What I've learned about preaching by watching comedians
I was at a youth retreat and a senior in high school asked me, "Who are your inspirations when it comes to public speaking? I mean, you've told us how you felt called by God and how the church influenced you. Who influenced you outside of the church?"
I said two things: TED Talks and comedians.
It's interesting that we think about abandoning sermons, as TED Talks gain popularity by trying to imitate a good sermon. (Likewise, it's odd that we talk of abandoning membership when the rest of the world is discovering it. I'm now a card-carrying member of my grocery store, drug store, coffeehouse, and bakery. But I digress.)
My favorite TED Talk is probably "If I should have a daughter."
Here are my top comedian/preaching moments. (Of course, a bit of a warning here. There is adult language and raunchy content with most of these comedians.)
Chris Rock talks with Terry Gross about how watching his grandfather write sermons and preach had an influence on his stand-up with Terry Gross. He often watches preachers to hone his craft. It's very insightful.
Lewis C.K. plays God. I'm not sure what else to say about this clip, other than "Amen."
Margaret Cho's revolution. No one preaches like Cho. She's incredibly raunchy and then... Bam! She delivers. She performed in a Presbyterian Church once, so I'm going to go ahead and claim her as one of our own.
Steve Martin's Born Standing Up was serious and talked a bit about the business of comedy. Oddly enough, I read it at a time when I was going from workshop leading to keynote speaking. Workshop leaders don't always get paid, and with as much traveling I was doing, I couldn't justify the time away from my family without any income. The transition felt overwhelming and (again) I didn't feel worthy-but Martin's matter-of-fact explanation of moving from warm-up to headliner helped me.
Tina Fey's Bossy Pants gave off a great vibe, particularly in the ways that she navigates being a woman in a male-dominated world. I'm sure some female clergy can relate.
Samantha Bee talks about her childhood crush on Jesus in I Know I Am But What Are You? I have to give a hat tip to Ed Blum and Color of Christ for this one. Color of Christ has a section on Jesus jokes.
Also, I cherished my adanced copy of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by our favorite comedian-turned-Lutheran-pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Nadia's wisdom and humor soak each page of this book. It'll be out in about a month. Do yourself a favor and pre-order it now and learn from the best.
What about you? Who influences you in your preaching, writing, and speaking?