Reverend Billy C. Wirtz

Reverend Billy C. Wirtz
Sermon from Bethlehem

Blind Pig 6006

By Courtney Sudhalter
July 2006

Longtime piano player and comedian Reverend Billy C. Wirtz has delivered a new sermon to his followers of the First House of Polyester Worship.

Sermon from Bethlehem is an hour-long performance filmed at Godfrey Daniels, in Bethlehem, Penn. Wirtz is a talented pianist who puts a twist on both comedy and the blues. In this one-man show, armed only with his keyboard and warped mind, Wirtz puts on a lively concert. The performance film has great anecdotes about everything from “Do the Toleration” to “Female Problems” and “Granny’s at the Wheel”.

The beginning of the DVD caught me off guard, however, with “Introduction to Cousin Cupcake,” a tangent about an unfriendly and dysfunctional clown named Cousin Cupcake. In fact, having a strong dislike of clowns—a common phobia—I was hesitant to want to watch the DVD.

Given that, the introduction and the subsequent “Cousin Cupcake’s Got the Blues” were a tough pill to swallow, but I thankfully made it through and found the rest of the DVD humorous (and clown-free).

Do the Toleration” is hilarious. It’s a great toe tapping beat in which Rev. Billy makes fun of people’s animosity toward one another. We also learn how Billy’s insides tolerate lactose, and how his heart tolerates caffeine. He gets his audience involved in his show with gestures, and with singing the chorus in “Granny’s at the Wheel.”

The lyrics in “Female Problems” are highly entertaining. We get to hear a preview of his personal ad, and learn of his dating experiences. His ragtime (every pun intended in this instance) beat choice is both comical and catchy, and he relies on the warped minds of the audience to catch onto the blatantly obvious play on words.

DVD extras on Sermon were somewhat lacking. The 15-minute interview with Rev. Billy was informative, but with a storyteller like him it could have gone much longer. Donning his sunglasses, he talks about his background and how he was introduced to the blues; he tells how he befriended Sunnyland Slim, and visited him in Chicago the summer after his senior year in college. And he also discusses the work he does with children in the Blues in the Schools program.

In addition to the interview, there’s a link to the Blind Pig Records Web site, as well as a slide show featuring additional Blind Pig titles.

Overall, Sermon from Bethlehem is an entertaining ride, and Rev. Billy’s off-center humor is well received. Wirtz has been around since the early 1990s, and has six albums under his belt. He has found his niche, and I look forward to what the Reverend has in store for the future.

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