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Faith-based comedian Ken Davis hopes to inspire audiences

May 3, 2015 Updated: May 4, 2015 at 10:06 am
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photo - Ken Davis is a comedian and inspirational speaker who'll perform at Village Seven Presbyterian Church on Friday. Courtesy Ken Davis.
Ken Davis is a comedian and inspirational speaker who'll perform at Village Seven Presbyterian Church on Friday. Courtesy Ken Davis. 

Ken Davis' side of the conversation is peppered with one-liners.

There's the one about getting into comedy as soon as the doctor slapped his bare bum in the delivery room and said, "It's a boy." Then there's the self-deprecating one about how he used to look like a walking manatee. Only that one stems from a real issue - one that helped turn around his life.

Nearly a decade ago, the 69-year-old comedian and motivational speaker - who will perform Friday at Village Seven Presbyterian Church - believed he was living a charmed life. He'd written nearly a dozen books, made hundreds of appearances, taught professional speaking and enjoyed a decades-long marriage, two daughters and six grandchildren. But following a scary incident involving a lost granddaughter on a camping trip in Colorado, and a candid, unflattering photo (hence the manatee reference), he finally admitted to the depression that had gained a secret stranglehold.

"I forgot the fact that my career was not the focus," he said. "I started leaning on a lot of stuff and stopped taking risks because I was getting 'older.' I stopped taking care of myself. I was 50 to 60 pounds overweight, and I saw a photo of myself taken from behind. You just don't want to have people taking pictures from behind. I was losing my focus - my spiritual and mental focus."

After accepting the depression, he turned it into a chance to dig deep and work on himself. He began to exercise and find new ways to challenge himself.

"You have to have a reason for living in the first place that's bigger than just getting a paycheck or finishing whatever's coming down on your assembly line," he said. "At this stage of life, I realize I don't have to get bigger and better at what I've been doing. I have to get better at doing me. Me is a special creation."

At age 65, he wrote "Fully Alive," detailing his journey from depression and poor health to the man he is today - a triathlete and founder of Launch Conference, a program that helps people discover their passions and transform them into marketable products.

With entertainment, Davis discovered what lit his fire early in life and rolled with it. One of his early memories is standing in front of a giant console radio and hooting and stamping his feet in pure joy while listening to Jack Benny and "Amos 'n' Andy." But it wasn't until a high school teacher spotted his talent for combining speech and humor that a path started to take shape.

"I had inappropriately used anger in English one time and the teacher made me stay after class," he said. "My parents had to come and get me. Back then, they didn't have to bring their lawyer. Rather than expelling me, she made me go out for speech and humorous interpretation."

After high school, Davis studied to be a minister at Oak Hills Christian College in Minnesota. At the same time, the number of requests for his charismatic, humorous and faith-based presentations kept growing, and he couldn't ignore the calling. He tried stand-up comedy in nightclubs, but the lifestyle never fit and he created his own program - what he describes as "a combination of inspiration and laughter that won't cause people to need medical attention and creates some kind of impact on their life, that could better their lives the day after. I wanted to do more than just make people laugh."

Even today he's still reluctant to choose sides, and calls himself both a comedian and a motivational speaker. "I'm a Christian and I'm a believer, but I don't do church comedy," he said. "I do comedy about people and mix that in with life-changing content that will inspire people."

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