History of Christian Comedy


Just thirty years ago, the church community as well as many in society at large, looked at Christian Comedy as nothing more than an oxymoron. Today, comedy from a Christian base is accepted, embraced and possibly becoming the most popular form of entertainment within the Christian community.  Literally hundreds of comedy shows are presented weekly in churches throughout America, resulting in an amazing growth in the number as well as the quality of Christian comedy performers.  A rising number of churches are also presenting their own comedy sketches on Sunday mornings, some larger churches even employing staff comedy writers!  And now the popularity of comedy from a Christian perspective has spilled over into the secular arena.  Nationally, comedy clubs have opened their doors to nights of Christian comedy, which have been greeted enthusiastically by their capacity crowds.  This explosion has not gone unnoticed by the secular media.  Recently Christian comedy has been the subject of interviews on CNN, FOX News, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Christian Science Monitor and Radio America.  We are also seeing the beginnings of a refreshing trend of Christians slowly dotting the staffs of network television’s most successful sitcoms.


Faith based humor has been with us from the beginning of creation.  Back in the garden, Adam sorting through llamas and aardvarks in hopes of a potential mate, had to put a snicker on God’s face.  Soon after Adam delivered perhaps the first punchline to justify his disobedience when he told God, “It’s this woman you gave me!”  Years later, the prophet Elijah jeered and mocked the prophets of Baal by basically saying that their god was a “girlie man” who was probably on vacation.  Jesus Himself used exaggeration and incongruity, two comedy staples, when He told of a man with a wooden plank in his eye who was attempting to remove a speck from another man’s.

In modern times, religious humor has long been with us – be it a pastor who used a comical illustration, a youth group performing a comedy sketch at camp or a Christian humorist in the “good ole boy” ilk of Grady Nutt.  But Christian Comedy as we know it today, presented in a contemporary style with social relevance, had its beginnings in the mid 1970’s.

Christian Comedy has two primary pioneers: Mike Warnke, a humorist based in Nashville who mixed stand-up with Christian testimony and Isaac Air Freight, a sketch comedy team out of Los Angeles, shaped in the mold of the newly premiered Saturday Night Live…only from a Christian perspective.  “People would ask me what is Christian Comedy?’ says IAF founder Dan Rupple, ‘Is it making jokes about God?  I’d reply that we’re not laughing at God, but rather at the absurdity of mankind attempting to live a purposeful, meaningful life without a relationship with their Creator.”

Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Warnke and IAF’s popularity increased nationally as they toured almost exclusively as the Christian community’s main resource for humor. Beginning in the early 1990’s a number of comedy club stand-ups with a strong Christian faith, began to fill the growing number of requests for church appearances.  These talented performers brought a smart, professional sensibility to the craft of Christian comedy.  Following their lead, we are now seeing an increasing group of polished comedic performers, who, having honed their craft before a faith filled audience, are now headliners in comedy clubs.

In response to this tremendous interest and growth, an informal retreat for Christian comedians was held in the summer of 2002 on comedian Chonda Pierce’s farm just outside of Nashville Tennessee.  It was decided to begin an association of Christian comedians – the Christian Comedy Association, and comedy pioneer Dan Rupple was elected president. The CCA’s objective is to rally together as a network of Christian comedians for the purpose of encouraging one another in our faith, friendship and craft.

Recently, Christian Comedy is finding its place both on the big screens of film and DVD and the small screens of digital media.  Direct to DVD projects like “Thou Shalt Laugh” and “The Apostles of Comedy” are featuring the best in Christian standups for the home viewing market.  Capitalizing on the explosion of Internet video, Christian comedy is bursting into the viral world of digital media.

After 30 years of growing pains, comedy is happily here to stay in the program of the church, in the life of the Christian and in our mainstream culture.