“Finding Christian Identity and Sociality Through Comedy (A Sometimes Awkward Personal Journey)”

Kerry Soper
Brigham Young University

Given that the avoidance of “loud laughter and lightmindedness” is a familiar refrain in LDS doctrine and culture, I feel sheepish in admitting that my lifelong interest in studying, teaching (and sometimes awkwardly making) comedy has impacted how I’ve participated in LDS church meetings and culture over the years. I can identify distinct periods in my life, in fact, when a particular brand of humor or comedy-making paralleled the way I thought about belonging to a church community—and how I attempted (and sometimes failed) to be a genuine disciple of Christ.

This comedy-inflected trajectory through church culture has gone something like this: first, an infatuation with an irreverent (and sometimes superior) brand of satire as a young adult; next, in my 30s and 40s, an interest in a more genial (but perhaps self-focused) brand of stand-up comedy; and then, finally, in the last ten years, two alternating strategies: on the one hand, a private coping with life’s doubts and disillusionments through the dark comedy of absurdism, and on the other, a more socially engaged, improv-like collaboration (in laughing with those who laugh?) with other children of God (both within and without the church). In giving you a brief and frank tour of how I’ve thought (and joked) my way through each of these phases, perhaps you’ll recognize in your own faith journey some of your own challenges, coping strategies and epiphanies.