Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 4

I continue to grade theology midterms. I am as funny as a heart attack right now. But thankfully, I'm enjoying this series. Today's sucker is Allen from It Came From Allen's Brain!, who brings us the Gospel of Melvin (trust me, it's apocryphal) and one of my wish-I-thought-of-it, I mean favorite, posts: (less than) Helpful Hints for Being More Like Jesus. I think I said once that Allen was evangelical Christian, and he said, yeah, that works. He also defined himself to me via email as a Protestant nut-job. So, enough said. Introducing...Allen's very funny answers. And my comments in red.

What is the role of humor on your blog?
Humor plays the good-looking, scantily-dressed-in-the-third-act, blonde movie star that everyone keeps coming to see. She’s not a great actress, but it gets people in the seats. [bada boom]

Humor occasionally takes pot-shots at current religious topics in the news, like the Gospel of Melvin series or the tomb of Elijah, to mock the absurdity of things that (I think) get taken way to seriously. More often than not, humor is just there to make me laugh, and hopefully give a chuckle to the readers.

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
Have you read the Bible? [Hey! I know I'm Catholic, but no need to hit below the belt!] The bit about the camel going through the eye of the needle? That’s funny. (I always imagine he managed to get his head and neck through, and is stuck at the hump.) The attack on the Pharisees about straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel? That’s comedy!

Proverbs is loaded with humorous images. There’s the jokes about the guy who’s so lazy, he won’t cook his food or even lift his hand out of the dish! The extent of his exercise regimen is turning over in bed! Slap some hinges on the guy, and he’d make a decent door!
Elijah making fun of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 17 is classic, as is Isaiah’s attack on idol worship in Isa 44.

As much humor as there is in the Bible, I don’t see why we can’t have “Christian humor.”

Are you funny offline?
Well, a lot of people laugh at me. Is that the same thing? [Um.]

Yeah, I’m a fairly funny guy. (I prefer that to being a “funly fairy guy.” I just don’t have the wings for it.) I have to restrain myself from the pulpit, sometimes. (I have a straitjacket for that very purpose) I make occasional jokes in sermons, but I have to make sure I don’t get “on a roll,” and turn the whole thing into a standup routine. Otherwise, the message may be lost in a string of jokes.

Are there “BIG POINTS” in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
I’d like to say, “Yes, it’s all carefully calculated to slip the message past the logic circuits of the brain and directly into the heart!” Usually, it isn’t though. I’m just goofing around, and since the Bible and Church have always been a huge part of my life, it leaks into the humor.

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
How much space do I get? Usually, turning something about 45 degrees to make you look at it in an entirely different manner seems funny to me. That’s why I love puns and wordplay, parody, or reassessing behavior/ reassigning motives to characters in a well-known story that makes you say, “I never thought about it that way before!”

Then again, I have a fair appreciation of blatantly absurd humor. If you take a fairly straight-forward line of thinking or story, and then suddenly insert something utterly bizarre before continuing on your sane way, I think that’s funny. It’s unexpected, and it makes you ask, “What were they thinking?”

Nearly everything is humorous if you look at it from the right perspective. Except tragedy, of course. That’s just funny, regardless!

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
Anything that uses a lower-case “t.” [bada boom crash]

I try not to make dirty jokes—though the spam email for God post came pretty close. That was just a reflection of some of the junk that still manages to slip through my email filters. And how do you invent a header mocking that, without at least alluding to the existence of sexual activity?

I try to avoid politics, if I can. It’s like racist humor—somebody is going to get their feelings hurt and be left out. And I don’t want to draw those kind of divisions over political party lines. If you’re confronting sin outright, okay, but whether you vote for this candidate or that one shouldn’t make you my sworn enemy for life.

Jesus used humor and outright insults to redeem, and I guess any humor that offends unnecessarily would be line-crossing at my blog.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?
The faked 1984 Christian t-shirts. I had just finished re-reading Orwell’s book, and I thought it would be funny if someone tweaked the themes and slogans in the book to create Christian parodies for t-shirts. (Hey, they do it with every other piece of pop culture!) I especially thought it was funny because of the bad doctrine implied by Jesus as “Big Brother.” Then I wrote the whole thing in imitation of 1984 NEWSPEAK. It just wasn’t funny, I guess.

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker’s Guide series,) Terry Pratchett (the Discworld novels,) Groucho Marx’s writers: the wordplay is exquisite. Dave Barry (about half the time,) and the writers for "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Additionally, all the people involved in the new TV show “Pushing Daisies.” Oh, and Friedrich Nietzsche, of course. Now there’s a guy who knows funny! [Ohhhhhh...I have a long-ago former love interest philosopher who I desperately wish could read that line.]

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
For me: frivolity (That would make a great song in a musical!). If I could make it work as evangelism without it seeming forced or artificial, I would. I’m not gifted like that, I guess. However, if you come for the humor (the scantily-dressed blonde of question #1) and are influenced/ nourished/ evangelized by my more serious articles, then I think that’s great!

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
Um, I dig up old humor I have in my files but have never posted—like the Prayer of St Espressus of Java, or, I just don’t post. Or I write posts about 1984.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.
You mean, in my blog? Melvin, for sure.

In his life on this earth? He spent those 3 years that we know the most about with a bunch of guys. There was probably a lot of practical jokes going on (There’s a great scene in the Visual Bible film version of the Gospel of Matthew [with Bruce Marchiano as Jesus] during the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus empties half a water skin on Peter’s head), and the sort of joshing around that guys tend to do: Who had the smelliest sandals or who could belch the loudest. (Sorry, ladies, I know that’s gross, but guys are guys, even if one of them is the Son of God!) See the “Christian humor” question, for a more “spiritual” answer.

I know you said “name one,” but, considering that kids felt comfortable around Jesus, I think he probably laughed at "kid jokes": knock-knock jokes, silly riddles, that sort of thing.

Like..."hey, Rabbouni. How many Sons of David does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
"I am the Light of the World, nitwit! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Thanks, Allen. Coming Wednesday: Julie (I know! A girl!) from Happy Catholic.


Allen said...

And he saith unto them, "What is a lightbulb?"
Thanks for a fun interview! May your readership not decrease as a result.

Joel B. said...

Nicely answered, Allen. Clearly you know more of what you're talking about than I do.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Allen, don't forget Jesus' omniscience. The same yesterday, today, forever: thus, Jesus knoweth lightbulbs.

Although maybe the ancient Israel version of the joke was "How many ____ does it take to light a cooking fire?"

Thanks for playing along.