“Everyone knows mules have a terrific sense of humour,” Brian Regan said as he related what a nature show taught him to his audience during his stand-up comedy special, The Epitome of Hyperbole (28:09). “I felt stupid. I called a friend up, like at random (y’know): ‘Hey Joey, this is going to sound like a weird question but, do you know anything about mules?’… Joey responds: ‘Well, I just know they have a terrific sense of humour…”
Some of the comedians that I appreciate the most involve everyday, ordinary events of life in their comedy routines (y’know like bits about mules…). They take something habitual, some automatic function of the day and reveal to us the ridiculous or humorous side of humanity. Even when they’re being quite elaborate in their portrayal of the event – to the point of making it unreal and unbelievable – the humour of it is grounded in the reality of the situation.
“Bacon’s the best. Even the frying of bacon sounds like applause…Bits of bacon are like the fairy dust of the food community,” says Jim Gaffigan, “You don’t want this baked potato? Brrring! Now it’s your favorite part of the meal. Not interested in the salad? Bibbity bobbity BACON. I just turned it into an entree. But once you put bacon in a salad, it’s no longer a salad. It just becomes a game of ‘find the bacon in the lettuce’. It’s like you’re panning for gold. Eureka!”
So, get real! The most hilarious people are in touch with reality, there’s a depth to them that allows them to, while anchored in that firm foundation of truth, look beyond that to see a deeper meaning, or the lack of meaning in things we take too serious. They are able to discern appropriate things to joke about also. That’s rare. I find the most annoying people to be superficial people. You’ll often hear them saying things like: “Lighten up! I was just joking.” Granted, the other person may be truly a grouch, but often there’s a shallowness about the so-called comedian.
I am always impressed to see a talented comedian, first that I can enjoy personally without thinking: “I’m sure glad the kids aren’t in the room” (although, I recognize that there are funny things that are just not appropriate for kids), and second that I can play for my kids and laugh with them.
Maybe an unlikely source of understanding humor better is Bishop Fulton Sheen (1959), in his TV program about the Divine Sense of Humor he defines humour as: “The ability to see through things. A person lacks a sense of humour if he cannot see through things… the person who has a sense of humour sees the world something like a window…the words he hears and the things he sees tell him about something else… If it’s a joke, a horse may hear it, but a horse will not give a horse laugh because he does not get the meaning of the words” (notice he didn’t say ‘mules’). He goes on to talk about how people have senses of humour in different ways. Scientists, in the numbers and letters of their formula see through the letters (etc.) to the meaning of them. Poets don’t merely see mountains and sunsets, but the majesty of God and the revelation of the beauty of God. One particular poet, Francis Thompson, as Bishop Sheen describes, looked at the sun as a host and the day as a priest, who “each morning the priest goes to the orient (east) tabernacle, lifts from out of it the host, raises it in benediction over the world, and at night sets it in the flaming monstrance of the west.” The humorists, he says, “pierce our foibles, release our tensions, and take away the seriousness from even serious situations” (here giving “big picture” outlook to overwhelming circumstances). ‘Seeing through’ real events is necessary to authentic comedy.
In the Divine sense of humour, Bishop Sheen shows how God takes one thing seriously, that is the salvation of souls, in that, all things are ordered, or constructed, towards that deeper meaning. God must have the greatest sense of humour of all.
Bishop Sheen has a great sense of humor also, and he tells of a friend who transplanted a large, beautiful oak tree to his yard beside his pool so that he could relax and read in the afternoon beside his pool. “What do you think of that?” his friend asked. Sheen replied, “Well, that just goes to show you what God could do if He only had money.”
I laughed hard at Gaffigan’s ‘McDonald’s’ segment is both funny and CONVICTING:
“I’m tired of people acting like they are better than McDonald’s,” says Jim Gaffigan. “It’s like, you may have never set a foot in McDonald’s, but you have your own McDonald’s, maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read ‘Us Weekly’. Hey, that’s still McDonald’s. It’s just served up a little different. Maybe your McDonald’s is telling yourself that Starbucks Frappuccino is not a milk shake or maybe you watch Glee.”
There’s a number of hilarious comedians out there, some, you may be surprised to hear that are Catholic (which may be unfortunate as well). Here’s five comedians that are Catholic (not necessarily practicing*) and have some hilarious bits in their routines!
*this list does not represent an endorsement of all their material
Maybe you know some great Catholic comedians that you can share with others. I want to hear who your favorite are.
The Five by Scott Roy