When Funny Isn’t Funny (or) How I Nearly Started an International Incident

Erik Cooper —  May 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Early on in our ministry lives, my buddy Nathan LaGrange and I had an opportunity to interact with an internationally known songwriter and church leader.

We were young.

We were ambitious.

And, as we are to this day, we were connoisseurs of great humor (or so we assumed).

Said worship-leader was a huge fan of the popular TV show Friends, and since this was 2001 (before Steve Jobs led our emergence from the technological dark ages) we received a request through a mutual friend asking for VHS recordings (ask your grandmother) of the first few episodes of the new season to watch on the tour bus.

But the request came with a sheepish caveat. “Please keep this quiet. Some church people might be judgmental of me watching that show.

You might as well have asked Randy Jackson not to name drop. Nathan and I had our in, the opportunity to showcase our brilliant wit. Let the comedy begin.

As the familiar theme song signaled the opening credits, we broke into the recording with our own homemade video:

A fictitious National Enquire-esque website announcing the emerging church scandal.

A staged CD burning of all the artist’s albums.

Fabricated protesters with picket signs.

How could someone who claimed to love God watch such filthy trash?

It was brilliant. It was Comedy Central material. It was Emmy worthy.

It was not received well.

Said WL thought it was real. That we were some sort of sick celebrity stalkers. Security was checking the validity of our fake URL. The police were nearly called. Apparently they had been dealing with a rash of inappropriate interactions, and our little comedic stunt was the proverbial psychotic straw on the camel’s back.

Not so funny.

After a couple of gut churning days and a few awkward conversations, we were able to straighten everything out. But that experience gave us pause. It even coined a phrase we still use to this day:

“What I think I know to be funny, may not be funny to people I think that I know.”

I love humor. I think it’s part of God’s creative design. But like any beautiful gift, it can also be used improperly. It can be misunderstood. It can cause pain (even when the motives are pure). Which begs the question:

Where does humor cross the line?

I felt a mild rebuke from my friend Tara Gentry in some thoughts she posted regarding the “end of the world” debate last week. You can read her whole post here. I think she makes a point worth pondering:

“The atheist says in his HEART there is no God. ¬†When chiming in with tweets and statuses joking at the coming of Christ on May 21st, the believer himself aligns with the heart that jests, ‘There is no God.'” –Tara Gentry

What do you think about that statement? Is it true? What place does humor have in telling the story of God? In defending the story of God? Where does it cross into unhealthy territory?

2 responses to When Funny Isn’t Funny (or) How I Nearly Started an International Incident

  1. 99% of my act is sarcasm, which I guess is fine on the internet, because that’s where 100% of the sarcastic people hang out, but two situations where it has not worked well:

    1) my kids–they aren’t old enough to get sarcasm, so if I slip into that, they either believe whatever I’m saying or look at me strange as if they don’t get it.

    2) my in-laws–I have had to walk on eggshells with them ever since I kidded my father-in-law 5 years ago about his singing during worship. It was a small side joke that turned into a 15-minute verbal barrage.

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