Red Nose Day is a 25-year-long tradition of using comedy to raise funds for a variety of charities both in the UK and throughout Africa. At first blush it may seem inappropriate for some to be laughing while others are suffering, but Red Nose Day is based on the idea that the laughter of some can serve to bring greater hope and joy to others.
The mingling of comedy and charity isn’t the only example which might make some nervous—uniting comedy and theology can have the same effect. If we’re honest, theology is often thought of as being a very serious (dusty, even) affair in which laughter may be seen as sacrilege.
During the week of March 18, 2013, Transpositions challenged that assumption by inviting a series of contributors to reflect on the marriage of theology and comedy, suggesting that there is good cause to see one endeavor as serving the other; suggesting, even, that good theology might inspire laughter and free us to explore the comedic.
Monday, 18 March: ‘…yes I said yes I will Yes’ – Jake Martin SJ, a Jesuit seminarian and comedian, shares how learning to say ‘yes’ in improvisational comedy helped him to say ‘Yes’ to a vocation.
Tuesday, 19 March: ‘Two Humours Too Many’ – Toby Watts, a documentary filmmaker and stand-up comic, suggests ways in which comedy can be a tonic for the intensity of life, and shows how finding the funny in life is made possible by a Gospel-shaped view of reality.
Wednesday, 20 March: ‘Uncloaking the Proud: The Power of Comedy’ – Danny Gabelman, who recently earned his PhD from the University of St Andrews through the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, reflects on the power of comedy to uncloak the seriousness of theology and the religious.
Thursday, 21 March: ‘The Laughter that the World Cannot Give’ – Quang Tran SJ, a Jesuit seminarian and MDiv student at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, suggests that using humour in catechesis can help deepen understanding of the faith by revealing the Divine Humour of God.
Friday, 22 March: ‘Book Review – A Double Dose of Jesuit Humour’ – Cole Matson reviews What’s So Funny About Faith: A Memoir from the Intersection of Hilarious and Holy by Monday’s contributor Jake Martin SJ, and Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by Fr James Martin SJ, official chaplain of The Colbert Report. (No, the two J. Martin SJs are not related, except as brothers in religion and humour!)