It seems to me a sad and frustrating fact these days that
lots of comedians have become the new atheist preachers. What’s the secret of good comedy? …..timing. Er no actually. Not any more. Now apparently it’s ripping into other people’s cherished beliefs.
Recently Marcus Brigstocke chatted to Ann Widdecombe in the BBC’s documentary Are You Having a Laugh: Comedy and Christianity. Brigstocke has done a book and tour lampooning Christianity called God Collar, and he explained that most comedians are quite happy to make jokes about Christianity because they don’t think any Christians will be in the audience – because they think Christians don’t have a sense of humour. Marcus Brigstocke, for my money, came over well, listening and responding carefully to Ann Widdecombe’s questions. A few years back I recall hearing a speaker saying that all faith is precious, whether we agree with it or not, and as such should be handled carefully. Not so, say the comedians, bring on religion it’s a soft target. Whatever happened to comedy? It used to be about feelgood, not feelbad. Now so many comedians feel at liberty to deconstruct dearly held worldviews.
Perhaps we’re reaping what we’ve sown.
For so long so many people have had Christianity in its various forms thrust at them as the way, the whole way, and nothing but the way. And now comedians are fighting back, preaching at us in the style we once preached at them. It reminds me of the Adam and Eve scenario. A&E were told by the snake that they wouldn’t really die if they ate the forbidden fruit, so they tried it and hey! No thunderbolt. They survived. So it is with the comedians. One or two tried lampooning faith and bingo! No thunderbolts from the sky. So now all restraint is gone. My question is – where are the rebel comedians? The alternative comedians. If so many are atheists aren’t they all just towing the party line?
That said there are some comedians who are Christians – Milton Jones, Sally Phillips, (both above) Tim Vine, James Cary & Paul Karenza (writers of Miranda) and others. But I wonder whether there are any comedy shows lampooning atheism? Or championing the many comedic stories in the Bible in a life-affirming way? Because the frustrating thing about all this is that the Bible is loaded with comedy anyway – because comedy is a powerful form of communication, as all comedians well know. As I’ve said many times before, the Bible is mostly narrative, story, and we find ourselves in those ripping yarns. The prodigal’s father running down the road to hug him? In that culture? You’re having a laugh. That’s about as ludicrous as the Queen jumping out of a helicopter at the Olympics. And there are many funny moments. ‘Where did that gold calf come from Aaron?’ ‘Oh er… well, brother Mo, now let me see… it er… no no, don’t rush me, I’ll work it out… er… it was er… no, no… er… oh! Yes! I just dropped a few nose rings into the fire with a few tongue studs and bingo – it walked out!’
‘Where’s your god then?’ asks Elijah when the prophets of Baal can’t get their deity to light their fire. ‘Is he having a bathroom break? Taking a leak maybe? Visiting the little boys’ room perhaps?’
I reckon one thing is certain, though I may sound arrogant saying it
– the ‘scientific’ arguments for atheism will rise and fall. When you bear in mind how long humanity has been kicking around on the planet, and kicking the planet around, the notion that we exist without the presence of another reality is a novelty idea. The new kid on the block. At the end of the day it seems to me that somewhere deep down in our guts there’s a hunger for more than this solid matter we call home. Jimmy Carr once said that we all have invisible friends, he just grew out of his. Yet that’s the rub. All children are born with a sense of another reality. Either we choose to abandon that, sometimes because of pain and disappointment as we grow up, or we find ways to nurture, develop and mature it. Come on funny dudes, how about bringing together comedy, intelligence, mystery and faith. It’s a life affirming concoction.