If you’re going to make fun of people’s faith, it’s best to know where to draw the line — and ideally before someone has shot you. So my new film puts me in risky territory…
Religion is, for many people, the most serious thing in the world — which is why there are more jokes about it than anything else in the world. Except, maybe, sex. Then again, if you include all the jokes that blend sex and religion — two nuns in the bath, one says “Where’s the soap?”, the other says “Yes it does, doesn’t it…” for example — I’m not so sure.
Whatever the final positions of the comedy subject-matter league table, there’s no doubt that religion, with — and of course because of — all its pomp and gravitas, has long been a fertile ground for laughter. Those who may think that religious comedy started with Life of Brian clearly have never read The Pardoner’s Tale. You could even make a case that at least a couple of moments in the Bible — God complaining to Job, for example, about how ostriches “leaveth their eggs in the dust … and forgetteth that the foot may crush them” — are meant to be funny. Also, St Augustine saying “Lord, make me chaste; but not yet” — surely that’s a great one-liner?
However, the flipside of the comedyreligion relationship — and here it’s very different from sex: you don’t get, for example, Dr Ruth furiously protesting outside Frank Skinner’s stand-up shows — is the anger that any mix of the sacred and the funny generates. Even apparently innocuous movies such as Bruce, Almighty — which was banned in Egypt and Malaysia — can raise hackles. Many God-fearing types cannot abide the idea that His name, or any of His scriptures, or even any of His staff, might coexist in the same space as laughter, despite laughter clearly being one of His most successful creations — arguably, the most divine one, the one that separates us from the animals.
David Baddiel is a recent new Distinguished Supporter of the BHA.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]David Baddiel doesn’t want to get shot,