The Grable Group
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America's Minister of Encouragement
- Texas, United States
If laughter is truly the best medicine, then Dennis Swanberg, America's "Minister of Encouragement" is just what the doctor ordered. With his own down-home charm and heaping helping of hospitality, this Austin, Texas born pastor-turned-comedian has won the hearts of audiences across the country. Raised in what he calls a "mostly blue-collar, but sometimes ring-around-the-collar" family during the fifties, that old black and white television in the corner of the living room became an important part of making Swanberg the success he is today. "Most moms yell at kids to go outside and play, he remembers with a laugh. "My mom would say, 'you sit there and watch that television - your daddy worked hard for it!'" Her "encouragement's" paid off. One of the first voices the future impersonator nailed as a child was his television hero, Barney Fife, from "The Andy Griffith Show." While serving in various pastorates over the years including Rogers and Saginaw, Texas, Hot Springs, Arkansas and West Monroe, Louisiana, Dennis still held his "sideline" entertainment profession, but was constantly nagged with the feeling that maybe his stage talents should become his full-time career. The day after making what he calls his "leap of faith" into stepping down from church pastor and stepping up to the microphone, his decision was rewarded with popular radio talk show host Dr. James Dobson playing one of Swanberg's performances on the air. The response was explosive. Calls began pouring in for even more appearances and speaking engagements. Later that month Swanberg remembers his nervousness before speaking in front of an audience that included Dobson. "I prayed, 'Oh, Lord, help me do good.' And he said, 'Swan, I can take your best stuff and make it fall on deaf ears or I can take your shallow stuff and make folks thing it's really something.' So I said, 'Take my shallow stuff and make them think it's really something!" The story is typical of Dennis' ability to take everyday life, with its ups and downs and turn it into an act that's more than just an act. As a motivational speaker, teacher, preacher, counselor and comedian, Dennis Swanberg knows just what it takes to make life a more pleasant road to journey down - with a laugh or two along the way. His routines regularly include hilarious send-ups of his own family life, both as a child growing up in Texas and as a husband and parent today to his wife Lauree and two teenaged sons, Dusty and Chad. Rivaling anyone who's ever set foot on the Tonight Show stage, Swanberg's list of impersonations include Don Knotts, Pat Butram (Mr. Haney on Green Acres), Walter Brennan, Howard Cossell, Muhammed Ali, Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Forrest Gump, Slim Pickens, John Wayne, Ross Perot, Jimmy Stewart, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and a host of other Sesame Street characters. Add to all that talent, a man with a heart of gold whose biggest joy is seeing others happy and you'll discover the magic that is Dennis Swanberg.