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Blog // Thoughts
October 8, 2007

Globalisation, Theology And Comedy

Last week I finally got around to watching Rusell Peters’ stand up comedy DVD – Outsourced. Some seriously funny stuff. I first heard Peters on a cable news feature, talking about comedy in the aftermath of 9/11. Peters was one a group of comedians interviewed on their experiences as non-white immigrants in North America and […]

Last week I finally got around to watching Rusell Peters’ stand up comedy DVD – Outsourced. Some seriously funny stuff. I first heard Peters on a cable news feature, talking about comedy in the aftermath of 9/11. Peters was one a group of comedians interviewed on their experiences as non-white immigrants in North America and the role of comedy in exposing cultural tensions. In part, Peter’s routine is classic “work the crowd”fare, riffing on cultural differences. However, he is very good, does some really convincing accents and makes some important points both about difference and about cultural misunderstandings. It was hard to choose one clip, since there are a lot of good ones on YouTube, but the following gives you some idea of his style.

Peter’s routines remind us of the way comedy can reveal and probe cultural differences. A lot of the observations he makes would be almost impossible to ssustain in, say, an annoymous online fora where people might be prone to jump in with claims of offence and so on.

However, comedy doesn’t just reveal diffference. On this week’s Thinking Allowed podcast, Andy Medhurst, author of National Joke: Popular Comedy and English Cultural Identity pointed out the ways comedy can also reference commonality and shared experience.

Often jokes, really good jokes, can clarify issues that are complex and difficult to explain. Consider the excellent Karl Barth joke over at Faith and Theology (HT to A Thinker’s Progess),

“A Barthian is standing on the top of a cliff with a liberal and a member of the Religious Right. Whom does he push off first?

Answer: the liberal. Business before pleasure.”

Classic.

One thing I would love to see considered more deeply in any treatment of Theological Method is the proper role of comedy; especially satire and irony. As I’ve mentioned before, our politically polarised times have re-birthed popular satire (no coincidence there) and maybe we need to seriously consider the role of comedy in helping us explore and debate the equally polarising debates of faith in today’s societies?

[tags] Comedy, Theological Method [/tags]

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