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My Life as a Bystander


My Life as a Bystander

By Jeremy Reynalds
Special to ASSIST News Service ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- While I’m a news and talk radio junkie, sometimes I’ve just got to tune out the serious and lose myself in something fun and lighthearted.

However, finding something that’s both funny and clean can be a challenge. That’s why I was glad to find comedian Jeff Allen’s new book My Life as a Bystander. It kept me reading – and laughing.

The back cover of the book reads, “Comedian Jeff Allen says, ‘Standing on the sidelines works great. Then someone skins their knee, the baby's carrying a poopy diaper like the Olympic torch, and your wife's butter knife whizzes by your left temple.' Can Jeff stay on the sidelines? Can you?

‘My Life as a Bystander’ is a laugh-out-loud look at marriage, family, and other reasons why men lose their hair prematurely. Featured vignettes for couples of all ages and marital experiences tell Jeff's personal story interwoven with his always side-splitting observations about life.”

In a recent telephone interview I asked Allen the reason for the book’s strange sounding title.

He said, “As a comic most comics are observationalists. We stand by and look at life. I got married, and thought I could direct traffic through my house and not participate in it. (However), I learned through various 12 step programs that God wanted me to be a participant. God dragged me into that kicking and screaming.”

Allen said he hopes that people understand the book for what it is – entertainment.

“It is fun,” he said. “It’s written with the intent to be lighthearted. It is great plane reading. It’s an odd title, but it works. There are so many books out there with agendas. I figured out that this is the only book without an agenda. It’s basically for humor.”

Allen BC (Before Christ)

I always like to know more about the authors of books I read, so I asked Allen to tell me about his life.

“I had just started getting into cocaine six months before I met my wife,” he said. “She was aware of this. I could go out on the road and binge, but she didn’t see the bad side of it before we moved to Boston (and I was home all the time). Then you can’t hide it for long. I had given her the illusion that I lived a pretty stable life.”

Of course, substance abuse wasn’t the only issue being faced by the young Allen marriage. Allen said he had been raised in a home where men didn’t do anything around the house. However, his wife’s experience was the opposite.

“When we got married, her attitude was, of course, ‘you are going to clean up,’ and I remember her pushing me out of bed to get up with the kids. I was used to sleeping till noon or one. I had some adjustments to make. At first I pushed back. Then you realize it’s only fair that you do your part.”

’An Ignorant Moron’ Searches for Christ

Reflecting on his old life when he was searching for meaning, Allen called himself “a professed atheist and an ignorant moron.”

He explained that one day a number of years ago he was golfing with “a devout believer.” The individual quoted from the Bible, a book for which Allen didn’t hesitate to express his fervent distaste. When the friend asked Allen what it was about the Bible that Allen didn’t like, Allen admitted that he had never read it. His golfing friend told him, “You are not an atheist. You are a moron.”

Allen said during this period in his life he was so unhappy that his wife would look at him and ask, “Why can’t you enjoy your job?” Allen would respond, “What’s the point?”

Allen was experiencing a full-blown crisis about life.

He said, “Every day I woke up, there was a crippling question about the meaning of life. I studied Buddhism and eastern philosophy. The whole point of Buddhism is to get rid of my desire. Apathy caused my marriage and career to fall apart. The next step from apathy is cynicism. I started paying attention to politics and the state of the world.”

Allen started watching the news – intensely. “I believe that it was God Who put the desire in me to ask what was the point of the world,” he said. (But) every intellectual place I hit a wall, (although) I didn’t mope 24 hours a day.”

Watching the news didn’t help. The void that Allen felt was still there, and it began to enter his job performance.

“I showed up to work, but I was so angry,” he said. “The rage was beginning to pervade. At times my wife would come in and leave.”

Allen’s tumultuous internal conflict wasn’t making for happy audiences with his comedy routine. He was trying to work through his inner turmoil in his outer job performance.

But what Allen had to work out wasn’t what people wanted to hear. He said, “A little old lady told me, ‘You are rotten from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.’”

Allen wasn’t doing any better with his marriage relationship than he was at work. He and his wife Tami separated and were 10 minutes away from filing divorce papers when driving to the court house she asked him to pull over.

“I said, ‘For what?’ She said, ‘I think I am making a mistake.’ At that point we were married eight years. I said we either go now or we’re in it (for good).”

However, things were still pretty rocky for the Allens, and his wife took off for the summer with the children, leaving Allen with a lot of time on his hands.

Allen said, “I thought that when she left with the kids I wouldn't be married at the end of the summer. She would deny that. Believe me, living with me was pretty draining. I was mopey and sappy, and when I wasn't, I was ticked off.”

It was at this point he turned to some Bible tapes that had been lying around the house for a number of months. Allen’s golfing friend had signed him to receive sermon tapes from Denton Bible Church ( (DentonBible.asp), but he had never opened them. There were so many of the unopened tapes lying around that Tami Allen had even threatened to throw them out.

But now, in a quiet house without his family, Allen opened one tape–the very first one he had touched. It “happened” to be a teaching on Ecclesiastes dealing with the meaning of life. Although Allen said he had tried reading the Bible, he had never understood it. But now, he said, he was “hooked.”

The ‘Ignorant Moron’ Finds Christ

Allen, who said he got saved on Aug. 17, 1997, listened to 18 months of Bible study tapes in about two months.

“I couldn't get enough,” Allen said. “My career was changing as I was changing. I was trying to clean up my language. The material didn't change much. I changed. I tried to smile more.”

Allen said he was beginning to experience “the residual effects of reading the Bible and really beginning to understand that there was a God, and that if I was created, then I am as valuable as the next guy.”

No News is Good News!

Allen said the book has been out since May, “and I have no clue how the book sales have been going. No news is good news.”

However, to ensure that when Allen finally does receive news it’s good, he’s hoping that people will buy My Life as a Bystander. I agree with him, so with that in mind, I recommend that while you’re thinking about it, you go online to buy a copy at

After all, haven’t you always wanted to make a comedian even happier?

Additional information about Allen is available at

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, or He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is a candidate for the Ph.D. in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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