Photo by Justin Rodgers
“Basically, I’m just waiting for the baby boomers to retire.” Careful, 60-year-olds, Church Night’s youth minister Kathy Piechota wants to take your jobs.
Behind the witty moniker is D.C. resident Linsay Deming, who is one of the masterminds behind the popular variety show Church Night. What separates the event from most comedy/variety shows you’ve probably seen in the past is its premise-a parody church service that includes hymns, ‘praise and worship’ music from a special guest performer, and communion-otherwise known to loyal Church Night goers as a shot and a tot. The show has become so popular that Church Night moved from Wonderland Ballroom after nearly two years to the 700+ capacity Black Cat Mainstage in 2015 to continue its monthly services.
Deming, who produces and writes each of the Church Night shows with Landon Letzkus and Jeremy Frank, has been involved in comedy since her high school days in Sioux City, Iowa. “I’ve always been a goofy person who loves a good laugh,” said Deming. “I performed in lots of little sketch things in high school, did sketches with my friends in college, and did a lot of comedy videos to promote SweetBread Jim’s (her first variety show/band), but Church Night is my first large comedy project.”
After putting on The SweetBread Jim’s Potluck Spectacular in 2012, Deming was asked to host a regular variety show. Some friends suggested that she write a show with a Sunday school theme, after hearing a “campy” holiday song she performed at Capital City Showcase, and the rest was history. “All became clear to me in that moment: I would put on a variety show guised as a church service and I would play a midwestern, clueless youth minister!” Thus, the Kathy Piechota character was born.
Deming drew on her youth in Sioux City to create Kathy. “My experiences growing up in church completely inspired my character for Church Night and the show as a whole,” she said. “But first of all, I have to say that I have the best parents and I wouldn’t be doing this if they hadn’t consistently supported my passion for performance. They took us to church every Sunday and that was the first place I ever really performed on my own. I have so much affection and nostalgia for my childhood and for Iowa that in a lot of ways, I’m trying to bring that love to life with Kathy and Church Night.”
Deming has time to not only write, produce and act in Church Night, but she’s also heavily involved in the music scene. Music came before comedy for Deming, who’s been singing since she was a “wee child,” and even her SweetBread Jim’s project was more than just a variety show. “I wanted my performances to be a real show for people and that is why my [now] defunct band SweetBread Jim’s was really part band, part experimental comedy,” Deming said.
Although Church Night is only a monthly event, the amount of hours that Deming spends prepping for the show nearly equals to a full-time job.“We write brand new content for each Church Night, so that is about 60 minutes of material every four weeks,” noted Deming. “Landon, Jeremy and I spend a lot of time coming up with the theme for the show and once we have that, the ideas start flowing and we bounce them off each other until we have our outline. Then we write the meat of our individual parts mostly by ourselves. We are working on a five-episode Church Night web series, so we are writing and producing that as well.”
On the surface, Deming makes it look easy, but she stresses that it’s not all fun and games from the get-go–however, it is completely worth it. “Hey lady, if you want to perform live comedy, then find an open mic, improv group or sketch group and do it! Ignoring self doubt and the fear of rejection is the key to starting anything risky, like being a clown on stage in front of an audience,” said Deming. “The worst thing that can happen is that you suck–and you will at first, everyone does. But you can’t get better without learning from your failures and then one day you’ll be better, but even then you have to keep growing. Be a lifelong learner and try new things.”
One pertinent topic that we touched upon was society’s view of women in comedy and the evolution of their role in the space. Deming mentioned that while the perception of women in the field has evolved, there is still much more work to be done in order to close the inequality gap. “The thing is that comedy, like many professions, was a man’s world for a really long time and it took a lot of hard work for a woman to be able to hold her own in that world (RIP Lucille Ball),” said Deming. “The way I see it is that the American cultural concept of ‘funny’ was designed by men, so the whole industry has been built around those ideas. Many hilarious women offer a slightly different idea of what funny is, so it will take time for women to gain an equal presence in the field. We need more women doing comedy and more women consuming comedy.”
Church Night is hosting our three year anniversary show this Saturday, and continues to perform the second Friday of each month at Black Cat.