A recent Facebook discussion helped prod my thinking on the use of jokes and humor (what makes things funny), and then the best use of humor in sermons. Last week I used a really funny parable about Adam and Eve, but that is the first time in a long time I've used something like that. I think the funniest things come from real life.
For instance, I have a new 2 month old child (Kaylee), an 11 year old (Gina), and an eight year old (Emily). I came home from work and Gina was holding Kaylee. I said, "Can I hold her"?? Gina said, "No--and Emily is next!" What made that funny? An eleven year old telling her dad to get in line because she was not about to give up that baby!
In speaking you can make funny comments often by taking something that is common and placing it with something absurb, unexpected, or funny to think about. When people imagine something ridiculous like this, they often laugh. That is in part what made people laugh about Gina telling me no. An eleven year old should not do that, and Gina is a girl who always does what you ask her to do, which made it even funnier. So making people think of someone who is always quiet as the guy who can't stop talking (you know John, I can never get in a word edgewise with him), or Shaquille O'Neal in one of those mini cars (I love those mini cars. I saw Shaquille O'Neal the other day driving down the street in one of those. He looked so comfortable), or something anachronistic--like Adam and Eve texting back and forth on their Iphones, etc. can make people laugh.
When I first started preaching, I was always looking for a joke or a funny top ten list. But unless the joke is just really, really funny and "spot on" with the point, I think that a lot of people just groan. Humor is indeed very helpful, and often you can slip in a great point that cuts to the heart of the matter after getting people to laugh. But, in my opinion, natural humor is usually more effective in doing this.
Jokes, in order to be effective in sermons, ought to ideally relate to the subject matter at hand. John Dobbs, a preacher friend of mine, told this joke.
My boss was complaining in a staff meeting the other day that he wasn't getting any respect. Later that morning he went out and got a small sign that read, "I'm the Boss." He then taped it to his office door.
Later that day when he returned from lunch, he found that someone had taped a note to the sign that said: "Your wife called, she wants you to bring her sign back!"
This joke made me laugh. If I were speaking on Eph. 5:21f on love and submission in marriage, this would be great to use--and then slip in a point saying, "Guys, you really can't get by in life without your wife, can you? And do you really want to go around yelling, woman, submit??"
The above Ted talk makes the point that humor comes from "benign violations"--that is, unexpected things that do not violate moral norms. I'll let you watch the video to see what the speaker means by this. Here are a couple of other links on the subject that I found interesting.
What do you think makes something funny in life or in a sermon? Do you have something funny to share?