Many years ago, a young man ventured into the sanctuary of the congregation I was serving at the time. He apparently enjoyed the service, because he returned the following week. At the end of his second visit, he asked me the following question. “Have you ever thought about becoming a Christian comedian?”At the time, I didn’t think about the possible implications of his question. He could have been saying, “Your sermons are a joke.” Most people aren’t that openly critical to the preacher’s face, so that thought never crossed my mind. I took him at face value and immediately answered that I had actually given it some consideration.
Apparently, I had been exceptionally funny during the two sermons he had experienced. That does happen occasionally. I can be very comical if the subject lends itself to humor and the mood is right. These moments had somehow convinced me that I could, indeed, do some standup comedy.
I said, “Yes.”
The young man was in charge of a fellowship of young adult Christians who met once a month for some entertainment at a planned social gathering. He wanted me to come and share my humor with the group. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I said, “Yes.”
What I discovered the night of my (ahem) performance is that it’s one thing to preach a sermon and sneak some unexpected humor in on an unsuspecting congregation. It’s quite another to stand before folks who are expecting a few belly laughs. I did get a few chuckles that evening, but I suspect they were more out of politeness than unadulterated hilarity.
In showbiz terms, I bombed. Fortunately, I was merely warming up the crowd for the main event of the evening—a singing group. They saved the night and made it a memorable occasion for the attendees (and hopefully erased the memory of what I had done prior to their taking the stage). I wish they could have erased that evening from my memory banks as well. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with the haunting feeling of watching my “jokes” die in the lofty atmosphere of high expectations.
Skinning El Gato
If I ever venture into the land of comedy again (which I highly doubt), I will approach it in an entirely different manner. I won’t go into the logistics of it here, but suffice it to say, there’s more than one way to skin el gato (that was a little levity for my bilingual friends).
All this hilarity conjures up the old question, “Does God have a sense of humor?” I have always maintained the affirmative on that one. There are plenty of instances in Scripture that are humorous. Unfortunately for us, humor is usually cultural. Being Westerners, we miss out on all the fun.
The one exception to the cultural thing would be mother-in-law jokes. Apparently, these are popular in every culture. From what I can glean, however, there are no such gags in the Bible. The Lord had no mother-in-law, so there was no point.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]