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'Christians have a troubled relationship with comedy'

Sitcom writer James Cary popped in to Keswick Unconventional at the Keswick Convention this summer (July 2014), where he talked about comedy and the Christian faith ...

Sitcom writer James Cary popped in to Keswick Unconventional at the Keswick Convention this summer (July 2014), where he talked about comedy and the Christian faith ...

So tell us what you do?

I’m a comedy writer – mostly writing sitcoms, mostly for the BBC. I worked on the first two series of Miranda, and then I co-created and co-write Bluestone 42 for BBC3.

What's it like working on comedy shows? Do you laugh a lot?

Lots of comedy writers are no big laughers. They appreciate a joke without making much sound. I’m not one of those writers. I like to laugh, and do so quite a lot, sometimes at stuff that I write, and often at material written by my co-writer or other writers. Plus I love live comedy and going to see stand-up. I’m usually a pretty good audience member.

Are Christians funny?

Yes. Often without realising. Sometimes, we do have an awkwardness and an otherworldliness that can look funny from the outside. And that can be funny on the inside too. In general, though, Christians have had a troubled relationship with comedy, mainly because it’s inherently subversive and challenging – and difficult to control. This used to matter quite a lot in the past when churches were more part of the fabric of society and vicars and priests were very important local figures. Now that church is voluntary and less authoritarian, things are a little bit more relaxed – although our humour hasn’t quite caught up yet.

How did you find faith?

At school, I heard the Christian faith explained very clearly and reasonably and it seemed to make complete sense of the world around me. Nearly 30 years later, I simply haven’t heard a better explanation for how the world is, how we relate to each other, and who Jesus is. He’s pretty much the key to the whole thing.

How did you get involved with Keswick? What do you do here?

I was invited to be part of the Keswick Unconventional, a branch of Week 3 of the convention. One of the aims of the Unconventional is to reconnect the church with the arts, of which comedy is a key part. So I help out with various events in the programme, including The Night Shift, which is comedy chat show in the evenings.

What's the funniest story you've got about church?

Sorry, I don’t really have one. But I would say that all churches are funny, incongruous and odd, filled with people with a unique perspective on the world, and from all walks of life. You end up being friends with all kinds of people, which is how I know some Lithuanian immigrants and a former captain of a nuclear submarine. Now that sounds like the set up to a joke...

 

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