The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, once said, “I like to have my students laugh. A good laugh often breaks mesmerism” (Emma C. Shipman, “Mrs. Eddy and the Class of 1898,” We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, p. 142). She knew that laughter and good humor could help lift the heaviness and oppression of the carnal mind, and her own sense of humor was evident throughout her life.
By MICHAEL R. DAVIS
From the June 28, 2010 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
Tyler Perry (Net Worth: $450 Million)
The multitalented Tyler Perry was born on September 13, 1969 in New Orleans, Louisiana, recognized around the globe for being an actor, filmmaker and author.
One of four children, he had a difficult childhood, suffering years of abuse at the hands of his carpenter father. He once described his father as a man “whose answer to everything was to beat it out of you.”
At one point, Perry even attempted suicide in an effort to escape his difficult situation. Watching an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, Perry was inspired by a comment on the program about how writing about difficult experiences could lead to personal breakthroughs.
Beliefnet Interview with Tyler Perry
The Definition of Family
Family is a recurring theme in your work. Why is it so important to you, and what is your definition of family?
Family and faith are both very important to me, and forgiveness. I think that with everything I’ve done, in the end, whoever the central character is, they would find a way to forgive, because that’s really important to me. Forgiveness is important in families, especially when there are so many secrets that need to be healed–for the most part, every family’s got them.
The Role of Faith in Film
In your work, faith is integrated seamlessly into your characters’ lives, in a way that a lot of movies don’t do. What is the role of faith in your work?
The thing about it is, I don’t know why it’s never talked about in film. There are people [making films] who believe, but I think they’re people who believe in the closet. They believe very quietly. There’s this huge separation of church and state. I’m not afraid to mix the two. I’m not afraid to have a character say, “I am a Christian,” or, “I believe in God,” because I think they represent real people on this earth.
The Healing Power of Humor
What is the role of faith in your life?
It is extremely important. I am a Christian, I am a believer, and I know had I not been a person of faith, I couldn’t be here in this place, and I wouldn’t be walking the path that I’m on now. And I think the greater good of the path I’m on now is to teach people to learn to forgive and move on, in a way that’s done through the healing power of humor.
What I’ve been able to do with my character, Madea, and the other characters, with the jokes, is use it as an anesthetic to get to the heart and soul of real issues. And what I’ve found on stage over the years is that, while making people laugh, I can drop in pearls of wisdom. That’s like tilling the soil for the seeds to be planted. And that’s what I’ve tried to do, to plant seeds that will grow into good situations, seeds that will grow into abundant life for many people.
Perry on God
How would you describe your relationship with God?
I’ve always believed in God, from the time I was very, very young. I always knew there was something with me, not necessarily knowing what to call it. But I’ve got aunts and uncles and cousins who were pastors and ministers, and growing up around them, I’ve always had this close connection, and I’ve always prayed, and I’ve always felt my prayers were answered in time. So I’ve always had that close connection, and I am grateful for it, because I’ve watched–because of my faith in God, because of my love and my belief–everything in my life, no matter how bad, work together for my good.
The Generation Gap
You’ve said that you are “passionate about mending the disconnect” between generations. What is that disconnect and how do we overcome it?
I don’t know how it happens for the world, but I can tell you how it happens for what I’m doing. Through humor and comedy, I’ve been able to bridge the gaps and speak to both about the same things but on different levels at the same time.
The great thing about the gift that I’ve been given, and only God could have done this, I’ll stand on the stage every night–I see about 35,000 people a week–and the other day I asked, “Who’s the youngest in the audience?” There was an 8-year-old sitting in the front row. And I said, “Who’s the oldest?” There was a woman who was 91 sitting in the balcony. So it’s such a wonderful thing for me to be able to speak across generations to all of these families. That’s a gift, and I don’t know too many people who can do it on this earth in this manner. What it means to me to be able to do that is absolutely just one huge blessing. The disconnect between the two is because the older generation’s morals and values are very different from the younger generation, and trying to find a way to bring them together has been a challenge, but it’s also been something that has been done, so I am pretty excited about that.
You’ve overcome major odds, including rising from homelessness to find the success you have now. How did you find the strength to overcome those obstacles, and what lessons did you learn?
The most important thing that I learned in growing up is that forgiveness is something that, when you do it, you free yourself to move on. And in finding that in my own life, I wanted to share it with other people.