Comedian Jeff Allen who once struggled with drugs and alcohol shares his personal life story of how he was able to reject his atheistic worldview and completely emerge himself into Christianity using his talent of laughter.
Listen at the 4:50-mark to hear Allen reveal what led him out of atheism and into belief on The Pure Flix Podcast:
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Billy Hallowell: Hey, I'm Billy Hallowell and welcome to the Pure Flix podcast. This is a weekly show where we offer you interviews with your favorite pastors and celebrities, insight, inspiration, and a preview of what's to come, and faith and family friendly entertainment. Let's get started today with a little bit of inspiration. Now, I'm sure a lot of you guys know about our Pure Flix Insider blog, but if you don't, you can head over to insider.pureflix.com. There's lots of daily content that will inspire you, uplift you and really just help you navigate your faith or even learn about faith. So one of the things that we have over on the blog right now is a list of eight ways that you can stick to your daily Bible reading routine. I know for me, one of the big challenges is, you know, keeping up with reading, making sure that I'm finding time, you know, ideally starting first thing in the morning with reading scripture and devotions and even journaling. That's been the most efficient for me. But some days you get the kids running around, you've got a dog to take care of. You've got a million things to do for work. Sometimes, you know, we neglect to make that time. So I wanna kinda go through just four of those eight. And if you wanna get the full list, hop on over to the blog to check that out. But just four quick tips that I think can really help any of us who are looking to get a little deeper in our faith, to make sure we're keeping up with our Bible reading. The first is to make a daily commitment. And that might mean saying, look, this is the most important things, to make sure that I'm centered, that I'm reading scripture, so I'm going to set aside time for 10, 15 minutes, even a half an hour in the morning. I'm gonna get up early. I'm going to do whatever it is I have to do to make sure I have that extra time to keep that commitment. Because the start, really of having this regular Bible reading routine, I think is saying to yourself, this is something that matters and I'm gonna do it. And that can be hard. It's easy to fall out of routines, but that really is the first step to keeping that routine. The second and this is just a recommendation that has really helped me is to keep a journal, keep up with your daily Bible reading through journaling. And for me, keeping a journal is sort of like, you know, prayer. I pray through my journal. If I read interesting scripture, I write it down. I try really hard to reflect on that scripture. What does it mean for my life? What is God trying to say to me through it? And the third thing I would say, sign up for a digital Bible study. I think a lot of us aren't sure where to start with the Bible sometimes. And we know we want to read every day, but we kind of need a guide. And if you go over to YouVersion or even head over to insider.pureflix.com in search on our blog for Bible reading plans, we have lots of recommendations in a couple of articles that you could check out, but YouVersion will actually allow you for free to sign up for a ton of Bible studies that you can work through specific books, the entire Bible, or go topically through scripture. So, the first thing was make a daily commitment. The second was keep a journal. You know, that's just a tip that I would say is really powerful. Writing out those thoughts and those prayers. Signing up for a digital Bible study is the third. And then the fourth is to get an accountability partner. And if you don't know what that is, it's just a person who's gonna keep you accountable, meaning that, you know, maybe you read with this person, maybe you meet once a week on the phone or in person for coffee or to chat just about how you're doing with your faith, how you're doing with keeping up on readings. It's always nice to kind of have a person to talk it through with, because then, you know, you've both read it, you've both put the time in, and it holds you accountable to doing that. So when you have an accountability partner for daily Bible readings or weekly Bible readings, it's a really helpful element to keeping up on your faith. So those those are just four of the tips. You've got eight full tips over on insider.pureflix.com that you can check out. Now, as you know, if you've been listening to the podcast here, this is our fourth episode. We always bring on an interesting guest. We've had Mike Rowe on the show. We've had Will Graham, and we've had a lot of other people so far, a number of other people. Now we've got comedian Jeff Allen today. We're gonna welcome him to the show you if you don't know Jeff, you can check out his comedy. He's very funny over on Pureflix.com. He's in shows like Pure Flix Comedy, All Stars, Apostles of Comedy. You can search those over on the platform on Pureflix.com and watch them. Hey, Jeff. Welcome to the show today. How are you?
Jeff Allen: So don't ask. Never ask the 62 year old how they're doing. So you're a guy. Guys your age. It's a rhetorical question. For me it's literal. So let's start with my operations.
Billy Hallowell: Hey, sixty two is young still.
Jeff Allen: It's the old 60.
Billy Hallowell: I was gonna say that it's the new 30. But whatever whatever you got to go with. So you've got a lot going on. You've done comedy forever now and you've done projects with Pure Flix. You've also got a new tour, Make Comedy Great Again, which is it's interesting, the title of that tour to me, because it sounds very political, like it makes you think of Make America Great Again. But what can you tell me about the nature of this of this comedy tour?
Jeff Allen: Well, when they call, all the producers called, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in it. When I heard the title, I said, "Ugh, I'm so exhausted. No, I want to do this". And they said, "No,no we want no politics. We want just clean, funny and absolutely no politics". And I said, "Well, it's odd because of the title". But anyway, they put four of us together. We went out for six trialed runs. And if the response from the audience is any indication, it's good. People are tired.
Billy Hallowell: People are exhausted. People are exhausted from the chaos. Right. So you guys are offering something that isn't...
Jeff Allen: It's a respite.
Billy Hallowell: That's great.
Jeff Allen: Take a break. You know, on the weekend. Come on. A laugh for a couple hours and then climb the pony on Monday, and start yelling at all your friends and neighbors again. You know.
Billy Hallowell: It's a break from the chaos. It's just a little break to get right back.
Jeff Allen: Just to replay just to realize there's something other than bad, you know to laugh about.
Billy Hallowell: You've been doing this for a long time. And in a world in which comedy so often, I think especially in the last decade, it's really dirty a lot of times there's a lot of stuff in it that, you know, obviously it's not family friendly many times. And we see this with sitcoms now, you turn on TV at eight o'clock and it's like, what in the world is going on? What for you attracted you into the realm of sort of the clean comedy world? And how do you do it so effectively?
Jeff Allen: Well, I got called into school one day. My son was in fourth grade, and he dropped a couple F bombs, and we get called in. And one of those meetings with the teacher, you know. And I looked at I said, I would love to look you in the eye and tell you I have no idea where my child heard that kind of language. But truth was, I talk that way at home, talk that way in my show, I talk. So I started paying him a quarter for every cuss word that he heard come out of my mouth. And anyway, after a couple of weeks, I. I got tired of paying him. So I cleaned up everything. And then there came a point comedy wise. I saw Andrew Dice Clay, a show of his, and I looked at my wife and I said, "The next guy whose ever gonna break through. To become a major star in comedy, it's gonna get dirty. It's gonna have to go beyond that". And there was no way I could see myself. So I was literally too dirty to be clean and too clean to be dirty. So I. And it was I was moving in that direction anyway through my faith journey. But I wasn't there yet. But it was more of a a business decision initially, just to see if I could do it. And as a storyteller, I tell young comics. Today, it's the source. We have an amazing language. It's it's amazing. You know.
Billy Hallowell: I like that. Get a thesaurus. Well, have you been surprised at all by the level to which entertainment has fallen when it comes to content? I mean, especially, like I said, the last decade, I mean, has any of this, 'cause you mentioned it seemed like it seems like a while ago you were sort of looking at this and saying this is where it's gonna head.
Jeff Allen: Well, it's interesting to me, it's I think when Eddie Murphy came out and hit big, they asked Bill Cosby about it and he said, you know, Richard Pryor, if you took out all the 13 letter adjectives, it was a great actor. And then by the time Murphy came around, if you took out the 13 letter adjectives, it was an act, but not a great act. And now. Not everybody, believe me. But there's a number of guys that if you took all the 13 letter adjectives out, there wouldn't be much content there. I think you get lazy intellectually and reinforced when you go into a club and you do something like that and it gets laughs. Well, you know, why wouldn't you keep doing it?
Billy Hallowell: Yeah. And it's interesting you say it's lazy 'cause it dos seem that a lot of it is that you're appealing to sort of these human nature on some level. I mean, you talk about sex. You talk about some of these other issues. You're you're not thinking creatively, I would assume, and trying to figure out how do you make people laugh about real everyday things, not not, you know, hurling expletives and talking about these random issues. But how do you really dig deep to relate to people in their everyday life? And it seems like you've been able to do that very successfully.
Jeff Allen: Well, I've always said that, for me, comedy begins with truth, a truth. And then you see if you could find something absurd about it or something that people would at least relate to. If there's no relationship between you and the audience, you know, Steve Martin used to do with, a joke upfront and it was all these plumbing references. And the audience is just staring at him. And he goes, wow, that killed at the Plumbers Convention. Yeah. If they can't relate to what you're talking about, you know, and someone asked me once in an interview what you do before you had a family, I starved. I mean, I basically talked about alcohol and drugs because that was basically what I did. And we were just, I do a writers night at my house once a month with young comics. And, we were just talking about this Monday night. I was working with a guy named Larry Miller years ago, a very funny comic, very successful and a great storyteller. I loved Larry Miller and I was complaining because I wasn't writing any new stuff. He goes, well get off the couch. And I went, what do you mean? He goes, Well, I've only been with you for two days. But all I see is you go to the club, you come home at 4:00am in the morning, and then you lay here until 4:00pm in the evening and then you go to the club and have dinner. So, how could you write anything about life, if you're not at least experiencing life? So he goes to the mall, walk around, start looking at things, you know, and I'd like to tell you, I jumped up off the couch and ran to the ball, but it took a while. But I did.
Billy Hallowell: It took some time.
Jeff Allen: Well, I'll tell you what. That little scene. I never forgot. That's true.
Billy Hallowell: Well, I mean, it's it's great advice. And then you mentioned, obviously, drugs and alcohol and what was going on in your life. What was the impact of that? I mean, you just sort of hinted at it. But what was the impact of drugs and alcohol on your actual functioning life?
Jeff Allen: Well, I'm a, at one point, became an alcoholic. I mean, I couldn't function. But, at that point, my life in my 20s, you know, I used to say, you know, if you'd like to nap a lot, get a job at a mattress factory. If you like to drink, get a job at a bar. So, I got very lucky in my comedy, that I started in nineteen seventy eight by nineteen eighty. It exploded. There was literally more clubs than comedians. So I got to be paid to be bad as a comedian and learn some craft. So by the time I got married eight years later and was ready to quit drinking, I had some skills. And by then I was headlining clubs. And I was making a decent living at it. But the alcohol and drugs, I. I don't know, I, a matter of fact this Thanksgiving was my first night on stage. I left my parents house drunk and I ran into an open mike. And that was Thursday. Sunday, I went back for an open mike and the MC came over me and said, you're going to have to make some sense tonight. We're still trying to figure out what you said Thursday night.
Billy Hallowell: What would you say for you? What was it first? 'Cause I wanna talk about you finding God, but what was it that first led you to say, I'm gonna stop drinking? You know, what took you to that point?
Jeff Allen: Well, I had a problem with it. Since I started, I had blackouts, you know. From the minute I started drinking, I couldn't place nights. So by the time I was, I started for 14 or fifteen. And by the time I was 20, 21, I knew I was different than my friends. One, I couldn't get up and go to work. I'd lay around and I watched jobs. I couldn't remember they would tell me about things l said or did the night before, and I'd laugh and knowing in my mind that I couldn't. I had no clue what they were talking about. So I knew I was different. And then my brother was an alcoholic. So by the time I hit the age of twenty nine or thirty, I went to my first counselor, a therapist. And she said, tell me about your history. And so my dad drank right up on my brother and she said, you know, is your brother all right? Oh, yeah. She says, well, you've seen the movie. That's where you're headed. So you can climb off now or you could wait until. So that started me, you know, and I would make I made a year once, but I was still doing cocaine. So, I don't call that sobriety. But. After that, I would go a week at a time, two weeks at a time, four weeks at a time to try to convince myself I wasn't. My favorite test to whether or not you're an alcoholic was pick a number, three drinks, four drinks, and you have to drink those every night for 30 days. But you can't go any more than that. You can't go any less than that. You have to drink three or four drinks and stop. I never made board a day.
Billy Hallowell: Oh, wow. Yeah. Wow. Yeah.
Jeff Allen: Never made more than a today. I just quit when I started, I couldn't stop.
Billy Hallowell: So eventually you came to the decision that it needed you needed to stop because...
Jeff Allen: It's gonna kill me. And then when I got married, had kids, it got really bad. Just I couldn't lay around 12 hours. You know, my wife...
Billy Hallowell: Kids have a way of making sure that you don't do that. Right. So it's...
Jeff Allen: And my wife. My wife, would put both feet at me in the morning and shove me under the floor, to get up. Those boys need a father.
Billy Hallowell: At what point at what point did you find God? Because that's another really interesting part of your story. So how long after, you know, were was there an overlap there between using substances and finding God?
Jeff Allen: Well, I started with a 12 step program. And they said pray. I said, to what? I didn't believe in God. And, that started the journey. I saw in those rooms, what a relationship with a higher power did. So I wanted that. The third step is came to believe, I think, came to believe, the second step is came to believe a power greater in itself could restore its sanity. And then you. But the third step was my sticking point. What is that? What does it look like? I mean, seven, eight years into it? I mean, I started with my first therapist. I went to for marriage. Tammy and I got into an argument one night and I stood on a chair in the kitchen. Silver and screamed at her until she fell to her knees and then my son, I put him to bed that night and he said, "Daddy you win", I go "What do you mean?" You yell, mommy cries, you win. Not one of my prouder moments as a man and I went downstairs until Tammy and I need to I need help. She goes, "Ya think?". And so I went to a therapist. Then she put road less traveled into my hands. Scott Peck's book and that started me on the looking for the higher power. I just didn't understand it. I mean, I say I used to say to people, if I'm making up a deity, that makes me delusional. I mean, honestly, I mean, and it's great for one of those, you know, you hear that a lot in the church. I'm spiritual. Right. What does it mean. I mean, if God exists or he doesn't. I mean, I'm going black or white on this. I don't believe in the gray area.
Billy Hallowell: A lot of people are in that gray area somehow. Which I didn't know.
Jeff Allen: I know. But intellectually, I know he is or he isn't. Anyway, when real life happens, you know, death of a child. Loss of a job. Cancer. And you're on your knees looking for some kind of column in the midst of this this storm and your brain is chirping to you. I mean, who. Who or what are you? What's the point of this?
Billy Hallowell: Was there a moment for you where it was just sort of like snap you suddenly believe? Like was there something that happened or was it more of a gradual progression or both?
Jeff Allen: Gradual. I, 7 and 8 years. I exhausted self-help Buddhism. New Age. Better fact Buddhism, I came all I wanted to put my kids into a monastery. And Tammy says over my dead body, I said, OK. I was just throwing it out there. That's how long it took her to talk me out of it. You know, so I just. All right. That's fine. But I have a theory was I was a rage freak. My brother was a rage freak. My father was a rage freak. I had two boys. I didn't want them to be. I knew enough about psychology now, that I am the standard by which my voice will be raised, if they see this behavior, they're gonna model it and be it. I didn't want him to be like that. I mean, I loathe myself and I knew I had a issues. So anyway, with the last time you saw a road rage incident with a Buddhist monk. That's my point. Over never. Because they're pretty calm people. They chant.
Billy Hallowell: Well, what what would you say if you if you looked back at Jeff Allen before becoming a Christian? Jeff Allen after what are the big differences you see?
Jeff Allen: The columnist, not as what used to be. You know, a behavior five days a week as far as anger, and bitterness, and cynicism. I was a nihilist. I didn't even know there was a name for it 'till I read Nietzsche. And someone told me, oh, yeah. That's nihilism. I go, oh, I lived in that. I was steeped in that for through my 20s and in the 30s. I had a guy from HBO tell me once, why are you so angry? HBO! So I made Tammy cry one night, I was on stage talking about my marriage. I got off and she says you must really hate me. I said it's comedy. You know, comedy.
Billy Hallowell: Well, now you tell a very funny marriage related.
Jeff Allen: I mean, I do. It's funny now because it's just that that's the difference. Yes.
Billy Hallowell: Your whole being changed. You know, your whole. Absolutely. Yeah. The attributes of who you are. That that's what changes. You're not hurt. Nobody's perfect. But you you're trying to be more like Christ. You're trying. And a lot of that happens over time and gradually. So it's. And we're always trying to be better. Right. So that's the self. Right. Right. I mean, it's it's fascinating to watch to hear people, though, because I grew up in church. Right. So for me, it's like I grew up with it. But you have to own it at some point for yourself. But when you talk to people who when, my wife went from essentially atheisim into Christianity, that that is a fascinating dynamic to me. And one thing before I forget. I wanted to ask you a totally unrelated subject. You've you've done a lot for the military. You've been a big supporter of the U.S. military. I wanted to ask what what is it that drives that for you?
Jeff Allen: My son. He was in the military and that was the genesis of it. He's long been out, but he's he's going through he went through PTSD and you you repeat the statistics. These are people who sacrificed. I don't understand why you people can't look at that. I mean, I did shows on an aircraft carrier for six days or seven days. And the only thing louder than those planes taking off and landing, was my whining. I just I couldn't stop complaining. I said, how do you guys do it? Basically, like, shut up, man. We were kind of over it. Now you come on board. So, he was gone for a year in Iraq. Wow. The funny story about that was. But it's different today. And certainly back in Vietnam. Now you can at least talk to your kids, you know, through Skype and phone calls and texts and, you know, hey, I'm fine. Everything's going great. I'm on the base. Well, we didn't hear from them for about ten days. And my wife was freaking out. So she has this idea. She calls my other son and says, is there an online gaming from Iraq? And he said, Yeah. And I was just about on it every night she goes, What's his screen name? She signs in and she says, Aaron, hi, this is Mommy, call me. And all these guys around the world. They're going, " Hi Mommy,. How you doing, Mommy"? Great to hear from you, Mommy. Aaron. Call your mommy. Yeah. He called and said don't ever do that again. Don't ever go 10 days without talking to me.
Billy Hallowell: Exactly. What's the lesson learned for him? I say I think to your point, that comedy in there. But the reality in that is that it's a sacrifice for the families to for everybody.
Jeff Allen: The marriage the divorce rate, you take what's 50 percent in the culture is 80 to 90 percent within the military. It takes a special couple to be to put up with it, 'cause a lot of guys get in and they realize if I do 20 years, I've got a nice pension and I'm gonna make a life out of it. It's odd. And a lot of people in the arts, our military kids, I go to acting class and probably half of them were raised with a military parent as they travel. It is interesting. Yeah. And then you learn to, I guess, just the. Fit in. You learn to go into strange places and fit in and adapt and become other people. Which is what acting it is.
Billy Hallowell: So for anybody interested, because I could talk to you for hours. But we're running out to end here for anybody interested in the Make Comedy Great Again tour. where can they go to get information?
Jeff Allen: Makecomedygreatagaintour.com and my website, Jeffallencomedy.com. We did six trial shows and I think we're putting together dates for next year. And I just I'll find out today about a big tour with Salem Radio. We're looking at probably 60 plus states with say we're busy.
Billy Hallowell: 2019. I hope so. It has to be busy for you.
Jeff Allen: Yeah, we are. There's four things that break up a marriage. We've survived all four of them cancer and, alcoholism, drug addiction, bankruptcy, and in the last one we just survived was a remodel. So I have to pay for that. I'm telling you, when I read that, I thought, no way. And after we were living in the basement for three months and I'm not making this up. I was in it. We were in the middle of another argument. And, I was this close to going, I wanted a divorce. I didn't mean it, but I was going to say it. I can't deal with this anymore. I want a divorce and something distracted me. Fortunately, I got 80 days.
Billy Hallowell: Maybe God was speaking to you a little bit.
Jeff Allen: I know. And I turned around. I looked at it and I realized what I was about to say. And I called a friend of mine, who was a counselor. Good friend. We have lunch a lot. And always said, I need your professional services. I'm in a bad place. And it gets me down. Dirty goes. Let me understand this. You just took on two hundred thousand dollars worth of debt and you're 61 years old. And I go, Yeah. He goes, Yeah. No wonder you're a little stressed. So, you just take a deep breath. You go, can you get out. I go now. They've gutted my house like a trout. It's just it's it's. It's bad. So, he said, well, then you have to accept it. And I go, well, that's what I don't wanna do. So anyway.
Billy Hallowell: Well, listen, maybe a marriage book is in your future here. I don't know. I mean, you could survive all those things, including the remodel. I think you've got a lot to teach the resident.
Jeff Allen: I'm in the process of writing one right now. It's not if it's a marriage book, but.
Billy Hallowell: I was going to say, look, I'm here I am predicting things. Well, let's go. I want to have you back again when the book comes out for sure.
Jeff Allen: I appreciate it.
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Billy Hallowell: Welcome back to the Pure Flix podcast. Now I wanna talk to you guys a little bit about actor Chris Pratt. For those of you who don't know, he is a Christian. He talks a lot about his faith. And over the past year, we've really seen him, I think, speak out more than I have in the past about what it is he believes and why he loves God. And it's been interesting to watch. I think the reaction is pretty big when you see somebody who's at that level of fame, who is speaking about faith, people tend to pay attention, especially when they do it in venues like the MTV movie and TV awards. Right. These places where you wouldn't really expect to hear anything about God. Now, we wanted to break down just five Chris Pratt quotes about God in the Bible that are fascinating and interesting and really worth, I think, paying attention to. So let's go with the first. Now, this is the quote that Chris Pratt just recently said on The Late Show. And it was something he was talking to Steven Kolber about. And he said,"If the spotlight that shining on you is brighter than the light that comes from within you, it will kill you". And he was talking about fame.
Billy Hallowell: He was asked by Steven Kolber, you know, is it difficult dealing with fame? Do you ever feel like Daniel in the Lion's Den when you're dealing with it? And he talked a lot. And you can find over on our blog on Insider.pureflix.com, a full write-up and the video of that interview. But talking about that spotlight and that light needing to come from within you, and that needs to bright to shine brighter than any of the lights above you or coming at you in other parts of Hollywood. I thought that was really fascinating now. Now, that's our first quote. Our second quote. And this happened on the stage of the 2018 MTV movie and TV awards when Chris Pratt got up and he said, "God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you". And he was talking to an audience of a lot of young people. Right. And he's very aware of that. And there's some other quotes. We'll get into here where he talks about the fact that he always wants to say he loves God in front of young people who are listening. But again, God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. That's a message you don't always hear at the MTV Movie Awards. The third quote we're gonna share, and this was also at the 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards. It's a longer quote. Bear with me. I'm gonna read it to you here. "Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are. You're not. You're imperfect. You always will be. But there's a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else's blood. Do not forget it. Don't take it for granted". Now, that was a quote that made a lot of waves at the time last year when he uttered it, because it's you know, you're talking about somebody else's blood, grace. I mean, these are themes that we hear quite frequently in Christian churches. Right. So, so kind of interesting. Now, we're gonna move on to the next quote. This was at the Teen Choice Awards last year, specifically youth focused event. He said, "I wanna thank God I always do that when I'm up on a platform in front of a bunch of young faces". And so it was interesting because there's an intentionality there, right? Where he is saying where Chris practicing saying I when I'm in front of people, I want to thank God. I think that's important to do. The last quote he said this also the Teen Choice Awards, "I love God. That's my thing. I love him. And you should, too". So think whatever you want about Chris Pratt, his acting and whatever other issues you wanna think about. But it is interesting to have somebody who is at that caliber in Hollywood saying the things that he is saying on a stage in front of millions upon millions of people. With that said, we're gonna close out the show now. Thought to be an interesting segment there to throw your way. Would love to hear your thoughts on that. So feel free to let us know what your thoughts are on those quotes and on Chris Pratt's comments onstage. Now, as we close out the show, I wanna point guys to just one more interesting article. I think a lot of us are looking for inspiration throughout the day. Maybe you're looking for good scripture. We have an article up on the Pure Flix blog over on Pure Flix Insider. It's 20 short Bible verses About Love for God and Others. And you could take those short Bible verses with you. You could write them down. You could jot them down. You could bookmark the article. It just a great way to keep your mind focused on loving God and loving others. Those are the two most important things we're supposed to be doing as Christians. Again, if you wanna check that out, it's an insider.pureflix.com. Make sure you tune in next week for another episode of the Pure Flix podcast. You can go to Facebook.com/pureflix for more daily inspiration. You can also check out our blog again at insider.pureflix.com. Thanks for listening.
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