On the improv circuit, comedian finds a ready audience for the gospel

After gigs in radio and professional wrestling, Dave Ebert, a graduate of Baptist-affiliated Bluefield College, found his purpose on stage.

By Chris Shoemaker

Spreading the gospel with a laugh — that’s the mission of Dave Ebert and his Christian improvisation troupe, hahahAmen.

Ebert, a 2004 graduate of Baptist-affiliated Bluefield College, founded the group with three other Christian friends in 2013 in Chicago to provide family-friendly comedy shows for events, churches and other organizations and activities.

“We love God. We love Jesus, and we love using our gifts to honor and glorify God,” said Ebert, who studied English and communications while a student at the Virginia college. “We live by the motto, ‘Our Gifts for God’s Glory.’ We are all trained, professional improvisers, who want to do more than the secular comedy that tends to be full of vulgarities.”

HahahAmen uses improvisation, skits, games, audience interaction and other forms of comedic performance to offer a message about the love of Christ. The group’s shows to date include an event hosted by an Illinois state senator and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, as well as performances for local churches, schools, charities, soup kitchens and shelters.

Bluefield WebIn addition, they now have a weekly appearance at the Comedy Shrine, a popular improve and stand-up comedy theater in suburban Chicago.

“We are hoping to travel outside Illinois and throughout the country, or beyond,” said Ebert, “to use our gifts to share our love of God and Jesus Christ. During our shows, we share testimonies, devotions or other presentations to help share the gospel or plant seeds in the hearts of those who might otherwise be closed to the Good News.”

Ebert was an amateur comedian while growing up in Pocahontas, Va., and later as a student at Bluefield, but didn’t start doing stand-up professionally until right after college, where he has been managing and sports editor for Bluefield’s student newspaper. After graduating, he began a career in radio in neighboring Bluefield, W.Va., where he became known as deejay “Big Boy Buddy Love” for Star 95-FM. During his five-year span on-air, Ebert also worked as a sports broadcaster for Star 95 and public address announcer for Bluefield College sporting events.

He left Star 95 to become sports information director for Concord University in Athens, W.Va., but then tried his hand as a child care worker for group homes in Virginia, Florida and Illinois before getting back into radio in Beckley, W.Va.

“I couldn’t make up my mind about my career path,” said Ebert, who also took part in several community theatre productions after college, “and during all the job-hopping, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with God. I never truly pursued a relationship with the Lord — kind of kept him at arm’s length, trying to do things on my own. I got married and divorced and hit some really hard times financially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”

Into the ring, then a wake up call

Still searching, Ebert got into professional wrestling, taking “Big Boy Buddy Love” into the ring in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee until 2012. But, not long after, he said he finally woke up to God’s call on his life.

“Despite my rebellion, God kept reaching out to me,” said Ebert. “Finally, I started opening up to the idea of reaching out to God. I started praying, reading the Bible for the first time, and reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. I started trying to see what my purpose was. I came to realize I was wired for and happiest when I was on a stage.”

So with an invitation from his sister to share her apartment near Chicago to help him “start over,” Ebert moved to Lombard, Ill., to start a new career in acting and improvisation. His work so far: a starring role in a 24-hour drama festival and in an episode of The Food Network’s “Mystery Diners,” as well as a performance in two 12-week runs of an improv show at the Gorilla Tango Theater in Chicago. Ebert also has appeared in three short films and four roles as an extra in NBC’s “Chicago PD,” ABC’s “Mind Games” and “Betrayal,” and an NFL Super Bowl commercial.

But his most rewarding work on stage, he admits, is the comedy he does with hahahAmen. That, he added, is just one small way he can express his gratitude to God for faithfully and patiently waiting on him to find his purpose.

“Our mission is to use our platform to help spread the gospel and plant seeds for God’s Kingdom. We want to use our talents to give those who could not otherwise afford to see a Chicago improv show a quality, fun, safe comedy act.”