It’s not really a secret…
As many of you are probably aware, I (Jeremy Martin, pastor/founder) really enjoy writing and performing sketch/stand up comedy. There’s something about the nerves, craft, and laughter that pulls me in. I really enjoy all forms of live communication. My Sunday “idea worth discussing” is my favorite time of the week.
Connecting through clear, concise, compelling communication is my passion. Figuring out how to say what matters, what needs to be said, in the right amount of words is a real challenge. And it’s a challenge I’m here for.
Maybe this seems weird to you because you can’t imagine real truth being unearthed amid fart jokes or “dirty” words. As a student of the art I can tell you it’s there. And the best are the best at revealing it to us in the ways that matter. We are currently in the middle of a comedy resurgence much like stand up in the 80s. Comedy matters and is making a real difference.
As a preacher/author/communicator I’ve taken notice. Maybe you have too. There’s something to learn. There’s something there, some wisdom, some sermon that we should be paying attention to. One definition of a sermon is “an instructive speech with a moral.”
As a student of comedy and how it can and does affect the “sermons” I’m preaching regularly I’d like to give you a few comedy specials I’ve learned, and continue to learn from as I pursue effective sermonizing.
I’ll give the disclaimers: I do not condone all of the jokes, material, or language in these specials, not everything is for everyone, you do not have to watch!
Comedy Specials informing my sermons…
- Make Happy, Bo Burnham – This might be my all-time favorite comedy special to date. Bo is young and gifted. A prodigy of sorts, he uses music, theater, and stand up to craft his message. I believe he’s transcended comedy with this special. It took him years to create and it’s incredibly vulnerable. I’ll comment on his final “bit” where he copies a segment of Kanye West’s concert. He uses music to sing/talk about his “struggles.” The irony is that his “struggles” aren’t real. Not at any meaningful level. He knows this. And at the moment the silly reaches a climax, Bo turns inward to real problems. The problems we all face at some level. He gets personal. Other than the incredible creativity associated with this “bit” I cannot help but appreciate and learn from his transparency. May my preaching be from so deep within me that I have to be transparent for others to get the message.
- My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Mike Birbiglia – Two words describe this special, masterful-storytelling. What Birbiglia does with story inside story, zooming in and out of his life experiences, is impressive. Not to mention his handle on the flow and material. I played this for a friend and he was most impressed at the memorization. This specials motivates me in two ways; know the material and tell stories. Storytelling is not a strength of mine. But I desperately want to get better at it. People connect to stories and stories connect people. Jesus was a master at this form of communication as well and most of his sermons started with a story.
- The Bird Revelation, Dave Chappelle – Say what you will about Chappelle but he’s one of the best to every tell jokes in a microphone. He’s a great writer and creator. In his special for Netflix, released with another special, Dave does a masterful job at connecting deeply to an audience probably not ready to hear what he was saying. He exposes Hollywood and ultimately humanity. Not only does he tell the stories in an effective manner but he pulls from mostly unknown stories. My lesson from him in this special is a bit complex. If you’ve seen the special you might get it a little quicker. This is the best way to say it; one of the most interesting ways to connect the moral of your story to the audience is by connecting them to powerful, previously unfamiliar stories from unusual sources. Chappelle is trying to share the lessons he learned from his life experiences by sharing the experiences of a pimp and a prostitute. It’s amazing. I’m going to go watch it again now!
One day I hope to write a sermon on the level of these. One day.
These specials can be found on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Maybe you’ve seen them. Now that you’ve seen how a preacher watches these types of things, maybe you can go back and watch with new eyes.
Have you seen these? What do you think? Do you have another special you have seen that inspired lessons on communicating? Share in the comments below. Join the discussion!