Comedian Anita Renfroe talked with Christian Retailing about her DVD Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea, releasing in July 2010 from Blue Bonnet Hills and Word Distribution.
Where does the title to your new DVD, Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea, come from?
"Well, believe it or not, on the cover if you'll notice, there's a big door that we saw on a restaurant down in South Florida. (It) had this big door on it that had sweet iced tea, which is one of our favorite things as southerners, to be honest. We just think it's just the sweetest elixir that God did not make that man thought up. So we are quite big on sweet tea and we have all kinds of rules around our house about how it has to be made. The water has to be hot, melt the sugar, and you have to have five of the big tea bags to make a gallon-you know there are rules and it's quite involved.
"So we came home from that trip to Florida and I found an old door at a salvage shop, and I tried to recreate that door from down there. It's been sitting alternately in my studio in the basement and then out on our back porch for quite a while. So we were trying to think of a title for the DVD and we were thinking, ‘Well, what's really important to our family?' And, of course, our core value is sweet tea. So we went and took a picture with the door that I painted 10 years ago, which is kind of hilarious in that it's like complete arts and crafts in that I wrote the song for ukulele, which is the opening song for the DVD. Then I actually painted the door myself, so it feels quite organic.
"And by the way, one of the most important things to a southerner's heart is the quality of sweet tea. When we go up north and order tea and then the waitress is trying to say, ‘Well, you can sweeten in the glass.' All southerners really want to get up and stand on the table and yell, ‘No, you can't!' We're kind of picky.
"I think on all my other DVD projects I've come out with some big woo-hoo song and so this time I thought we'd just rock the ukulele. It's a little bit different."
You're quite musically talented.
"Well now, see that depends on whose company you mention that in. If you mention that in the company of people who are nominal singers, well yes, of course. If you mention it in the company of TobyMac or Mandisa, uh no, actually I'm not legit at all. I sing just well enough to get across the comedy songs and I'm very happy to be able to blend two of my passions, which are music and comedy together for something we call estrogen-flavored comedy."
So it was filmed in a historic theater?
"Yeah, it was right outside of Marietta, Ga., in a really tiny town called Acworth; it's a suburb of a suburb. ... So I love to tape when I do my DVD projects in the Atlanta area because quite frankly I just love to sleep in my own bed the night before. It makes me feel more rested. In order to combat the looks of fatigue with makeup application, it's way better if I stay home. So we found the Strand Theatre that's actually been in Marietta for about 70 years now and it just recently went under renovation. But it seats 600 people and it's got that funky theater flavor. We certainly enjoyed the intimacy of a historic venue."
What do your fans have to look forward to on this DVD?
"Lots of new comedy. We try to come up with stuff and quite frankly it's all from my life. The great thing about real life and your comedy coming from real life is that there's constantly a wealth of new material. Your point of view isn't going to change all that much, but the things that keep happening to you continually provide great fodder for comedy, so this time there's stuff about secrets of Miss America. I watched a documentary on that and it was so hilarious."
Why don't we have world peace yet?
"I don't know. Apparently all these beautiful women want it, so they must not be as powerful as they think if we can't come up with it. But the fact that they are using WD-40 and something called Firm Grip, like I said on the video, sure, they may look beautiful when they are up there waving, but they probably smell like the service bay at a Jiffy Lube if you get up close enough to sniff ‘em, so lots of comedy about that.
"I'm a grandmother, so there is stuff on there about that. A couple new parodies that I think people are going to enjoy-we have a couple out there already going viral and I think that's going to be great support for the project ahead of time. For comics, that's pretty much the same thing as having a cut on the radio, if you have a viral video. That's the only way we know how to do what we do. There's a Beyoncé parody called ‘Wrinkled Ladies.' ... Also there's one Taylor Swift (parody), you know she had the song ‘Love Story,' which I just saw the other day was supposed to be song of the year, so apparently I picked the right one. Anyway I wrote one for people who have never had preschoolers called ‘A More Real Love Story,' in which I believe that unless you've flipped over a mop bucket with your husband at 2 in the morning because all your kids are (sick), you probably don't really know what real love is about, so I tried to correct that a little bit."
What does Beyoncé think of the parody of her song "Single Ladies"?
"I have no idea if she's even seen it. I would hope she would think it's hilarious. No one can touch her in the dance moves, but, you know, I'm Baptist and basically all the dance moves have been bred out of us genetically, so yeah, I hope she would just enjoy it for the comedy."
Your fan base has, no doubt, expanded with your YouTube channel and also with your appearances on ABC's Good Morning America.
"Since the cutback recently, when Diane (Sawyer) left to go to the evening news and they cut a quarter of the news staff and unfortunately I was one of the expendable objects, apparently-they are not going to pay for comedy in the morning-so I haven't been on since I was a spokesperson for Got Milk? ... but boy, what a wonderful experience that was to get to have 18 months on Good Morning America. Wonderful people there and you're right, it really did expand my fan base and I'm very thankful for that exposure in the general market."
What inspires you and tickles your funny bone?
"My kids are my number-one source of comedy. My husband is unintentionally funny, but that's always great when you sleep with someone who makes you laugh a lot."
How long have you been married?
"We've been married 28 years this year. We have two devotional books also out from David C. Cook, Songs in the Key of Solomon, and the one that came out in January called Duets that my husband and I wrote together. ... Writing a project together is like building a house together-if you can survive that, your marriage is really strong. We've enjoyed getting to put those in the hands of people and hearing back from people about what those books have done for their marriage. So that has been a great development in the last few years, the ability to do a project that we were super-enthused about.
"What tickles me is just life in general. I think when you have a comedic bent, you just see life through a different lens. There's things that happen that are frustrating, but you know, more often than not, I cock my head just a little bit to the side and I think, yeah, but two weeks from now when I tell this on stage, it's going to be really funny. In my heart I guess I'm trying to close the gap between the two weeks from now and then the moment that it's happening, but being premenopausal sort of ruins that whole plan."
If you had to describe yourself, how would you do it?
"I'm really hot but that's because of my hormones. I am a mom and a wife and I love life, and I really, really believe Rom. 8:28 and Jer. 29:11. ... I love life. I can't believe I get to do what I do, and the sound of people laughing really makes me high."
Do you have anything to say to the Christian retail community who will be selling Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea?
"Well, it comes out I think the end of July or beginning of August I think seasonally it could be quite an easy sell-it's going to sound quite refreshing.
"What I would love to say to the retailers is thank you so much for embracing an independent and for taking the time to put a piece of laughter into the hands of your consumers. A lot of times I know people that come in Christian bookstores are looking for answers. They're there because they need something in their life and a lot of times their joy meter is really on the empty side. I'm very thankful for Christian retailers (who are) messengers between the art that I make, as goofy as it is, and the ministry and putting that in the hands of someone who really needs to laugh and remember that the joy of the Lord is their strength."