Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss (Courtesy Photo)
Chris Bliss (Courtesy Photo)

Stand-up comedian and juggler Chris Bliss grew up in the nation’s capital, so he knows about the importance of the rule of law, power of ideas and monuments. That’s why he’s trying to get a monument to the Bill of Rights built in every state capital.

“I think we should invest in these ideas. It’s not curing cancer, it’s not feeding the poor, but in the end, all progress comes from great ideas” Bliss said. “And when you have these founding ideas, the more you celebrate them, the more you implement them, the more they’re part of the subtext of the governance and civic life of the country, I think the better off we’re going to be.

“It’s a little high concept, but, if you break it down, it’s very simple.”

In his effort to help accomplish that goal, Bliss put together a slate of comedians – Dick Gregory, Tom Smothers, Lewis Black, John Fugelsang and others – who have challenged society’s status quo throughout their careers for the “Let Freedom Laugh Tour,” which comes to the Warner Theatre this Saturday, Feb. 28.

“If I were to say why I’m really doing this, I believe in the power of ideas,” Bliss told the News-Press from his office in Austin, Texas. “And great comedy is a great vehicle for powerful ideas.”

Funds raised through the comedy benefit show will go to MyBillofRights.org, which Bliss founded to promote an awareness and respect for the freedoms and principles guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The first of these shows went down in Phoenix, where Bliss lived for a while before moving to Austin, in 2012 and raised $125,000 toward a Bill of Rights monument that was built at the Arizona Capitol later that year.

The idea of putting a monument in Arizona’s state capital occurred to Bliss over ten years ago when he read about a controversy over a move to put a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama state judicial building. He started saying in his comedy routine at the time that instead of arguing over whether or not to build the monument that we should put a display of the Bill of Rights next to the Ten Commandments “and let people comparison shop.”

Now his goal to get a Bill of Rights monument built in every state capital is gaining momentum. The show at the Warner Theatre is being filmed as part of a special that will air on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV in April, which will feature Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, Marlon Wayans and Penn Jillette along with the comedians on the tour.

Bliss said that this isn’t only “a big push” for the Bill of Rights monument project, but “to get people talking about what our best ideas and ideals are.”

“The monument park in Arizona – where our Bill of Rights monument is – it has somewhere close to 30 different war memorials in it,” Bliss said. “And everybody, including myself, thinks these people should be honored for their sacrifice and every Veteran’s Day we hear the same phrase: they died for our freedom.

“But we rarely stop and think what it emanates from, and it emanates from the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. So I was very proud to put the first Bill of Rights monument right next to the Vietnam Memorial that’s in the park in Arizona because yes they died for our freedom and this is where it comes, so let’s celebrate that and not just the sacrifice.”

• For more information about Chris Bliss, visit chrisbliss.com.

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