By Lindsay Ross. Three funny Catholics explain why lightening up a little is a must for followers of Christ
Comedian: God created us to have a sense of humor, and he’s in on the jokeJudy McDonald is a Catholic comedian and former youth minister based in San Diego, Calif, who has performed in parishes, conferences, colleges and military bases around the world.
Our Sunday Visitor: It can be difficult for people to discuss religion with others. How does humor help you reach audiences on this topic?
Judy McDonald: Humor is international; it cuts down all boundaries. When people are laughing together, their guard is down. After you laugh and tell somebody about embarrassing things in your life, when you deliver the message of Christ to them, they’re more apt to receive it because now you’re not just some nut with the Bible thumping them — they know about you and you’ve almost built a relationship with humor. They can hear the Gospel on a level where there’s a little bit of trust.
OSV: When you perform, how do you strike the right balance of how much humor to put into the topic of religion?
McDonald: A misconception when people hear that I’m a Catholic comedian is that I’m just going to make fun of the Catholic Church, which I don’t do. I generally just report on my experiences. But for me, I’m heavily dependent on my ghostwriter, the Holy Spirit. Before, I would hem and haw and worry and now I really take into prayer who I’m talking to. When is it OK to put humor in and when is it not? It’s just something you learn over a period of time, and it’s only by listening and being obedient that you know.
OSV: How has having a sense of humor helped you in your own spiritual life?
McDonald: It’s a two-edged sword for me, because I get challenged a lot that funny people can’t go deep. That’s something I really struggled with until I came to the understanding that God created us in a certain way. Now I understand that the only reason I have a sense of humor is through God. What I think and what humans think is funny is because God enabled that to be in our personality. He knew what he was doing when he created beans and what would happen to our bodies. God has a sense of humor; I just think we don’t always get the joke.
OSV: What are people’s reactions when they learn that you’re a Catholic comedian?
McDonald: Right away, people either say, “Oh, that’s cool” or “Do you make fun of the Church?” There’s a lot of misconception and misunderstanding. I think a lot of times with comedians we think of biting or cutting or tearing-down comedy. But humor in its purest form is just joy, and that’s why I think it correlates back to spirituality. It isn’t about tearing anybody else down; it’s about looking at life and saying, “Yeah, that’s kind of funny.”
OSV: What can Catholics do to lighten up a little and see the joy in life more?
McDonald: Certainly, the average Catholic laughs at all sorts of things, but what we tend to do as humans is secularize what we do and where God is. You don’t really think that God is present when you’re having a good time.
But he understands that part of being human is laughing. Once we understand that good humor is reflecting back on how good God is, I think we can celebrate humor more and not take ourselves so seriously. We can appreciate that God could have made us without a sense of humor and made us grumpy all the time, but he didn’t. You will spill milk out your nose if you laugh too hard, and God knows that; I think he delights when we do that.
McDonald’s website is www.judymcdonald.net.