Funny February, may seem like an odd choice for a theme just before Lent but humour / fun has always been a feature of life. In fact, it’s one of humanity’s earliest forms of entertainment as well as an early form of political commentary in the guise of graffiti. Poking fun at things and people is an ancient and modern past-time. Comedy shows would not survive without it. Nor would comedians.
But, and it’s a big ‘but’, there is always an invisible line which only become visible once its crossed. Ooh, that went too far or hmm, didn’t like that.
Of course, there are personal limits and tastes, and the comedy shows that work the best often leave things in the air so-to-speak; hinted at but not stated. Ronnie Barker was a master at this – who can forget the Fork Handles sketch. Dave Allen less ambiguous with lines like, ‘I’m an atheist, thank God’. And then there’s the dark humour of Spike Milligan who insisted that his gravestone should read ‘I told you I was sick’.
Interestingly, many comedians also have a deep spirituality expressed through their faith. Take Jewish comedian Elayne Boosler who once said about her ancestors; “They wandered lost in the wilderness for 40 years, because even in biblical times, men would not stop to ask for directions. Melbourne based Muslim comedian Muhamed Elleissi thinks ‘comedy is the best way to make a noticeable point without blowing up an embassy’. It also breaks down stereotypes. In some ways the comedian becomes the punchline. One of my favourite comedians, American Jimmy Fallon, is a genuine practicing Catholic who at one point in his life considered becoming a priest. He turned to comedy instead, but before doing so he explained: ”I wanted to be a Priest at one point. I was pretty religious. I was an altar boy, and I was good at it. Then, I started meeting girls and I’m like ‘You know, maybe I shouldn’t be a Priest”. And in her book ‘Drink Smoke Passout’ Australian comedian Judith Lucy, who once considered becoming a nun, takes us on an unusual spiritual journey where big questions are handled seriously and humourously.
Thank God for comedians I reckon. They make life lighter and at the same time shed light on some very difficult topics – and all with a smile.