Canada Laughs’ The Guest Spot With Dan Taylor
Hey everyone, this is Ben writing! Hello! Dan Taylor is a very funny comic living in Edmonton, a city which he represented at our Top Comic finale a couple years back during JFL42. Dan’s also a Pastor and the only one of him I’ve ever known. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dan Taylor to the Guest Spot!
At my church, there is an older gentleman named Jo who I love dearly. Every Sunday he brings me a joke he has found on the internet and printed off for me to use in my “skit”. I laugh pleasantly and say I’ll see if I can fit it in. He loves Jesus and people and has terrible taste in comedy. Jo struggles to figure out why I, as his pastor, spend my time going to comedy clubs and open mics and whatever other hole in the wall I’ve been invited to. I wish I had a good answer for him.
The default setting for a comedian is atheist. That’s the way we come out of the box. Now some comics have come to this position through a journey of study and examination and discernment that has led them to discard the idea of a deity, others watched a George Carlin clip on youtube and they believe what the funny word guy said. Regardless, most comedians rest pretty comfortably between suspicion and disdain of any religious motivation.
I am not an atheist. I’m a Christian. This path started because my grandparents were drunks who beat the shit out of themselves and their children. My parents were headed in the same direction until they met Jesus. Then they changed and Rod and Elizabeth didn’t punch me. I realize that for many people this is inadequate evidence for faith in a loving creator God, but for me, it’s a start. In all honesty, faith, or lack of it, looks and feels to me like something that happens to you more than something you choose. What happened to me was that over the course of time I learned and trained and ended up as a pastor, leading a small church in North Edmonton. I’m also a comic, which also doesn’t feel like something that happens to you more than something you choose.
There is nothing normal or healthy about the compulsion to drive to a bar in Red Deer and demand a room full of strangers pull their attention away from the hockey game and listen to your funny words. And yet that’s where I was last night. And there was nowhere else I’d rather be.
Christianity and comedy is an uncomfortable combination for many, and I get it. I’m uncomfortable with it too. The stereotype that’s popping into your head is of a terrible and unfunny Christian Comedian who’s doing subtly racist parody songs and homophobic shadow puppets while being way too proud of himself for not swearing. Unfortunately, that stereotype is fair. We’ve earned it. And the Christian church in North America has also earned its reputation for hypocrisy and hatred and manipulation that has brought it into the crosshairs of some of the best comics in history.
It’s hard to watch Church leaders comparing Donald Trump and Jesus and not dismiss the entire enterprise as a grand joke. These are the same people that brought us the film career of Kirk Cameron. They deserve to be a punchline. But this message of grace and forgiveness and healing helps me make it through the night. It’s helped a lot of people make it through the night for over 2000 years, despite how flawed and foolish the messengers have been.
There’s a line in our book that says “The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men” And the fact that despite our best efforts, religious faith is not going away perhaps bears this out. In my small congregation, I still get to see broken and lost people find family and purpose and hope. We’re not cool or efficient in any way and yet people still find a home. So I understand why Jo is confused that I follow these twin compulsions of comedy and church. I’m confused as well. But there are connections.
At its worst, Christianity is a bullying and manipulative movement using fear and ignorance as weapons. But, at its best, Christianity is an effort to share, through Jesus, meaning and hope in a world that is confusing and frightening and ridiculous. At its best, Comedy is also an effort to share, through laughter, meaning and hope in a world that is confusing and frightening and ridiculous. Even if that hope is only laughing together at the ridiculousness of what’s around us.