Michael Jr. is often called a "Christian comedian." But when he's on stage, being a comedian comes first.
"I'm a comedian," he said in a phone interview from his Dallas home "I'm not a preacher. I'm here to make you laugh, not deliver a message."
He'll be performing on Sunday at the First Church of the Nazarene in Bradenton.
But if you've seen his act on TV, you won't notice much difference between act and the one he does in churches.
"When I write, I write for the entire audience," he said. "I do the same act whether I'm playing in a church or in a club or on Jay Leno."
That doesn't mean that he doesn't talk about religion or Jesus. He has one well-known bit about James, Jesus' younger brother. James has a hard time because people are always asking why he can't be more like Jesus. At weddings, they expect him to turn water into wine.
"But he was just James," Michael Jr. says. "He wasn't James Christ."
It's a joke, he says, that resonates with Christians and non-Christians alike.
"It's really a joke about a little brother," he said. "And if you're going to do a joke about how hard it for a little brother to live up to his big brother, you might go for the best big brother possible."
One thing that helps make his Christian-themed comedy universally appealing, he said is that he came to Christianity relatively late in life.
"I didn't really grow up Christian," he said. "I was from a good, loving family, but we didn't go to church. I became a Christian after I became a comedian. I had already been doing stand-up for several years."
So he already had a comic's mindset when he read the Bible and learned that Jesus had a younger brother. A lot of people learned that in childhood and never gave it much thought. To Michael Jr. it was eye-opening.
In another bit, he talks about one of his early church experiences, when a preacher told people to pray with their neighbors.
"I thought 'My neighbor's not here. Does my neighbor go this church? What am I supposed to do, call him?' " he said. "I didn't know my neighbor was the lady next to me."
But no matter what kind of venue he plays, he sees something of a religious experience in making people laugh.
"Comedy bonds people," he said. "When you laugh with people you feel closer to them. You know instantly that you have something in common with them."
Besides giving his audiences a communal experience, Michael Jr. likes to work with community organizations wherever he performs. In Bradenton, he'll visit the Manatee County Red Shield Shelter to perform a private comedy show for the men and women who are living in the shelter for the homeless.
Details: 6 p.m. Aug. 18, First Church of the Nazarene, 1616 59th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $20. Information: 800-481-2761, www.michaeljr.com.