The funniest thing I have ever seen, without question, is Adam West as Batman in the eponymous 1960s film running through Gotham Harbor with a gigantic bomb over his head and no one really reacting. The whole movie is camp, but things really reach their zenith when Batman is skidding to avoid a mother pushing a baby carriage, the Salvation Army band (playing “Bringing in the Sheaves”), a pair of nuns, you name it. Even throwing it into the water is out—there are, of course, ducklings floating down below. “Some days,” West says, turning to the camera, “you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” If you haven’t seen the 60s Batman, 1) shame on you!, 2) it is available on Netflix, at Blockbuster (if you can find one), and I will happily lend my copy to you if you’d like. To me, even after years of professional comedy and being well-versed in a lot of greats from Abbot and Costello to Pryor and Carlin, from Laurel and Hardy to Fry and Laurie, that bomb scene is just so far out there, so brilliantly pulled off, that I will always laugh when I see it.
You may find it funny, you may not. I remember showing the movie, just grinning like an idiot, to a high school youth group and most of them fell asleep before the scene even happened. (In fairness, it was at a lock-in, and it was at four a.m.) At the same time, there are jokes and bits that other folks find incredibly hilarious that I find completely off-putting. Like that one guy with the puppets—yeah, you know who I’m talking about: not funny, at least, to me.
I bring this up because I was just thinking about what makes God laugh, and then, of course, I wonder why. Would God find Monty Python’s Life of Brian funny? (I certainly hope so.) Does God like knock-knock jokes? Does God get as offended by Baptist jokes as Baptists do? And how does God respond to our laughter when we are laughing at, with, or for God? The comedian Voltaire is misattributed with the quip, “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh,” but it offers an interesting view of God—if God is a comedian, are we the punchline, are we hearing the joke or are we in the joke, or are we the joke? And if yes is the answer to any of those questions, does that mean we can’t be serious? If no is the answer to all of those questions, can we ever know joy?
I am wrestling with the texts this week—it figures that the comedian is worried about a sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent, Joy. We’ll be looking at Abraham and Sarah upon news of the pending birth of Isaac—a new thing if there ever was one—and I hope you’ll come for my set, er, sermon, and of course to be present as we worship our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer together. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses, I’ll be here all week, and Shalom Y’all,