I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
- Ecclesiastes 2:1-2
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
“Just read a scholar who ridiculously suggests that comedy must always be in bad taste and must always be cruel. I was tempted to mock this “expert” online, and then realized my own tendency to mock might be the reason he wrote that in the first place. The ironies roll on!”
- Tweet from Brenton Dickieson
There are 38 references to ‘laugh’ in the NIV. Yes, there are times when it says turning laughter into sorrow. There are a few references to ‘laughing at,’ as in Jesus saying that the daughter was asleep, but everyone knew she was dead. But Solomon says that there is a place for laughter.
George Carlin, in his classic Class Clown routine, talked about how the clown gets laughter in inappropriate places, like leaning over a casket. At this point in his routine he stifles laughter with a nasal snort to illustrate the inappropriate laughter. Of course, the audience roars at this point, but you wonder how many of the people in the audience stifled laughter the next time they leaned over a casket. The thought is there. Please, if you do this the next time you go to the funeral home, I apologize.
At my father’s funeral, a joke came to my mind. In a book, Jerry Clower wrote about Uncle Versie Ledbetter dying. (The Ledbetter family are all fictional, although composites of people Clower grew up with.) Jerry sat next to his best friend, Marcel Ledbetter, one of Uncle Versie’s kids. Aunt Pet started bellowing things like “Versie, I wasn’t ready for you to go. I needed to talk to you one last time before you go. Sit up in your coffin so we can talk just one more time.” Marcel turned to Jerry and he whispered, “If’n he does, this here window is mine.” As part of the family at my father’s funeral, we were the last to enter the chapel for the funeral service. Before the service started, I sat down on the front row and looked forward. Then I looked around the room, seeing a lot of people I had grown up with. What I did not see was any windows. I bit my tongue, stomped on my foot, pinched myself, whatever to keep from laughing. I am sure those who attended thought I was fighting back the tears. Again, I apologize if you find yourself looking for windows during the next funeral service you attend.
Of course, Tim Hawkins went a different direction regarding the class clown. He claimed to not be the class clown, but the class comedian. The class clown runs naked across the football field during the big game. The class comedian is the one who convinces the class clown that it would be a good idea. As they are taking the clown off in handcuffs, “I thought you said this would be funny.” (laughing, and pointing) “It was!”
Ken Davis said in an interview with Mark Lowry and others, “Humor is a gentle way of understanding human frailty.”
In other words, we can laugh together. We can laugh at ourselves. But laughing AT others is cruel. This ties into the Dickieson tweet. Comedy can be cruel, but it does not have to be. Brenton Dickieson, besides tweeting and may soon get his PhD in Theology (praying), writes the blog, A Pilgrim in Narnia.
When I commented on Dickieson’s tweet, I said that the concept of bad taste is relative regarding many factors. We each have our line, and until that line is crossed, the humor is not in bad taste. Then again, in a crowd where they know that you have no malicious intent, you can ease up close to the line without fear, but in a mixed crowd, getting close to the line might make the more sensitive person (or the judgmental person finding fault in everything) uneasy and the humor tasteless and vulgar, although you never crossed the line.
It is odd that the word ‘taste’ is used in this context. I do not like the taste of certain foods, but others love those foods. Sometimes it may be a sensory overload of our least favorite taste buds that are the problem. For example, if you do not like sour foods, sauerkraut might not be your favorite condiment on a hot dog. Yet, in some parts of the world, a hot dog is not a hot dog unless there is so much sauerkraut on the hot dog that you cannot see the hot dog anymore.
I just used ‘hot dog’ four times in one sentence! A new record! Hot Dog!
Ken Davis, in the same interview as mentioned above, said, “We live in a humorless society. People are offended by everything.” Maybe that is why the scholar said that all humor is cruel and in bad taste. He is one of those that is offended by his own shadow.
Thinking of Ken Davis, I did a Milton Berle / Henny Youngman on part of Davis’ famous “Super Sheep” routine. I have used this story a few times, but I don’t think I have used it in a post. The concept of Super Sheep is that with Jesus in our hearts we are not like geeky, scared, clumsy, stupid, etc. sheep. We’re Super because we are with Him. What I mean by doing a Berle / Youngman, I stole the joke.
To illustrate that we are just like sheep in that we are scared, Davis told the following story – that I have personalized a bit. I will use the quotes to offset the story, but it is not an exact quote, even with my additions.
“I was on a tour bus one day, sitting in a window seat. I got on the bus before anyone else did, so I could pray. I prayed that God would guide me to someone who needed Christ in his life so that I could witness to him. I said, “Lord, just give me a sign.” As I was still in prayer, this tall guy in an Italian suit, huge cowboy hat, a solid gold belt buckle, and ostrich skin cowboy boots sat next to me on the bus. I suddenly felt underdressed.”
“The man started crying. No, he was weeping. Deep, deep sobs. He turned to me and said, ‘I feel all alone. I am very successful, but I am empty inside. If I could just talk to someone who knows God.’ Then he looked at me right in the eye. ‘Do you know God?’
“I looked down to see if my shoes were tied. Yikes! I was wearing loafers. Oh, no, a penny is missing! No, no, no. I was praying. I prayed, ‘Lord, if this is a sign, turn the bus driver into an armadillo.”
“An armadillo may have been Ken Davis’ animal sign of choice, but I have always favored the aardvark, first animal in the alphabet. You don’t have to read too far into the book to get to the aardvark. But the funny thing is, I would have never known if God had performed this miraculous sign, because I don’t know what an aardvark looks like!”
I pray that this is a time to laugh for you.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.