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.
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
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.