Going from town to town is what you do when you’re a standup comedian, at least in the early stages of your career. For comedian Geoff Tate that came naturally. Born in Inglewood, California, the son of a preacher man, Tate lived in seven different places before he was eight years old.
“Yeah, my dad was always having to switch churches,” he says. “He does this thing where he reads the Bible, and tries to figure it out, and people don’t seem to like that. They like to be told what they’ve already been told. These people go to church to have their beliefs reinforced, not challenged or inspected.”
The journey started with the Church of Christ, where Tate says they didn’t even use pianos or any kind of music. Several more denominations followed, but the elder Tate couldn’t catch on anywhere, probably due to his notions about the Bible.
“He came at it from a different direction. He wondered, ‘Why does everybody talk about the second coming? I’ve read the whole Bible and Jesus already showed up twice. The second one already happened.'”
This observation has led the younger Tate to develop a theory.
“If you’re afraid of someone, and if you respect somebody, your behavior manifests itself in the same way, which is why most people, if you’re not being afraid, say you’re being disrespectful. They don’t understand the difference between those words. So, many people say you have to fear God, but all that does is get you in line so you behave as if you respect God. Then they look like they know what they’re doing because the people they preach to are all well-behaved, but they’re afraid.”
The Tates finally settled in southwest Ohio when Geoff and his brother were in their early teens, though they still changed houses frequently. Moving around so much and being exposed to a variety of churches had an affect on Tate.
“I think it affected my view of everything,” he says, “I never thought about it in any terms other than the practical ones. Whenever I thought about living in all those places, it was just a part of my life and I’d just think, ‘I’ve seen the whole country.’”
He recently discussed that part of his life with fellow comic Emma Stone, whom he was touring with a few months back.
“She said, ‘That must have been traumatic,’ and I never thought I’d use that word in regards to that part of my life, looking back. But it definitely was. You have no friends. You move somewhere, and four months later you have friends, but then eight months later you move and you’re in a new school with no friends. It’s the worst. My brother and I were the new kids probably eight or nine times."
Today, that life experience has culminated in his latest hour of standup.
“This hour I’m doing right now is sort of what we’ve been talking about,” he explains. “If it was a one-man show I’d call it 'Losing My Religion.' Basically I’m talking about 18 years of being indoctrinated, and then spending the next 18 years trying to reconcile that, and dealing with everything I’ve been taught.”
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