So, this pastor walks into a bar..

Loot Column, Metro Newspaper, January 2010

How to Make it

Susan Sparks first tried stand-up comedy on a training course she took as a New York City trial lawyer and wound up on CNN. “CNN said they wanted to film the class, which I thought was a joke. I thought my stand-up was lame, but that item ran on CNN all day.”

She started doing stand-up gigs in her spare time and eventually saved enough to pay off her student loans and quit her day job, where she felt she had to check most of her personality at the door. Instead, she got regular work at New York's comedy clubs, such as Caroline's.

Her time as a lawyer gave her plenty of material. “A client once called me to tell me that Jesus has appeared in her living room to say that her visa bill had been forgiven,” she says. “I told her he hadn't mentioned that to me.” But she wanted to add something else to the mix. She considered seminary school, but spent some time traveling and voluteering while she thought about it. “I found that humor was sacred in most of the world's religious traditions, so I thought, 'I'm going to a drag comedy into the Christian church'.”

Back in New York, she went to seminary school and heard that Madison Avenue Baptist Church needed a new pastor. “I wasn't sure I wanted to be a minister, but I showed up at the church one morning and never left. Any church that welcomes a woman and a stand-up comedian into their pulpit is pretty cool.”

She's now sole pastor at the church and her stand-up comedy takes her on tour with rabbi Bob Alper and Muslim comic Azhar Usman. “This is their full-time gig and I step in now and again as the Christian chick,” she says. She's a big advocate of the healing power of humor and she's writing her first book, Laugh Your Way to Grace.

Sparks says being a stand-up comic Baptist pastor is easier than you'd think. “Comedy club patrons want to think and congregations want to laugh. It's the same skill set, just with different clients.”

How to Spend it

Regular investors can't access the investment strategies of the super wealthy, which is why brothers Mike and Matthew Kane quit their jobs to found Hedgeable.com last fall. They felt that regular investors had lost a packet during the recession by trusting their retirement savings to retail brokers. “We had both worked at top funds before,” says Matthew Kane. “So we thought, let's develop the same sort of technology that will allow retail investors to access hedge fund investment strategies.”

Investors enter their portfolio balances and allocations from any account that they manage themselves - from a discount broker, 401(k) or IRA - and Hedgeable will assess its performance and risk for free. “Most people looking at their 401(k) or whatever just want to know 'is what I'm holding any good and what do you recommend I hold?'” says Kane.

For $19.99 per month, Hedgeable's technology will recommend trades for any investor that has a discount brokerage account and a portfolio of stocks and exchange traded funds worth $5,000. Instead of keeping set allocations to bonds and stock, the recommendations are based on shifting market conditions. If they wish, the investor can execute the trade with their own broker.

Kane says that Hedgeable only borrows hedge fund strategies that allow investors to hedge against losses and grow their portfolios long-term, without being glued to their desk every day chasing short-term gains. “We don't use leverage, derivatives, shorting or advocate active trading. With our technology, you can limit trading to one transaction a month and still have a similar result.”

Copyright Metro Newspaper 2010