That’s Not Funny!

January 28, 2014

by Walker Moore, founder/president
Awe Star Ministries

Statler and Waldorf. You might not recognize those names unless you’re a big fan of the Muppets. Each week as their television show began, these two grumpy men sat in a box seat in the balcony, heckling the other Muppets, especially Fozzie Bear. They would critique each performance, shouting out, “That’s not funny!” and then joke and laugh together. Their ad-lib antics were one of my favorite parts of the show.

I find myself in the same position as Statler and Waldorf as I evaluate today’s society. I believe one of the best indicators of our moral decay is not what’s happening in our schools or churches, but what we deem as humor. If you don’t believe me, look at what comes streaming across your television set.

I like comedy, but little or nothing labeled as “comedy” today comes without foul language or sexual innuendos. And most of it breaks at least nine of the Ten Commandments.

I know good comedy. I grew up listening to the likes of Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Jerry Clower. Most of those names probably won’t connect with the younger generation. Humor back then was sophisticated. Take Jack Benny. For those of you who don’t know Mr. Benny, much of his humor centered around his being a poor violinist and a cheapskate, who never admitted to being older than 39.

In one of Benny’s famous radio skits, he was accosted by a burglar who shouted, “Your money or your life!” There was a long pause. Jack Benny fans knew what was going on. Benny had a trademark pose where he put his left arm across his waist and rested the elbow of his right arm in that palm, his right hand cradling his chin. The attending audience laughed, just as we did at home. The burglar yelled again, “Your money or your life!”

Finally, Benny spoke up. “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” Now, that’s funny!

And who could forget Jerry Clower? When he started telling a story about his Uncle Versie Ledbetter, we knew we were going for a ride.

You would never have seen Bob Hope calling his mother a derogatory name. And if he had, my grandmother would have walked outside, cut a branch from a tree, stripped it of its leaves, marched over to the television studio and whooped him right there on national television.

And you never heard Abbott and Costello joking about smoking weed or taking amphetamines. The difference between most of what is called comedy today and what we used to watch is a loss of class.

Yes, we used to have class. The whole family could sit and watch a Bob Hope special as he entertained the troops. The youngest to the oldest got the jokes, laughing until we choked on our root beer floats. No one felt embarrassed or degraded. But have we gotten to the point where the words “humor” and “depravity” are interchangeable? I feel like yelling with Statler and Waldorf, “That’s not funny!”

When my generation was growing up, the stuff we call comedy today would never have survived. We would never have given our hard-earned money to someone who would degrade the very things the Bible and our country stood for. Comedy used to be an art, where men or women crafted ingenious and even intelligent puns, poked fun at themselves, or told funny stories like Bill Cosby. Do you remember watching Lilly Tomlin’s switchboard operator named Ernestine? Her “One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy” put us on the floor.

The comedy of old supported the moral fiber of our country rather than dismantling it. But today’s humor only exists because people are willing to watch and pay for it.

Does the Bible speak about humor? Not really, but it does speak a lot about laughter. Here are just a few verses: “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21). “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy, Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Ps. 126:2). “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 16:21).

Can Christians laugh? Of course! Did you know that people who laugh live longer? Proverbs 14:30 says, “A relaxed attitude lengthens life” (Prov. 14:30 NLT). If that’s true, I’ll live to 150 years old. We who have been redeemed and know the joy of the Lord should laugh more than anyone. In fact, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22).

There is good laughter and bad laughter. And I call those who know the difference … a class act.

 

 

 

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Norm Miller

Walker:

Once again, you have outdone yourself. Not only do I find myself agreeing with you, I find biblical precedent for your content. In Eph. 5.4, God tells us that coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable for his children, but rather the giving of thanks is.

What’s more, I came to realize that the hell-bound world, including godless comedians and their audiences, perhaps unknowingly, choose to laugh at sin as a way to soothe their consciences that are seared with the acceptance and repetition of every “coarse” joke. Laughter in this sense is a way for the lost people to deal with their shame.

More tragic is that believers will laugh along with them. We will give God’s money to rent DVDs and go to movies, or even watch on television with approval the “coarse and foolish talking” of those who are without Christ. While others use laughter to glorify the sins for which Jesus died, we laugh right along with them.

Rhetorically speaking:

Ought we not be crying at the evidence of their lostness?
— Ought we not be telling them a story of soul cleansing rather than listening to, and tacitly approving that which defiles the soul?
— Ought we not be “taking every thought captive”?
— Ought we not be rethinking what it means to be “in the world and not of it”?

When I meditate on God’s Word, I sometimes flip the principles therein and state them in reverse. So, if a verse tells me to do something, it necessarily is also telling me not to do another thing.

With that in mind, here is Philippians 4.8.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Shall we state that in the reverse to see what Philippians 4.8. is telling us to avoid?

Whatever is false, dishonorable, wrong, polluted, ugly, of ill repute, flawed/inferior – if anything is worthy of disdain – avoid it all.

Thank you, Walker, for writing as you do. Please keep on living for God, listening to him, and sharing with us what you learn. We are your debtors.

Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers)

Walker,

A good word indeed. I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers say one time “You can tell a persons character by what makes him laugh and what makes him cry.”

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