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2019 Chautauqua Season

The Rev. Susan Sparks • Interfaith Lecture Series

Jul 31, 2019 2:00pm ‐ Jul 31, 2019 3:15pm



Rev. Susan Sparks

As a trial lawyer turned standup comedian and Baptist minister, Susan Sparks is America’s only female comedian with a pulpit. A North Carolina native, Susan received her B.A. at the University of North Carolina and a law degree from Wake Forest University.

After ten years as a lawyer moonlighting as a standup, she left her practice and spent two years on a solo trip around the world, including working with Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and driving her Jeep Wrangler solo from NYC to Alaska. Upon returning home, she entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she earned a Master of Divinity and wrote an honors thesis on humor and religion. In May 2007 Susan was installed as the 15th Senior Minister of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. She was the first woman pastor in its 170-year history and she remains there to this day. (Y'all come visit!)

A TEDx speaker, Susan's work with humor, healing, and spirituality has been featured in O (The Oprah) Magazine, the New York Times, and on such networks as ABC, CNN, CBS, and the History Channel.

A professional comedian, Susan tours nationally with a stand-up Rabbi and a Muslim comic in the Laugh in Peace Tour. She is also an internationally known preacher and speaker whose wide-ranging clients include the World Bank, colleges and universities, resorts such as Canyon Ranch, religious conventions, and national/regional gatherings for cancer survivors and caregivers (Susan is a breast cancer survivor).

In addition to her speaking and preaching, Susan writes an award-winning nationally syndicated column through GateHouse Media distributed to over 600 newspapers reaching over 21 million people in 36 states. She is the author of Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor. Her newest book, Preaching Punchlines: The Ten Commandments of Comedy, will be launched at Chautauqua during her 3:30 pm Preaching Punchlines workshop on July 29th.

Susan is the 20th recipient of the John L. Haber Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts given by the University of North Carolina (and comedian/alum Lewis Black), as well as a recipient of the Intersections International Award for interfaith work to promote justice and reconciliation among diverse communities.

Most importantly, Susan and her husband Toby love to fly-fish, ride their Harleys, eat good BBQ, and root for North Carolina Basketball and the Green Bay Packers.

(Note: This biography was up-to-date as of the date of the lecture. Biographies are not updated over time.)

Banner photo by MHARI SHAW



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