Jesus & Comedy Three Times it was Done Right

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Jesus & Comedy Three Times it was Done Right

Only a clever Human can make a joke about virtue

The Screw­tape letters

We inter­rupt our cov­er­age of Al Franken to talk about…comedy.

If there has been one sta­ple of mod­ern humor from our cul­tural “bet­ters” it’s been the will­ing­ness to belit­tle and berate Chris­tian­ity. Over the decades we have seen stand up comics, TV and movies glee­fully make Chris­tian­ity the butt of jokes and insults galore. Nor has Christ him­self been immune from bad jokes on Fam­ily guy to Jesus as a myth­i­cal fig­ure on South­park in a way that would have been unthink­able just 60 years ago. All of this is pro­tected of course by the 1st Amend­ment in the same way that my cri­tique of them is and while I am all in favor of rebuk­ing such humor I would not dream of for­bid­ding it.

Now I’m a big fan of com­edy from the Three Stooges to Monty Python to Black­ad­der and I even admire the folks at South Park because they at least are will­ing to hit every­one equally (They are prac­ti­cally the only folks to hit Islam in the way they’ve hit Chris­tian­ity) but as a per­son who has always insisted that the proof that God has a sense of humor is his cre­ation of man it got me think­ing. “Can one por­tray or ref­er­ence Christ in a humor­ous non blas­phe­mous way and still be funny?

I thought about it for a while and could only think of three instances over the last 40 years that meet this bill. They now fol­low in reverse order with the best job of not insult­ing Chris­tian­ity, not per­vert­ing Christ mes­sage and still being funny. Here are are

#3 Mel Brooks The mean­ing of Life, the pri­vate dinner

It’s 33 AD and Mel Brooks is Comi­cus a “stand up philoso­pher” who with his friends have escaped exe­cu­tion in Rome and fled to Judea. On their arrival they get employ­ment at an in where Comi­cus on his first day is assigned to serve at a pri­vate party.

Best exchange

Jesus: Yea Yea so you say, but one who sits among us has already betrayed us this night.
Var­i­ous Dis­ci­ples: Who? Who? Who Who could it be?
Comi­cus: [Point­ing] Judas! [Judas jumps star­tled] Would you like a bev­er­age try the Mulled Wine it’s terrific!

Now one might object to the “Jesus!” “What?” exchange but it’s such a mild thing that it doesn’t take away from the Humor or the comedy.

#2 Monty Python The Life of Brian Arms for an ex-​leper 1979

Brian and his mother have just left a ston­ing and pass by sev­eral lep­ers beg­ging along with one ex-​leper

Best exchange

Brian: Who cured you?
Ex-​Leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hop­ping along, mind­ing my own busi­ness, all of a sud­den, up he comes, cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by-​your-​leave! “You’re cured, mate.” Bloody do-​gooder.

The quick ban­ter and phys­i­cal humor of Michael Palin as the ex-​leper is great but it’s the writ­ing that makes this work. Jesus doesn’t appear in this sequence at all but the char­ac­ter of the ex-​leper is not only funny, but bib­li­cal as you might recall from Luke 17 where Jesus cures 10 lep­ers and one of them comes back in thanks and Jesus exclaims in verse 17 and 18

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this for­eigner returned to give thanks to God?”

I can’t speak for the other eight but as far as the Monty Python crowd is con­cerned one is wish­ing he still had a bet­ter beg­ging sell­ing point than being an ex-​leper.

#1 Mad TV 1998 Movie Trailer Ter­mi­na­tor 3 The Great­est Action Story Ever Told

Arnold returns as the Ter­mi­na­tor is sent back in time to pro­tect one of the most fig­ures in his­tory how­ever the man he is try­ing to pro­tect is not will­ing to dodge his destiny.

This is a com­plete win­ner. The pro­duc­tion value of this skit very high for a TV show, it’s well writ­ten but most impor­tantly there is not a sin­gle part of this skit that isn’t hilar­i­ous from the Terminator’s encounter with the wise men in Beth­le­hem, to the final line (“Don’t worry, he’ll be back.”) said to a wail­ing woman as Jesus car­ries his cross. Even more amaz­ingly there is not a sin­gle scene that either mocks the Chris­t­ian mes­sage nor per­verts the mes­sage and mis­sion of Jesus.

This is best illus­trated by the best exchange and fun­ni­est scene Arnold/​Terminator breaks into the last Sup­per repeat­edly killing Judas while an increas­ingly frus­trated Jesus keeps heal­ing him while try­ing to explain that it’s nec­es­sary for it to hap­pen for the sal­va­tion of the human race. The entire exchange is clas­sic but his bit in the mid­dle is just incredible

Jesus: Stop! Stop Killing Judas!
The Ter­mi­na­tor: But he’s going to betray you.
Jesus: I know! Look look I’ve got a lot on my mind right now and you’re really start­ing to stress me out Ok? OK!

Not only is it absolutely hilar­i­ous but it fits in so per­fectly with the scrip­tural anguish that Jesus is going through My soul is sor­row­ful even to death.MT 26:38, MK 14:34 “ He was in such agony and he prayed so fer­vently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)” Luke 22:44 that it even becomes poignant reminder of what Christ went through spir­i­tu­ally to save man, in the same what that the Pas­sion of the Christ on a much grander scale illus­trated what he went though physically.

This is a pretty long list for a period of 40 years but as Lewis said through screw­tape it takes a really clever per­son to make a joke about virtue and our cul­ture and despite the high opin­ion peo­ple of today have for them­selves, as a cul­ture we are not as clever as we once were.

But if you can think of a skit or scene that fits the bill that I might have missed, feel free to include it is comments.

Only a clever Human can make a joke about virtue

The Screwtape letters

We interrupt our coverage of Al Franken to talk about…comedy.

If there has been one staple of modern humor from our cultural “betters” it’s been the willingness to belittle and berate Christianity. Over the decades we have seen stand up comics, TV and movies gleefully make Christianity the butt of jokes and insults galore. Nor has Christ himself been immune from bad jokes on Family guy to Jesus as a mythical figure on Southpark in a way that would have been unthinkable just 60 years ago. All of this is protected of course by the 1st Amendment in the same way that my critique of them is and while I am all in favor of rebuking such humor I would not dream of forbidding it.

Now I’m a big fan of comedy from the Three Stooges to Monty Python to Blackadder and I even admire the folks at South Park because they at least are willing to hit everyone equally (They are practically the only folks to hit Islam in the way they’ve hit Christianity) but as a person who has always insisted that the proof that God has a sense of humor is his creation of man it got me thinking. “Can one portray or reference Christ in a humorous non blasphemous way and still be funny?

I thought about it for a while and could only think of three instances over the last 40 years that meet this bill. They now follow in reverse order with the best job of not insulting Christianity, not perverting Christ message and still being funny. Here are are

#3 Mel Brooks The meaning of Life, the private dinner

It’s 33 AD and Mel Brooks is Comicus a “stand up philosopher” who with his friends have escaped execution in Rome and fled to Judea. On their arrival they get employment at an in where Comicus on his first day is assigned to serve at a private party.

Best exchange

Jesus: Yea Yea so you say, but one who sits among us has already betrayed us this night.
Various Disciples: Who? Who? Who Who could it be?
Comicus: [Pointing] Judas! [Judas jumps startled] Would you like a beverage try the Mulled Wine it’s terrific!

Now one might object to the “Jesus!” “What?” exchange but it’s such a mild thing that it doesn’t take away from the Humor or the comedy.

#2 Monty Python The Life of Brian Arms for an ex-leper 1979

Brian and his mother have just left a stoning and pass by several lepers begging along with one ex-leper

Best exchange

Brian: Who cured you?
Ex-Leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by-your-leave! “You’re cured, mate.” Bloody do-gooder.

The quick banter and physical humor of Michael Palin as the ex-leper is great but it’s the writing that makes this work. Jesus doesn’t appear in this sequence at all but the character of the ex-leper is not only funny, but biblical as you might recall from Luke 17 where Jesus cures 10 lepers and one of them comes back in thanks and Jesus exclaims in verse 17 and 18

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

I can’t speak for the other eight but as far as the Monty Python crowd is concerned one is wishing he still had a better begging selling point than being an ex-leper.

 #1  Mad TV 1998  Movie Trailer  Terminator 3  The Greatest Action Story Ever Told

Arnold returns as the Terminator is sent back in time to protect one of the most figures in history however the man he is trying to protect is not willing to dodge his destiny.

This is a complete winner. The production value of this skit very high for a TV show, it’s well written but most importantly there is not a single part of this skit that isn’t hilarious from the Terminator’s encounter with the wise men in Bethlehem, to the final line (“Don’t worry, he’ll be back.”) said to a wailing woman as Jesus carries his cross. Even more amazingly there is not a single scene that either mocks the Christian message nor perverts the message and mission of Jesus.

This is best illustrated by the best exchange and funniest scene Arnold/Terminator breaks into the last Supper repeatedly killing Judas while an increasingly frustrated Jesus keeps healing him while trying to explain that it’s necessary for it to happen for the salvation of the human race. The entire exchange is classic but his bit in the middle is just incredible

Jesus: Stop! Stop Killing Judas!
The Terminator: But he’s going to betray you.
Jesus: I know! Look look I’ve got a lot on my mind right now and you’re really starting to stress me out Ok? OK!

Not only is it absolutely hilarious but it fits in so perfectly with the scriptural anguish that Jesus is going through My soul is sorrowful even to death.” MT 26:38, MK 14:34 ” He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.)” Luke 22:44 that it even becomes poignant reminder of what Christ went through spiritually to save man, in the same what that the Passion of the Christ on a much grander scale illustrated what he went though physically.

This is a pretty long list for a period of 40 years but as Lewis said through screwtape it takes a really clever person to make a joke about virtue and our culture and despite the high opinion people of today have for themselves, as a culture we are not as clever as we once were.

But if you can think of a skit or scene that fits the bill that I might have missed, feel free to include it is comments.