Thursday, September 09, 2010

Laugh and the World Laughs With You...

This article first appeared in Dramascene newsletter in March 2008.

Should humor onstage be reserved for children's plays? After all cutesy little girls and boys can get away with it, right? It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that Jesus actually laughed. Aren't we supposed to be like Jesus? Does that mean that as writers of Christian plays, we should only write serious stuff?

I have a hard time believing that Jesus did not laugh. I have done a
search and it’s true what people say about there not being any Biblical proof. There really is no reference where Jesus actually let out a guffaw.
There also is no reference to Jesus combing his hair, going to the bathroom, having a bath or even smiling. But I'd like to bet a peanut butter and cheese sandwich that he did each of these things. And come to think of it, what little children would come unto Jesus if He had a long face and a seriously furrowed brow? It's been my experience that children run a mile from such a countenance.

A child in Jesus' presence must have sensed love to the extreme when they looked at Jesus. He genuinely cared about the children and their seemingly insignificant [at least to the disciples] desires. The children clearly loved this smiling Jesus.
I picture Jesus with a sparkle in his eye and a warm open smile. I can almost envision the children running to Jesus. How could he not laugh aloud? They clamoured to be with Him and tried to find ways to get around the tough old disciples. But Jesus, who was calling the shots, had to have given a reassuring smile to the children as He said, "…Let the little children come to me, and don't prevent them. For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:14. TLB

There is nothing wrong with laughter or desiring to use humor in a play. Humor engages the audience and can be an outlet for serious emotion. It is important, however, that in our attempt at writing humor into a play of Christian proportions, that we do not damage the credibility of God or His representatives. Humor should be purposeful and not derogatory or deprecating in any manner. In fact, I will go one step further and encourage writers to not use this kind of humor [although it is sadly prevalent on the big and little screens today] in anything they write – biblical or otherwise.

Unfortunately, some have difficulty hearing the laughter of Jesus because too often He is portrayed as a stern, authoritative person, stoic in appearance and pokerfaced in response. But, excuse me, people. Jesus embodied humanity. He was put on this earth so that He could experience what we experience. He cried. He felt sorrow. He demonstrated anger and He displayed deep compassion. He got excited. He experienced trepidation. And He laughed.

Jesus used sarcasm, puns, enigmas and paradoxes as he communicated. We need to understand how and when to effectively use them, too. Remember the sarcastic comment Jesus made to his disciples and the gathered people about snakes and stones? The conversation was serious in tone but Jesus used a sarcastic line or two to make the people sit up and think. “If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake?” Matthew 7:9-10 TLB. Can you envision the smile on His face as He spoke? What a funny guy Jesus must have been at times.

We need to study the parables and His teachings and see how he used these techniques to captivate His audience. Jesus' parables usually had an O. Henry surprise ending that would have left people chuckling. Jesus loved to use the absurd to make his point. Remember the camel going through the eye of a needle story? Now that's a bit of a knee slapper when you consider the futility of such a goal. Jesus had to have been parleying that one with a smile on his face.
In many of Jesus' communications, it becomes noticeable that He had a keen sense of humor. Sadly, we tend to take everything Jesus said so seriously and then we often miss the humor.

Jesus was no dreary and dull Messiah. His standard greeting to his disciples was, "Rejoice!” Isn‟t that a pretty obvious command to put on a happy face? And how could he possibly dish out that directive without a smile? A stern, wrinkled brow wouldn't have worked. A hearty laugh and beckoning arms raised heavenward is more how I picture it.

So whether you are concerned about injecting the occasional bit of humor into a play you are writing, or perhaps you are creating a full length comedy for an outreach, do it with Jesus in mind. Follow His example. He did smile. He had to. [I'm still laying my PB& C sandwich on the line.]

Our Creator God Himself willingly and purposefully gave us the gift and appreciation for discerning humor. He never once said, "Whoops,‟ as he looked upon and listened to the hearty laughter of His people.

Tasteful, well-timed humor written thoughtfully into a stage play can engage an audience and make characters come alive and seem real. People can relate. And there is nothing better than an audience being able to relate to something you have written to the glory of God.
(Photo: Granddaughter Jocelyn always makes me laugh!)

Laughter is a good tonic. God said so. “A cheerful heart does good like medicine...” Proverbs 17:22 TLB.
I know, I know…betting is not a Christian thing to do so I‟ll just keep my sandwich! I was just kidding anyway. Insert canned laughter here…


Peter Black said...

Vintage Glynis -- bearing and provoking a warm smile, a touch of humour, always respectful and sensitive, and making a valid point!
Thank you.

Ann Brady said...

Laughing Jesus...I have always loved that idea and wished someone would paint a picture depicting our Lord in such throes. And dear Glynnis, of course Jesus - Yeshuah - had a sense of humour: he was a Rabbi, after all.

Looking upon my life, I know He often laughs, and when He does, I laugh too and pick myself up and keep going. Blessings, dear sister in Christ, for such a great piece!

Ann Brady

Peter Black said...

Further to Ann's comment,
I recall someone lending me a large blown-up pen drawing of a laughing Jesus. (That was about 33 years ago.) I don't remember what approach I took at the time, but I do recall preaching a message and displaying the picture as an illustration in a morning service.
Our Lord was depicted as laughing heartily, with upturned face -- and not just as giving a wry, restrained smile.
After all, He is the One who said we should rejoice with those who rejoice, as well as to weep with those who weep!
I wouldn't at all be surprised if some disciples were attracted to Jesus by His smile and laughter, as well as His anointing, divine call, and teaching. (That, I suppose however, is to argue from silence on the matter.)

Marian said...

I can't imagine Jesus not laughing. I think he was laughing all the way to heaven when he defeated death and sin and hell.

Donna Mann said...

Glynis - I love it. Thanks for reminding us of the 'Joy of Jesus'. I too remember that poster to which Peter refers. I bought several and tacked them on my office door . . . again and again. People 'borrowed' them for a meeting or to use somewhere in the church. Thirty or so years ago, people weren't used to seeing Jesus having a good hearty laugh. BTW, I love your picture and Jocelyn's. So nice!

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