Ross Bennett and Eric Lohe have been friends since their high school days in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
“We hadn’t been in touch with each other for quite a while,” Bennett said. “He became a minister, and I became a comedian. Around eight years ago, we happened to connect, and he had this show he was doing called ‘Pizza and Punchlines.’”
Bennett said Lohe, lead pastor at CrossRoads Church at Westfield, didn’t have many comedian contacts. Bennett, who is a member of the Christian Comedy Association, was more than happy to help.
“I knew comics that would be a good fit, so I’ve taken on the honor to be the booker for this for the past five years,” Bennett said.
CrossRoads Church at Westfield is sponsoring the seventh annual free “Pizza and Punchlines” event Feb. 18 at the Westfield High School’s auditorium, 18250 N. Union St. Pizza will be served starting at 6 p.m., followed by the comedy show at 7 p.m.
Bennett, who lives in Troy, N.Y., will serve as the host, while the headliner is Marty Simpson of Columbia, S.C.
The lineup includes Horace H.B. Sanders, Detroit; Christy Condor, Nashville, Tenn.; and Bennett.
“These are all professional comedians,” Bennett said. “You can have your family there and don’t have to worry about anyone being offended in that regard.”
Bennett, who has been a headliner previously at “Pizza and Punchlines,” has been seen on more than a dozen television shows, including Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn,” A&E’s “Evening At The Improv” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
“It’s very much a community-based show,” Bennett said. “This event is sponsored by Eric’s church but it’s for everybody. People can come out and see top-level comics.”
Lohe said free pizza and comedy acts “are a perfect mix to bring the community together in a time when so much seems to separate us.”
“Pizza and Punchlines” is part of the Westfield church’s For Our Neighbor strategy to serve the local community.
Simpson’s comedy has been featured on ESPN, BET, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime Video and his Dry Bar Comedy special.
“I’ll tell some delightful jokes, but I look at my role as a talk show host,” Bennett said. “I greet people and then I bring out my guests. We have three great comics.”