I grew up thinking that Christians were not funny people. Many of the Christian people I came in contact with were old, sweet and delightful, but not really all that funny. Some of them tried to be funny, like my Sunday school teacher David Davis (true story) but it was polite laugh funny. Not belly laugh, that’s brilliant and I want to marry someone with your sense of humour so I can laugh like this every day for the rest of my life and I’ll have wicked abs because of it funny. Pastors always throw down the same type of jokes, reinforcing the people who love Jesus are dry stereotype. Think about it. Pastors share a little anecdote about their lives that somehow mirrors a Biblical principle but has a cute and funny punchline that later makes you realize that it wasn’t a personal anecdote at all it was just some story that they just cut and pasted the story from the Book of Pastor (pretty sure that’s real) and inserted their own kids’ names in an attempt to make the Biblical principle stick because of that little dash of humour and personal connection. If that story was an image it would be blurry and have the words “STOCK PHOTO” written across it.
Then there was that lady at our church who had a skin disease and the only way her face skin was still on her face was because it was taped on. I was terrified as a child that her hand would fall off if I shook it. Terrified. Thus making my irrational fear of bandaids not so irrational anymore. That was completely unrelated but I needed to get it out.
My “Christians are not funny” mindset was also reinforced because I grew up reading Focus on the Family magazines that featured “comedy” pieces. I distinctly remember thinking at age twelve that I was way funnier than that guy with the oddly appropriate last name. If Brio and Beyond wanted funny, then they should have hired me instead of that guy with a high voice. Really? You’re writing about how granola makes a good Father’s Day gift in a magazine whose target audience is mostly home schooled preteen girls? If this is how funny Christians are allowed to be then I’m going to get kicked out of a church someday. For laughing too loud. At a lame pastor joke.
Somewhere in the midst of my studies at the University of Procrastination, I found some highly engaging material from The Scholarly Journal of Youtuberie. I think this was the first I came across. I watched some videos. Laughed a whole bunch. And then discovered that the people I was laughing at were Christians.
My perceptions began shifting. Maybe, just maybe, there were people out there who loved Jesus AND laughter. People who didn’t find granola all that funny. Or make up fake stories about squirrels and the Bible.
Cue music montage.
Who would have thought that videos made by a tall lanky guy and a short guy with an exceptionally round face would change everything. But they did.
It was around the same time that I began my love affair with Improv and stand up comedy. I discovered the stage and the thrill of making people laugh. I discovered that I could do this without being raunchy. I discovered that being delightfully ridiculous in a church setting puts people at ease. It makes them feel welcome. I discovered that being one of two Jesus lovers on an improv team means you stick out like a sore thumb. I discovered that I’m totally okay with sore thumbs because it’s probably better than sore every other fingers. I discovered that if you plan a comedy fundraiser, you do a stand up routine and make people pay to see you because it’s for orphans in Mexico. I also discovered that stand up is more difficult than it appears. I discovered that it’s still not acceptable to laugh out loud in church, even if the stage hand comes out wearing a balaclava*. During this time I found Jon Acuff’s blog. And Tyler Stanton’s blog. And Tripp Crosby’s blog. And then a whole string of crazy funny writers who also happen to be studying the Word**. I discovered that the lunacy I post on my own blog and Facebook and Twitter is sometimes the only chuckle people get in a day. I discovered that my ability to be ridiculous is God-given and I shouldn’t keep it to myself (hah you poor suckers) and there has to be a reason I am so bizarrely twisted the way I am.
Music montage over.
If I ever make it to a Catalyst thinger (convention? retreat? CONFERENCE. That’s the word) it won’t be to see Francis Chan or Matt Chandler or some other big time pastor. It will be to see the hosts. And to thank them for being funny idiots. Funny idiots who love Jesus. And who should include me in their next sketch. Ahem.
*I’m not making that up. Stage Ninja is real.
**That’s like gangster talk for the Bible. Word.