Originally published in the Medicine Hat News
Going from pastor to comedian is quite the professional leap.
That’s the career trajectory of local comic and reigning Mad Hatter Comedy Club roast battle champion Troy Patterson, but he says the two career paths aren’t as different as you’d imagine.
“What I love about comedy isn’t any different than what I loved about the church – I get to address the issues but there’s no walls. There’s no boundaries I have to stay within. There’s no words I can’t say,” Patterson, 42, told the News.
“I still get my congregation every week. I still get my microphone and platform. I still get to tell a sermon.”
Religion is the family business for Patterson. His father and both grandfathers were pastors, and one of his great grandfathers taught Sunday school.
“To be that bright, shining star for my dad, I felt I had to go into the ministry,” he said, adding that religion is a subject he generally doesn’t broach with his family, with whom he’s on good terms, since leaving the church.
Patterson, who works by day as a house painter, began preparing to be a pastor when he was 16, a year after he gave his first sermon.
He describes his younger years as being the leader of a “tongue-talking devil-casting … hardcore evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic movement.”
By 2012, he began having his doubts and started a three-year “deconstruction process.”
He began visiting other houses of worship – mosques and Catholic churches – and realized all religions fulfil the same social purpose.
“You see that in every religion. There’s some guy there who’s trying to represent love and peace,” said Patterson. “The other guy’s just selling religion. It’s the same people. It doesn’t matter what religion.”
If there’s a specific event that spurred his loss of faith, it was his divorce in 2007 and ensuing “spiritual abuse” he received from fellow congregants at his church in Calgary, who questioned his commitment to the faith.
“It was cold and when you go through a divorce, you don’t want cold. You want warmth,” Patterson said, adding that his ex-wife also left the church. “You don’t want all that extra guilt and shame.”
But, he adds, it wasn’t all dark and grey.
“The people that hurt me the most after my divorce were Christians, but also the people who helped me the most were Christians,” said Patterson.
He took the stage for the first time at a Calgary club in 2009, but moved back to the Hat – where he was born and raised – a couple years later.
In October 2014, after hitting the stage maybe six times since his debut, Patterson showed up to an open-mic night in Redcliff hosted by Stephanie Foley, who opened the Mad Hatter downtown last year, which is how he got his foot in the door of the local comedy scene.
“I had been writing in secret,” he said. “I had two chalk boards in my kitchen and that took up most of the walls, and I would sit there and write jokes. I loved writing jokes, (but) I was nervous about performing.”
He says comedy is like therapy for him.
“Pain keeps me on that stage,” said Patterson. “On the one hand, I am trying to make you laugh, but on the other hand I am in pain and I want that pain to be seen and validated by others.
“When I look inside myself I feel a deep sense of rejection and I feel lost. So making other people laugh, in turn, makes me feel accepted and found.”
Besides its therapeutic value, he also sees comedy as a sort of rebellion against his religious upbringing.
“If you were raised in the church, nothing’s more exciting than getting up on a comedy stage on talking about your dick.”