Nowadays, comedians regularly mine God and religion for comic gold.
God is not generally known for His sense of humor. You won’t find the Bible on any list of the funniest books ever written, and you probably don’t attend religious services for the laughs. But people have been finding humor in God, the clergy, and religious laws for centuries: in the Middle Ages, the Feast of Fools involved the appointment of a mock bishop or pope, low and high officials switching places, and parody. (It sounds a little like a modern-day roast…) Nowadays, comedians regularly mine God and religion for comic gold. With God bringing laughter to the Ahmanson Theatre in the form of Sean Hayes’ body in An Act of God (through March 13, 2016), we’ve collected some of the most (or maybe least?—beware of profane language) godly humor on the Internet:
Tom Lehrer’s “The Vatican Rag”
Tom Lehrer—a mathematician who taught at Harvard, MIT, and UC Santa Cruz—ended up on national television for his satiric, Cole Porter–inspired songs, including “The Vatican Rag.” In response to the news that the Catholic Church was going to permit secular music to be used in some sections of the liturgy, Lehrer wrote a ragtime ditty that begins, “First you get down on your knees / Fiddle with your rosaries / Bow your head with great respect / And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect…”
George Carlin on the “invisible man living in the sky”
God was a favorite subject of legendary comedian George Carlin. A few of his classic lines:
How can He be perfect? Everything He ever makes…dies.
America prays for God to destroy our enemies. Our enemies pray for God to destroy us. Somebody's gonna be disappointed.
The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ and ‘Thou shalt not lie’ in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.
In this “Religion is bullshit” routine, Carlin points out some of the ironies in how we talk about God and His love, and why he can’t believe in a supreme being.
“I need to find God” —Chris Rock
In this early, pre-Saturday Night Live Chris Rock bit, the standup ponders why people don’t start looking for God until after they’ve sinned: “You kill 30 people, then you find God!” Rock returned to the subject later, in a 2004 comedy special: “Separate God from school, separate God from work, separate God from government, but on your money it says, ‘In God we trust.’ All my life I’ve been looking for God, and He’s right in my pocket.”
Ricky Gervais on acts of God
How do insurance companies decide what is an act of God—and what’s not? Ricky Gervais imitates an insurance executive on the phone with Him, trying to figure out how to get out of paying out for a volcanic ash cloud disrupting travel and a tree falling on a car.
Amy Schumer tries to make a deal with God
Paul Giamatti plays God in this sketch from Inside Amy Schumer, where the comedian tries to cut a deal with Him after seven years of silence. (The last time she called on God, it was to secure a victory for her knight at Medieval Times.) “I really need to stop making so many white girls,” an exasperated God says to Himself.