Saturday, February 16, 2008

Should I really be laughing at that?

I’m not a funny person, but I love to laugh.

This is convenient for me, because great comics tell jokes without laughing at them. So if I were funny, I wouldn’t be able to laugh at my own jokes, and therefore would not enjoy it as much. But maybe if you’re funny there’s even more joy in making others laugh…

But I do have funny friends.

One of them is a new friend I hung out with yesterday. His name is Austin. The dude was hilarious. He was unique in the sense that he has trained himself in the art of being funny without laughing at his jokes, then moving onto the next funny thing. Demetri Martin is in the same genre of humor (Fair warning: Martin’s sharp wit is intertwined with a couple F-bombs and mildly crass humor.)

Some of my other funny friends are Paul and Jenni Sabino. They are hilarious. Paul is the master of absurdity and quick wit (similar to Jim Gaffigan’s hot pocket rant), while Jenni’s imitations and impressions will put you on the floor laughing. It is a recipe for disaster to sit next to Paul at our staff meetings. When we went on a date night with them, I nearly ran the car off the road because I was laughing so hard. The best impersonator I’ve ever witnessed is Frank Caliendo (with close to 8 million youtube views.)- with Jenni’s British, Scottish, Nerd, East Coast/Italian, Asian and whatever other accents are out there as a close second.

Another friend that can crack me up: Ed Noble. If Jim Rome were a preacher, he might sound like Ed. You wouldn’t know this from his speaking style, but he is one of the smartest, wittiest, and scholarly pastors I know. You can find him here.

BTW, Jim Rome’s take on Miss South Carolina is hilarious.

The hardest thing about humor is that I’m a pastor, and I’m not supposed to laugh at certain things.

But I do.

Even though I often find things funny that I shouldn’t, here are some guidelines I try to live by:

1. Joking about immorality makes me sick most of the time. Perverted humor that does anything other than honor marriage is something I do my best to avoid ("Marriage should be honored by all..." Hebrews 13). It’s the cause of too much brokenness to be funny.

2. Overuse of the F-bomb will disqualify a good comedian, as will taking the Lord’s name in vain. (Although I will say this- the command was not primarily given to keep people from saying “G--“ after hitting their finger with a hammer. Maybe I’ll explain in another blog…)

I’m sure crass language doesn’t bother me as much as it should.

One word that I would use more often if it wasn’t on the evangelical contraband list is “ass.” A few of those- timely placed- are funny to me. Part of Seinfeld’s new stand up routine includes an encore where he talks about the utility of this word. I heard it second hand and it cracked me up. C.S. Lewis, borrowing from St. Francis of Assisi, uses this word in the Four Loves when he talks about “brother ass.”

Some of you were thinking, “I can’t believe he thinks ‘ass’ is ok” But then I dropped C.S. Lewis’ name and it was ok.

But I very rarely use that word, because it’s really not OK to use the word around people who find it offensive. Why use offensive language if it’s not necessary to communicate the point? A couple weeks ago, I said the “S” word in a sermon. It was not to glorify the word, rather to keep the integrity of the story. The setting was also important (i.e. our college ministry)- I never would’ve used the word on a Sunday morning in church or at a junior high event, etc. even to protect the integrity of the story.

4. Laughing at stereotypes and generalizations about groups of people are generally funny, until the humor is hurtful to a particular person. Then it’s not funny- or shouldn’t be. The golden rule rules in this situation (If someone said that about me, would I laugh or be hurt?)

5. Even though Larry the Cable Guy is a Husker fan, his stand up routine was unbearable for me (or anyone else in the blue collar, dirty jokes genre). But I have to admit, his story about his trip to Home Depot made me laugh. Some clean comedians in contrast to him are Brad Stine and Brian Regan.

6. I try to employ moderation when it comes to the consumption of humor. Solomon warns us about this in Ecclesiastes. Moreover, too much humor can trivialize our lives. As I was typing this I got an email about another Afghan tragedy. I’ll write more about that later. I’ve already told Joseph’s story.

But when Joseph smiles, it reminds me why God gave us humor.

Humor is God's gift to bring joy in our often jacked up world. Satan didn’t invent it- he merely perverts it. Thanks, Lord, that every good gift is from you. Teach us to laugh harder at the things you find funny and turn away from all else.

What makes you laugh?

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

I have to say I disagree with point 4 in most cases. Imagine you're telling a "Jewish mom" joke, and unbeknownst to you, there's someone present who has a Jewish heritage. Maybe you think it wouln't hurt you, but because of that person's particular background, it does hurt him or her. I don't see how you can have any way of knowing. And I have to say I have been in a situation where I was hurt by the "group humor" and didn't speak up. It's hard to do so in such a situation.