc quote ‘I am not afraid for I was born to do this.’”

Meredith Hopping brings her stand-up routine back to the Twin Cities with an appearance Friday night at Nightshop.

The full interview with Meredith Hopping.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.