Idol Chatter

Someday someone will make the Christian “Spinal Tap,” a brilliant satire of the Christian rock world. Until then, it’s worth checking out “Jesus People,” airing on the web-based Independent Comedy Channel. The mockumentary, about the founding of a Christian dance troupe by the bluff, super-friendly Pastor Jerry, a megachurch pastor and Christian diet-book author, is irreverent in all the right places. If the show ultimately fails, it’s because neither the comedians (nor we, the audience, for that matter) know the Christian entertainment world well enough to move past generic gags.

ICN touts itself as an alternative to Hollywood’s pilot-to-production process for developing sitcoms, showing cheaply made “webisodes” with the hope that a show will become popular enough to make the leap to TV. This grass-roots process, ICN believes, will revolutionize TV comedy. But in the meantime, they’ve put up a half-dozen original series of their own.
I’ll give ICN this: “Jesus People” is unlike anything on TV. Pastor Jerry, sporting a goatee and a loud Hawaiian shirt that could have been stolen out of Rick Warren’s closet, has assembled a bunch of stereotypical Christians for his troupe, including a pasty guy who is fascinated with God’s vengeance, a fey blonde woman who has Christ confused with a warm puppy, and a raven-haired singer/songwriter recovering from a sex scandal. They snipe at each other over dumb (but dead-on sounding) names for the group, go ga-ga over the Christian celebrities Jerry brings in to coach them (played by ringers like Kate Flannery of “The Office”) and try to out-righteous each other.
Like the characters, the humor never gets beyond stock ironies: that Christian entertainers might be petty or want to hide their checkered pasts. The faux Christians aren’t above lampooning the “real” world, as when the troupe’s sole African-American says, in defense of his mainstream musical tastes, “I mean, I love Kanye West, just not as much as Kanye West loves Kanye West.”
It’s the funniest line in the show so far, and no wonder: after all, we poke fun best at those we know, and love, the most.

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