Here’s part two of my interview with Matthew Paul Turner about Churched and the role humor plays in his writing specifically and in the Church as a whole. If you didn’t read part one yesterday, then read it first and come back later. We’ll wait for you.
JB: What role do you think humor should play in church or religion?
MPT: Satire and humor can serve church and religion in a variety of ways. For instance, satire keeps those who manage religion in check. Just like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert keep politics and popular culture in check, so can humorists within the faith community keep religious folk in check. All of us need accountability. If done well, satire points out the irony and/or hypocrisy within religion. It serves as a mirror to all of us within Christian culture, offering us perspective on how we look to the culture at large. Satire also pushes us out of our comfort zones, which I think can quite possibly lead to opportunities to experience spirituality in a new way or at least in ways that individuals haven’t experienced before.
When used inside the church, humor is a great way to get somebody to remember something important. It breaks down the space between a pastor and his or her congregations. It can help us remember our humanity; it serves as a reminder to us that while our life experiences may be unique to some degree, there are certainly common storylines that all of us share and can find humor in just knowing that. I think that can help us remember that we aren’t alone in those experiences without making us feel depressed. When done right, humor connects people to ideas. In my opinion, when truth is presented in a way that invokes laughter, it sticks with us. How many times do we find ourselves telling somebody else a funny situation that we experienced or watched on TV or YouTube?
Often. It’s called blogging.
It stays with us because humor demands a reaction, a reaction that all of us enjoy most of the time—laughter.
Is “being funny” more of a natural gift/skill/talent? Or do you think it can be learned?
I think anybody can be funny. But not all of us were meant to be funny on stage or in books or on video. I think it does take a special gift to be able to captivate people with humor. But as gifted at being funny as we might think we are, I think each of us can learn to express it more effectively.
Wait. What exactly are you saying. Is that some kind of dig at me?
What advice do you have for churches or leaders involving humor? Can it be an effective tool for the Church? Should it be?
Number one: Read Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up. Steve Martin writes about how he was always funny as a kid, but he also demonstrates how he learned to be funnier. He writes freely about the times his humor failed, and also about the times it worked. Don’t copy his jokes, but certainly copy his methods.
Most young adults (especially men) watch Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert on Comedy Central. Rather than just watching it for the laughs, make note of how these two get the laughs. Also, I think it’s important to know your audience or congregation. That’s the great thing about using humor in a church, you usually know your audience. That’s a huge plus. And I’d also say, don’t just decide one day that you’re going to be funny and put a video or skit or joke in your service or sermon. You have to work at it. Shape it. Perfect it. If you want humor to work effectively for you and most importantly, for the people in your church, it must be done well. Or at least be funny. Not chuckle funny but laugh-out-loud funny.
Thanks, Matthew, for the interview.
Read the Churched interview (via IM!) at Burnside Writer’s Collective.