Showing posts with label about humor blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label about humor blogging. Show all posts

Monday, October 31, 2011

The One, The Only Ironic Catholic Interview with Rob Kroese, author of Mercury Rises

Everyone, it was my great pleasure to pose some questions to Rob Kroese, aka Diesel from the mostly defunct humor blog Mattress Police, turned humor writer of "may become a cult classic" Mercury Falls and the newly released Mercury Rises. If you've read the books, you know that they are absolutely not theological texts but that Rob knows some theology and likes to play around with it. He is Christian Reformed, a deacon in his church community, and agreed to "talk" a bit about Christianity, writing, humor, and underground mammals. Without further adieu -- welcome to the Ironic Catholic, Rob Kroese. Virtual Holy Water to your right. Let's go.

IC: So, besides writing Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises, what do you do in real life?

RK: I'm an extremely boring software developer. I mean, I write extremely boring software. Also, I am extremely boring.

IC: You’ve got to know the adage, “write what you know.” You’ve now written two books on mostly invisible spirits, the Apocalypse, and Armageddon. What are you implying here?

RK: I start out writing what I know and then get distracted by angels and demons and explosions. What I know is boring. The stuff that goes on in my imagination is pretty wild though.

IC:. Christians and humor, humor and Christians: Go.

RK: I have a theory that Christianity is itself a joke. Think about it: humor is all about meeting the reader's expectations in an unexpected way. It's a way of resolving tension by answering a question with an answer that is both completely wrong and perfectly right. That's what Christianity is. The Hebrews wanted a King and a Deliverer. Well, they got Him. Just not the way they expected.

Who’s the most humorous character in Scripture and why?

RK: I think Jonah is pretty great. This is a guy who did not mess around. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach and he said, you know what? I think I'm going to RUN AWAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. The story is Job is pretty funny in a way, too. This guy has everything and then one day his servants show up and tell him, one after another, that whoops! all your stuff is gone. All in one day he gets hit by the Chaldeans, the Sabeans, fire from the heavens, and a windstorm. That was a very bad day. Job is actually a rather important character in Mercury Rests, the third (and final) Mercury book. He is an irrepressible optimist and a foil to the more pessimistic Cain.

IC: One of the things I like about your writing is that while Mercury 1 and 2 are absolutely not theology textbooks, you clearly know more about theology than the average Joe, and it shows. How’d you get to be so smart?

RK: 15 years in Christian schools, particularly the four years that I spent half-paying attention to my philosophy classes at Calvin College. I've always loved playing around with abstract philosophical and theological concepts. It's entertainment for me.

IC: Your writing gets compared a lot to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Are you honored, offended, or nonplussed by that comparison? Are there any other writers you’d say are an influence?

RK: I love Douglas Adams. Tried to read one of Pratchett's Discworld books and couldn't get into it. The only other Pratchett I've read is the first quarter of Good Omens, which I read while I was working on Mercury Falls, just to make sure I wasn't accidentally ripping them off. I consider it a huge compliment to be compared to either Adams or Pratchett, though. They both have a fanatical following. Vonnegut is another favorite of mine. I love the way he can cut through a mountain of bullsh*t with one terse sentence.

IC: Is it a requirement to live in California to skewer the Apocalypse fakers? Or amazingly convenient?

RK: You know, Harold Camping not only lives less than 2 hours from me; we are from the same religious tradition originally (Christian Reformed). You'd think I could get him to return my phone calls. I really need a quote for book #3.

IC: Speaking of everlasting battles against evil, how are those moles in your yard?

RK: Not moles. Gophers. The battle rages on, until I breathe my last breath.

Since a lot of IC readers are bloggers, I have to ask: do you miss blogging? Or has Twitter filled that part of your soul?

RK: Not really. Blogging was hard work. It definitely prepared me well for writing a novel, though. I learned how to write short, punchy chapters that kept the reader's interest. The novels take all my writing energy these days.

IC: Last but not least: Is Mercury Catholic or Reformed?

RK: A lot of people have compared Mercury Falls to Kevin Smith's Dogma and I think it's an apt comparison, except that Mercury Falls is the Reformed version of the story. It deals less with the trappings of Catholicism than with the obsessions of the Reformed theologians, like free will and determinism.

I think Mercury is sort of a hopeful agnostic. He wants to believe in something bigger than himself, but unfortunately the people he works for are idiots, so sometimes it's hard to maintain the faith. If I recall correctly, one of your criticisms of Mercury Falls was basically that God never shows up. And while I sympathize with that criticism, I deliberately did not make God a character in the story, because it felt like cheating. I wanted the angels to be just in the dark about God's existence and nature as human beings are. Which doesn't mean that they are *completely* in the dark, of course. You see some characters who really are God-like in the best sense, such as the archangel Michelle. Michelle obviously believes in *something*, even it if isn't spelled out in the book what it is. You'll see more of that with Job in Mercury Rests.


I want to thank Rob for his graciousness and his support of all humorous writing in bloggerdom. He's done a lot to encourage it in others, and writes hysterical stuff himself. Best wishes to him and I encourage you to read Mercury Falls and Mercury Rises.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Philip Neri, IC Blog!

St. Philip Neri, the joyful priest and mystic who loved God and a good joke, has his feast today. May 26th.  Along with St. Francis de Sales, he is the patron saint of this blog.

Don't know anything about him?  You should.  Go here.  And here is a snippet:
Philip was known to be spontaneous and unpredictable, charming and humorous.

He seemed to sense the different ways to bring people to God. One man came to the Oratory just to make fun of it. Philip wouldn't let the others throw him out or speak against him. He told them to be patient and eventually the man became a Dominican. On the other hand, when he met a condemned man who refused to listen to any pleas for repentance, Philip didn't try gentle words, but grabbed the man by the collar and threw him to the ground. The move shocked the criminal into repentance and he made a full confession.

Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they were tinged with humor like practical jokes and were related with gratitude by the people they helped. His lessons always seem to be tailored directly to what the person needed. One member who was later to become a cardinal was too serious and so Philip had him sing the Misere at a wedding breakfast. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon.

Philip preferred spiritual mortification to physical mortification. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.

...Philip did not escape this spiritual mortification himself. As with others, his own humbling held humor. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

Also a good site with a saying a day from St. Philip here.

Happy Feast Day, Blog!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Did Jesus Laugh?: Fr. James Martin

Nicely done, although I wish it had been a bit longer. Hat tip to The Deacon's Bench.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Laughing with the Saints

Click here to watch a video of Fr. James Martin, SJ, on the place of humor and joy in Catholic life. (Hint: He's for it.) I'm linking to it rather than embedding the video, which is set to automatically start playing even in embed mode. (!)

He opens with a long-ish joke poking fun at Jesuits before getting to his subject, which seemed pretty appropriate for a Catholic humor blog. A warning that the whole clip is nearly 10 minutes long, so if you're surfing from work, you don't have time to see the whole thing!
- sic

Monday, October 06, 2008

Truth Is Stranger #85: "The 10 Commandments of Blogging"

HT American Papist, originally from Britain's Times Online:

  1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity
  2. You shall not make an idol of your blog
  3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog
  5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes
  6. You shall not murder someone else's honour, reputation or feelings
  7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind
  8. You shall not steal another person's content
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content
You wonder if the Anglican communion doesn't have bigger fish to fry than this, but I think these moral blogging codes are actually quite good.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My Ten Excuses For Not Blogging

Allen's Brain has come up with a (unsurprisingly) wacky set of excuses. As I have no brain cells firing at the moment (good week and weekend, but long and tiring), I'm copying Allen's framework and making my own excuses, since the written posts have been a tad lax of late.

Feel free to make this a meme of sorts: what are YOUR ten excuses for not blogging? I tag whoever wants to play.

My ten excuses for not blogging:
  1. Letting cyberspace go without the melodious prose of my satire lets people discuss much more important things, like Sarah Palin's hairstyle.
  2. My new motto: Let go. Let God. Let blog.
  3. I've been scouring the net for beautiful in spirit nun photos for Sister Mary Martha's contest.
  4. Someone told me this week that St. Ignatius suggested "is doing this something you will be content about as you lie on your deathbed?" I'm still pondering that one...this could take a while....
  5. I've been writing a peer-reviewed article on how blogging is the new spiritual direction. But it's going slowly because I'm kind of groggy with all these nightmares of desert fathers taking my keyboard and bashing me on the head.
  6. My computer monitor got baptized in the Spirit and died to itself.
  7. Now that I'm in middle age, I've begun flossing. It takes a surprising amount of blogging time.
  8. I get stuck staring at the desktop for hours, wondering if the Google Chrome icon is intentionally a Trinitarian symbol. Or a retro Simon game. Then I wonder if we could create a Catholic Simon game: Father. Father Son. Father Son Holy Spirit. Etc.
  9. I just can't imagine Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta saying "Make all your blog something beautiful for God."
  10. I just read St. John of the Cross. I think I'm experiencing the dark night of the blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Laughter and the Saints (Fr. James Martin)

Well--OK, this is a few months late, but every Catholic humor blog needs this 27 minute (funny!) lecture on why humor is appropriate in the seriously Christian life. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why is St. Francis de Sales the patron saint of this blog?

A friendly reader named Greg wrote me to adjudicate an argument about what exactly is appropriate humor from a Christian perspective. I guided him to all those interviews on Christians and humor blogging, but I also promised him this piece from St. Francis de Sales' spiritual masterpiece Introduction to the Devout Life (and the reason St. Francis is the patron saint of this blog!).

Scoffing at others is a wretched practice. God detests this vice. In the Old Testament he inflicts strange punishments on scoffers. There can be nothing more opposed to love and devotion than to despise and condemn your neighbor. Poking fun and scoffing are the same thing. Derision, mockery, scorn, and contempt are sins.

There are some good-humored words that can be spoken in modest jesting that are acceptable. This is innocent fun. The Greeks called it eutrapelia. We call it pleasant conversation. With it we can have a friendly, amusing discussion about human imperfections.

The trick is to avoid moving from light-hearted mirth to vicious scoffing. Scoffing produces laughter through scorn and contempt of another. Laughing banter comes from freedom and familiarity in clever expression. Jokes and puns can be healthy.
--St. Francis de Sales

Please, God, I hope I am doing the second paragraph.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging: Me!

As threatened, here are my answers to end the series (unless my two interlopers respond to the interview). The problem with closing this up is that all the good answers have been taken!

What is the role of humor on your blog?
No (attempted) humor, no blog. I have a job where I get to hash out and speak to the serious stuff everyday. This blog is mostly a release for me. Having said that, I have to reign in my serious instincts all the time. And I do hope that inviting people to laugh at themselves (as I am) is a spiritual virtue of sorts.

I mostly try to do affection-based humor. The more pointed stuff I reserve not for individuals but for the culture of death, because the devil, proud spirit, cannot stand to be mocked. (Milton, right?)

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
It may be moronic, but not OXYmoronic. (rim shot)

Laughing is one of the joys of life. I have no idea why some people think Christians are humorless. They must be thinking of Puritans instead (although even they may have laughed at the lobsters: "what? we're supposed to eat this red spiny junk"?)

Are you funny offline?
Often I get that comment on my student evaluations. A few years ago, I got a number of evals that said I reminded them a lot of Jeanine Garafalo (who was then popular for the movie "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," not being the rather humorless liberal wag she is now). I do bear a passing resemblance, but I think it was the dry, self-deprecating humor thing they were referring to. Most of my students don't want to take the courses (they're required), so a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Then again, some just say I'm boring and why the %^&* do they have to take a theology requirement?

I have met a few bloggers offline and I imagine they think, gee, she's a lot more serious in person.

Are there "BIG POINTS" in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
Ah, I think I come across as a little preachy sometimes. Sorry. So yes, often there are big points (teachable moments, as we like to say). The two posts I most enjoyed writing were completely silly, though (Snakes on an Altar and Talk Like A Pirate During Confession).

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
It's always the contrast between the expected and unexpected, mixed into the ridiculous, wry, and thoughtful, folded with humility, baked into wit. Such a recipe often flops.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
Personal attacks. I just read a fantastic piece by St. Francis de Sales on this...I'll find it and post it later.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?
Hmm. Quite a few, I'm guessing. I thought the Kill the Passions! lecture by the hermit opening the college school year was kind of cute. If there was response, it wasn't communicated to me! I liked the Gasoline is Liquefied Mammon piece too.

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
My kids, Mark Twain, Monty Python, Chesterton, The Onion (when they aren't being obscene), Stephen Colbert, Garrison Keillor, and Kierkegaard when he's having a good day.

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
D. all of the above. Context is everything.

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
Uh, I write bad posts. I have a 30 minute rule with this blog--posts need to be done in 30 minutes because I have a busy life. I do sometimes break the rule, but I try not to. So if it isn't up to snuff...I usually post it anyway. I have no shame. After all, it's an anonymous blog!

I am well acquainted with the Flickr search functions and Odd News sites as well. Honestly, the original posts take some thought before writing, and I've been too busy to do as much as I would like.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.
Look, Jesus loved his friends. They had to laugh together sometimes. My vote for best laughable moment is the story about the Samaritan woman at the well: "Yes, you answer rightly that you have no husband, because you have lived with five men and the one who are living with now is not your husband." I mean, Jesus' affection for this woman is evident. I can't see Jesus uttering that without smiling and even chuckling a bit.

See the whole series by clicking the About Humor Blogging tag below.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 7

Hello to Tim from The Lapped Catholic ("Faith lived, hope spoken, love given! Well, that's the ideal!") Tim is our 2007 Ironic Poet Laureate, and he's not kidding about his confessed addiction to caption contests (by which we all benefit). Tim, I know real life gets in the way, but you've got to get blogging some more. Tim is a funny guy. See his post on "The Boxing Nun", picture left.

Have at it, Tim. My comments are in red.

What is the role of humor on your blog?

Other than a place for people to point at, laugh, and say "he calls that a blog"? I think mostly it's an outlet for my humorous side and a way to prove to myself that I'm funny, oh and to live out, in some small way, my childhood fantasy of writing for Saturday Night Live or a sitcom.

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
I think true "Christian Humor" is an aspect of hope. [Dang, that's good.] Kind of in a "You've got to laugh to keep from crying" sort of way. Let's see if I can explain this. The basis of good humor is to show the difference between expectations and reality, so good "CH" should in some way highlight the difference between what we know we could be (holy) and what we are (fallen). And you can either choose to bemoan your fallen state and descend into hopelessness and despair or you can laugh at yourself (albeit nervously) because of your faith in God (okay, it's an aspect of faith AND hope) and your hope in His promise of saving grace. (Okay, so maybe it's an aspect of faith, hope AND grace. I feel like the Spanish Inquisition..."Our two weapons are...I mean, our three weapons are...oh, I'll just go out and start again.)

Are you funny offline?
Thankfully my wife finds me very amusing. My children a little less so. With most other people it takes me a long time to warm up to them so I don't usually try my humor on them. Most people I know would probably call me stoic.

Are there "BIG POINTS" in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
I think there usually are some bigger points but I trust most people to figure out the points because I become less funny the more I try to explain myself.

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
It's back to that juxtaposition of expectations/fantasy and reality. But it can go both ways. You can make fun of something by pointing out the discrepancy between it and reality or you can take something serious and real and make it silly and not so serious. But it has to be done without ill will or the appearance of ill will. That's where it just turns into bullying and it's not funny. I also find things funny when they point out connections between very disparate things that I would probably never have thought of.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
I try very hard not to cross the line. In a previous lifetime I was all about humor that crossed the line. My humor would cross the line and then I'd draw another line just so I could cross that one. That kind of humor has no hope and leads to some very dark places.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?
My "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Arinze" bumper sticker post:

It was probably more of a timing issue since I came up with it well after the Pope's elevation. Still, I thought it was hilarious to think of the Pope having a bumper sticker, for one thing, and it being like the "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For (insert losing candidate's name here)" you see after an election. I still laugh when I see it. The only thing funnier would be to get access to his car and put the bumper sticker on it. [heh heh--that would be great]

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
I enjoy a lot of the old humorists like Twain, Chesterton, Wilde. Many of the Monty Python crew make me laugh both as Monty Python and in many of their later individual projects. My list of humorists I don't like is a lot longer and easier for me to think of but you didn't ask for that list and it would be unChristian to offer it...wouldn't it? [Yeah. But I admire your restraint,
even as I now sit and wonder what this list contains.]

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
I think humor can definitely be used for evangelization, just as long as it's not delivered from the pulpit like a
Late Night with David Letterman monologue. The Mass is for things sacred. I find most humor delivered in a homily to be inappropriate. No matter how precious or clever, it is still mundane, and mundane is not sacred. I know because I just looked it up on

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
I don't, sad to say. I haven't been feeling very funny lately and my blog has suffered, (though it's not like I was racking up the posts in the first place). A lot of times I'll go to other blogs and try to be funny in the comboxes. One way I like to keep my funny bone in shape is to do caption
contests. I'll drop everything to do a caption contest. I fear that might point to a flaw in my character.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.
I can imagine Jesus letting out a laugh as Peter starts to sink while he's walking across the
Sea of Galilee during the storm, as the reality of Peter's humanity is made clear. But it is a loving laugh of a friend who sees His humanity in his friend. Later, once they were in the boat, I imagine Jesus slapped Peter on the back and told him, "Dude, I wasn't laughing at you...I was laughing near you!"*.

*Loose translation from the Aramaic.

Thanks, Tim, those were great answers. Now write some posts already.

That's pretty much the end of the interview series. I did ask two other blogs to contribute, and as yet, they haven't...but if they return my email with answers, I will post them. I may take a crack at these questions myself Saturday or Monday and close the series. I guess my "academic geek cred" is showing, but I thought this was very interesting...especially how so many of us are on the same page on Christian life and humor.

To see entire series, click on the About Humor Blogging tag.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 6

Welcome to Paul from Alive and Young! Paul is a Notre Dame student, and we'll refrain from lame jokes about the never-ending passion of the ND football season, shall we? We're practicing Christian hospitality here. Alive and Young is another "mixed topics" blog, but heavy on the humor...and Paul does a lot of his own. As any red blooded college student/budding theologian would, he has insights (picture top right) that others do not. And his fake news series on Celebs Commenting on Catholicism (example here) is inspired.

Now (professorial tone on)... I hope all this blogging isn't getting in the way of YOUR midterms, young man. But thanks for answering all these questions. Take it away, Paul!

What is the role of humor on your blog?
I initially started "Alive and Young" with the goal of engaging culture (the world) and seeing where Christianity coincides with the age and how it doesn't. So most of my earlier posts were serious in nature or took on a more serious tone. I eventually discovered that being too serious all the time was just boring: it was a real drag -- I'm only as serious as I have to be, which isn't all the time. I found far too many blogs dedicated to being serious, which can be depressing. So I eventually started inserting humorous things to liven up the blogosphere.

Not only do I use humor on my blog to change the pace of posts, I also use humor to try and educate. If people can learn something while they are laughing I feel that what they learn is more likely to stick. Plus, everyone likes to laugh. Why not try to increase the general happiness of the world by helping people laugh?

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
What is contradictory about Christianity being funny? Nothing. I don't know where people got the idea that Christians can't be funny or have humor. After all Christ didn't say "Let me into your life so that I can make you miserable, unhappy, and bitter." Nor did Christ say "Blessed are the people who don't have humor and don't laugh, for they shall have the last laugh." I would say that Christian humor is currently more of an anomaly than an oxymoron.

Also, humor is part of the unseriousness of life. If God did not intend humor he probably would not have created laughter nor would he have created things like noses, ears, and flatulence.

Are you funny offline?
I find myself mildly amusing. Others think I'm not too funny. Others think I'm funny. Depends on who you ask. I just try to laugh and hope others laugh with me.

Are there “BIG POINTS” in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
Sometimes the big point is just humor, laughter, and nothing more. Other times it is an attempt to educate the reader on a specific church teaching. I hope to show people that Christians can have humor, comedy, and laughter in a way that is not crass and crude like many of the current secular comedians, humorists, and sitcoms.

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
Anything that makes me laugh, but not everything that makes me laugh must be shared with the world. The things that I find most funny are things that are filled with wit. I find it much more difficult to do witty humor than it is to make a crass joke about sex or using the bathroom.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
There are a number of things that could cross the line. I use the rule of thumb that if I wouldn't talk about it or tell the joke to my grandmother then it probably doesn't belong on my blog. I try to avoid potty humor, crude sex jokes, and pointless swearing. [The Grandma rule...I like that!]

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?
I have two that I thought were funny and didn't get much of a response. The first is Papal Briefs.
The second is a satirical letter to my catechists: "Dear Catechists".

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
Brian Regan and Bill Gaffigan [OK, now I feel really old. Never heard of them.]

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
All of the above. [Now THAT'S a midterm answer!]

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
I usually don't feel funny. So I just wait until something hits me that is funny. I write daily, but I try not to force the humor. There aren't any canned laughter tracks on a blog nor are there any "laughter" or "applause" signs in a post, so I can't tell people when, where, or what to laugh at. Lately, my funny bone has been not so funny, so I haven't been doing much original humor. Just finding stuff online that others have done.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.

--Well, maybe in a Sarah laughing at the existence of Isaac kind of way.
Actually, I hope Jesus is chuckling at your "Theologian in a Box: All the prestige for a fraction of the price" post. I'm still tearing up at the prestige bit.

Thanks, Paul. Coming Friday: Tim from The Lapped Catholic.

Read all the interviews by clicking the About Humor Blogging tag.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 5

(Photo Right: That's not Julie, just an example of the fine art she likes. She got this photo from Hey Jules. Seems to fit Julie's blog though--happy, artful, doing her own thing, elegant....)

Welcome Julie from Happy Catholic (not always happy but happy to be Catholic)! Julie mentioned in her response that she wasn't sure she should be included, but hey, it's my blog, I'm "the decider" here. And Julie consistently has funny jokes, stories, pictures, demotivational posters and religionesque TV dialogues to spice up her all-points-Catholic blog...the blog would be entirely different without it. Like Jeff Miller, Julie is also a convert (hmm...a pattern among Catholic bloggers? For what it is worth, I'm a cradle Catholic), an avid reader (she has a podcast about the classics), and has a keen appreciation of beauty, especially in fine art, photos, and Jim Caviezel. She's also happily married. So...Ms. Julie, you're on the Ironic Catholic! (And my comments are in red.)

What is the role of humor on your blog?

Unlike some other bloggers, my gracious host included, I don't specifically write funny posts. Any humor on my blog is just an expression of my personality ... or picked up from the above mentioned funny blogs just because it makes me laugh. As a result, some of the following questions don't really relate to my blog.
[Oh! Yes they do! Stop the modesty thing, Julie!]

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
Because God has a great sense of humor from what I can tell. Avoiding that oft mentioned design of the platypus or ostrich, let's just look at the parables Jesus tells in the Gospels. Some of them have examples so very extreme that you just know he was counting on using humor to make his point. And we are to use him as our example so it follows that Christians have to know when to be serious but equally when to laugh and be humorous. (Not that I can always tell that successfully, mind you.)

Are you funny offline?
People do laugh at me a lot and sometimes I'm actually trying to be funny. :-D

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?

How does one answer that question? Humor is just one factor of how we communicate with each other. It takes a common understanding of something to see why a particular juxtaposition or opposition of something else makes it funny. We have to have something in common I suppose ... and also to be intelligent enough to be able to look at a subject from the same skewed angle. Which means the question really is, "are we skewed in the same way?" Sometimes we can judge that properly ... and sometime (sadly) not!

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?

Crude humor, most sexual humor, mean humor.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped? (Feel free to include link.)
This was sent to me by my husband's very devout aunt but surprised me by getting a considerable amount of flack.

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
Terry Pratchett, Monty Python [it's about time these guys got mentioned!], The Simpsons, The Curt Jester, your blog of course ... [Aw. I'll slip you the $10 later, Julie.]

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
Just a part of life and personality. [OK, but does this mean you are a frivolous evangelist? An evangelical frivolity?]

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?

Thank goodness I don't have a humor blog so I don't have to!

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.

Privately, I think that he probably laughed a good deal about the denseness of the disciples ... just as he does with us over our own denseness sometimes. Of course, I can only speak for myself but there have definitely been times when it was as if I got a poke in the ribs along with "Get it?" and then have just cracked up at my own idiocy.

The ability to laugh at one's own density: one of the keys to holiness. I totally agree with that.

Thanks, Julie. Coming Thursday: Paul at Alive and Young.

See all the interviews by clicking on the About Humor Blogging tag below.

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.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 3

Today the blog welcomes Jeff Miller of The Curt Jester ("Punditry, Prayer, Parody, Polemics, and Puns from a Papist Perspective"). If you have hidden under a blogospheric rock, I can tell you that Jeff is a convert, long time Catholic mega-blogger, and absolute master of puns (See the picture at right? Jesus the Mathsiah Brings Division here) who will never be accused of being wishy-washy on anything. That scripture where God says "the lukewarm I will spit out of my mouth"? No problem, Jeff. Disclaimer: I probably owe any readership I have to Jeff for generously linking to me as I was starting up shop over a year ago. So, publicly, thank you! Now, without further ado, Jeff, you're on...(and my few comments are in red...)

What is the role of humor on your blog?

Strangely when I started my first blog over five years ago it was going to be a punditry blog and humor and parody just developed. Now I use it quite often since it is a good tool to make a point while having fun.

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?

Because God gave us humor and the oxymoron would be Christianity without humor. Several martyrs are known for good laugh lines in the process of their martyrdom. [Jeff, I know the St Lawrence line, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side" as he was roast on a spit. Do you know others?]

Are you funny offline?

I pretty much take every opportunity to pun and to joke. I have broken up multiple serious meetings with a well placed question in a comic mode.

Are there "BIG POINTS" in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?

I think my funnier stuff all have big points. Parody is best that way when it makes serious points in a humorous way that can actually make comprehension of the subject easier.

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?

It really depends on the type of humor. Parody is funny when it is really close to the truth. Most things become funny when there is some dichotomy where sometimes it can be a likeness in the subject matter or something quite at odds with what would be normal.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?

This is a really important question and something that as a Catholic humorist I always keep in mind. Not every idea I start out with do I finish and sometimes a couple ideas that I had finished I decided not to post. I try to keep my humor very broad and to be mostly focused on
ideas and not the individuals. I try to ridicule silly ideas without attacks on a person and try to keep the emphasis on the idea. I doubt if this is something I always achieve so this is something up to others to decide. I hardly have large negative replies to any of my posts (excepting trolls), but when I do I certainly take a look at what I did and in a couple of cases yanked the post.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?

Sometimes you just never know that will catch on. You might craft something as almost a throwaway post and have a large reaction. Other times something you are especially proud of receives little or no attention. Though in the blogging world sometimes it is hard to gage
reaction since you depend on comments to do this and few people comment. I have thought that some ideas had flopped only to find later that it had been linked to by other blogs.

One that flopped was "Self defense for bureaucrats" which I was quite
proud of.

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?

Groucho Marx, G.K. Chesterton, P.J. O'Rourke, Terry Pratchett [I have to say, I have never met Jeff in real life but this list captures his blog perfectly to me!]

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?

This is where the Catholic both/and comes into play. Humor is both for evangelization and frivolity.

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?

Well, my blog is largely reactive to news so I can be serious when I feel serious and funny when I do feel funny. Though comic block is not something I often get.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.

My conversion. Not only were there those in heaven rejoicing, I bet some were laughing their halos off. Though the old joke is if you want to make Jesus laugh, tell him your plans.

It was joyful laughing, I'm sure.
Thanks, Jeff. Coming Tuesday: It Came From Allen's Brain!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging, Part 2

Welcome to Joel of Crummy Church Signs, the man who collects bad church sign marquees and skewers them with withering theological wit. His blog banner quotes 1 Corinthians 4:14: "I am not writing this to shame you but to warn you...." and then admits, actually, he's probably doing a bit of both. Works for me: honestly, I think all the world is ancient Corinth these days. My comments are in red, just like Jesus'. So: take it away, Joel!

What is the role of humor on your blog?
To point out the absurdities that Christians use when trying to promote ourselves and our beliefs. If Christians were to think hard about the messages that many churches put up on their marquees, the only two options are to laugh about it or cry about it. I choose the former.

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
God created everything. That includes our sense of humor.
My guess is that the Garden of Eden was a funny place. However, Creation is now fallen because of original sin. Our role as Christians while here on earth is to attempt to reclaim some of that original splendor of creation. We do that by leading others to a relationship with God (as was originally intended for everyone before sin separated us), but we also have other roles. For example, Christian artists try to reclaim some of the beauty of the Garden or try to communicate how our definition of beauty has been altered by the fall. I guess I'm trying to do the same thing, except with humor instead of beauty. With the clear exception of this answer, which was remarkably unfunny. [Yeah, but you're preaching it, brother! I feel a philosophical question coming on: is humor true, good, and beautiful? I'll sic that on my students.]

Are you funny offline?
Depends who you ask. Ask my 7th grade students: Yes, they think I am funny. Ask my wife: I'm not so funny.

Are there "BIG POINTS" in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
Sometimes both. I really like it when a few signs (and reviews) in a row are just really goofy or off-color, then I can hit with a very important theological point on the next sign. It's that sort of contrast in humor styles that keeps my blog exciting (for me).

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
I like subtlety. I like being one of only a few people that will get the joke. I like intelligent humor. I like timely humor. I like satire. I like quick retorts, because they show the person didn't have days to plan something. There are other things that make something funny, but those are my favorites.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
I'm not afraid to delve into PG-13 (or farther) juvenile humor if a church sign is really asking for it. Also, it sometimes funnier to use a curse word than to not use one. Sorry, but sometimes "$#!t" is just plain funnier than "pooh". I don't really talk that way in real life...but I find that when writing I sometimes really feel the need to sell the joke. Those that see the conflict of interests between parts of this answer and the "oxymoron" question, that's just all the more reason I need some grace! [OK, revised philosophy question: "is juvenile humor ever true, good and beautiful? Discuss." I like it.]

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped?
Some of my guest posts at
Central Snark I have thought were golden...and didn't get much of a response. Some of the ones that I sort of half-@$ed got a great response! I still am developing my "voice" as a humor writer outside of the realm of church signs, so I'm still fairly unsure of what will "hit" and "miss". [That's so true. My all time favorite sign and retort on Crummy Church Signs was this one:
Sign: Kill the Devil!
Joel: Can we......DO that? What's taken so long, then?
(See it here.) I still don't know why. But I read it and literally laughed until I cried for 20 minutes straight. Says more about me, I think.]

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
The Office and 30Rock are the only "sitcoms" I watch anymore. I really liked Seinfeld when it was on. I like The Venture Brothers and Invader Zim (both cartoons). I enjoy reading Diesel's stuff on Mattress Police. The funniest novel I have read in a very long while is The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. It's sort of P.G. Wodehouse in its feel (another favorite humorist of mine). I have found that most people who call themselves Christian humorists aren't.

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
Or both? Who says evangelism can't be frivolous? Seems like me might win more people to Christ if evangelism was fun instead of a boring, nerve-wracking chore.

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
I cheat. I post the user-submitted reviews.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.
When Nicodemus thought Jesus was being literal about the "born again" thing in John 3. Surely Jesus laughed and thought to Himself, "What a dumbass."

OK, that last one made me laugh aloud, although I think the man who said "let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no" may have thought "Oh Nicodemus, you're such a lovable literalist sap!" Maybe.

Coming Monday: Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Talking About Christian Humor Blogging...Part 1

(From L&H's Dawn of the Knitting Dead post. Or midterms at my school.)

First, let me be honest: it's midterms time for me, which means I am under a pile of papers and tests with no light at the end of the tunnel. Any humorous thoughts I have now have a dark edge...whistling in the dark, black, apocalyptic humor. Not the "gentle satire" and "Laugh like Sarah" humor I try to go for.

So it's a great time to do something I've been intrigued by for a while: a series of interviews for a week with some bloggers in the strange old/new world of "Christian Humor." Let's be honest, there are many people who think religion and humor are like oil and water: they don't mix. I think the right humor about the right things is essential to Christian joy, personally. But it's a tricky business! So I've asked about eight bloggers, who dabble in humor on their Christian-themed blogs, to answer a few questions about the connection (or not) between Being Christian and Being Funny. Some of the blogs consist of all humor posts. For others, the humor is a tasty side dish. All are active blogs and (I think) often hilarious. And no doubt, I have forgotten to invite someone eminently deserving: I definitely can't read all the blogs out there. So I apologize in advance.

First up! John at Locusts and Honey, a Methodist Blog "on faith, art, rabbits, and zombies." Welcome to the Catholic side of the blogdom, John. No need to genuflect, we're not in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament online. Virtual candles to your left if so moved.

What is the role of humor on your blog?
The role of humor on my blog is to make me laugh and make other people laugh.

Why is "Christian Humor" not an oxymoron?
Not only is "Christian humor" not an oxymoron, it's essential! In fact, I would question the faith of the humorless Christian. For humor derives from a loving and humble heart, both of which are the marks of a Christian believer.

Are you funny offline?
In the right mix of people, I'm funny offline. But I'm funnier through my online persona.
I think offline it would be better to say that people laugh at, rather than with, me.

Are there “BIG POINTS” in your humor posts, or are you just goofing around?
My humor is not deep, nor does it have, as Shrek said of onions and ogres, "layers". Most of it is mere play.

What makes something humorous, in your opinion?
Humor is what we know is true but don't talk about. Humor is exposing the Emperor's nudity.

What kind of humor crosses the line in your blog, if any?
I try not to cross any lines, but
this post about Tookie Williams attracted criticism. I think that most of the criticism was a clumsy attempt to emotionally manipulate me. There's a lot of manipulation in the Church, all in the name of "reproving your brother", and we bloggers have to watch out for it.

What humorous post did you create and really like that just flopped? (Feel free to include link.)
[...]I'm having trouble thinking of it right now. [You know, that's what the comments box is for, John!]

Are there any humorists (written or on screen) you really like?
I really like George Carlin. He is what I call a "truthspeaker". Lies, especially obvious lies that we tell ourselves, deeply offend him. They offend me, too.

Humor: evangelization, frivolity, or neither?
It's both. It's a chance to share a laugh together. In my blogging community, comprised of Methodists, we are very, very theologically diverse. The diversity threatens us with schism and Methodists constantly fight one another. But humor is an intimate thing. The moment when a liberal and a conservative both find something funny is sacred; a shared emotion across ideological walls. If I can help liberal and conservative Methodists laugh together, I can help contribute to the unity of my denomination.

Humor is also evangelism. A lot of non-Christians think of Christians as humorless and dour. I've received comments by people pleasantly surprised to find a Christian who didn't take himself so seriously. And that's evangelism.

How do you keep it up online when you don't feel funny?
Do you think that you could let us all know how each other answers this question? 'Cause I'm always looking for good sources.

Name one thing Jesus probably laughed about.
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley died and went to Heaven. They met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, who gave them a tour of Heaven. Among the facilities was a small, non-descript office building. Martin Luther asked "What happens there?" St. Peter answered "That's Jesus' office. He still has a lot of work to do, and needs work space." Luther asked "Do you think that he would have time to talk with me about theology?" St. Peter responded, "I'm, sure that he'd make time for you, Martin. Go on in." Luther went into the office building while St. Peter, Calvin, and Wesley waited outside. About a half-hour later, Luther ran out weeping and wailing "How could I have ever been so wrong!" This disturbed Wesley and Calvin, but Wesley asked St. Peter, "Do you think that he would have time for me?" St. Peter said, "You betcha. Just go on in and ask to see him." John Wesley went into the office building. About a half hour later, he came out weeping and wailing "How could I have ever been so wrong?" John Calvin was undeterred. "My turn," he said, and strode into the office building. About a half hour later, Jesus emerged, weeping and wailing, "How could I have ever been so wrong!" [Funny--Catholics have a version of this joke with Hans Kung, Walter Kasper, and Pope Benedict XVI. See how much we have in common?]

Man plans -- and God laughs.

Thanks, John! Humor is exposing the Emporer's nudity--I like that.

Coming on Friday: Joel from Crummy Church Signs.