Nate Royal admittedly had a little material at his fingertips. He'd grown up in a single-parent family, spent a few years working at Silverdale Correctional Facility and has five children.
Royal, 31, recently won the local stop of "The Search for the One" national comedy talent search for Christian/gospel comedians at Pneuma Christian Center.
He'll now vie with winners from Kileen, Texas; Columbia, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala., and Lynchburg, Va., in the final round of the competition on Friday at World Changers Church International in Atlanta.
Ivan Brown, executive director of Pneuma Christian Center, said Royal beat out 10 other comedians from points as far afield as Chicago, Cleveland (Ohio), Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The city and host facility were chosen by promoters No Joke Entertainment and Arrow Entertainment.
He said the event was witnessed by a crowd of about 500 and was hosted by Akintunde Warnock, one of the head writers for BET.
"People always told me [I was funny]," said Royal. "For a while, I never realized it. They said I was funny in high school, on jobs."
He had been trying his hand at comedy for a couple of years and heard about "The Search for the One" when friend saw a flyer about it.
Royal said he wrote up new material about his childhood in the Main Street and St. Elmo areas, school, church and life experiences as "a real humble guy."
"Other people can relate," he said of his stories.
Each comedian was given five minutes, Royal said. The style of comedy was expected to be "clean humor, stuff appropriate for church" and not include "vulgar language."
The Howard High School graduate said he felt "pretty good from the crowd response" after his routine.
"There were a lot of good comedians," he said. "It was a toss-up."
Brown said Royal was "cutting edge" and "sarcastic."
"His delivery was extremely funny," he said.
Royal said both he and the second-place winner, a resident of Atlanta, go to the final round.
In that finale, he said, he'll have seven minutes for his routine and will probably use much of the same material.
The winner will receive the opening spot on the 2011 Rebirth of Comedy Tour, a $2,500 cash prize, a professional photo shoot, a professional media kit and be eligible for representation by The Assignment Agency.
Royal, who is presently unemployed, said he could see himself as a professional comedian. That gig might even branch off to acting or other things, he said.
"Yeah," he said, "that's my dream."