Monday, December 25, 2017

What's So Funny About Faith: A Memoir from the Intersection of Hilarious and Holy by Jacob D. Martin

Paperback, 162 pgs, Pub Oct 1st 2012 by Loyola Press, ISBN13: 9780829437393

A couple of weeks ago I finished Barking to the Choir by Greg Boyle, S.J. Boyle’s writing about his ministry in Los Angeles was both deeply aware of the human condition and deeply funny. His humor made us want to examine our own experience for other instances of the kind of vulnerability and human error that make life poignant rather than tragic. Father Boyle mentioned in passing that he decided to become a Jesuit because he found the order socially relevant and really funny. My father was educated by Jesuits, and his admirers always said his humor was Jesuitical: thoughtful and complex. So I went looking for Jesuits and humor and found Jake Martin.

This book was published in 2012, and tells of Jake’s Irish Catholic upbringing, the death of his father when he was young, his fabulously funny females on his mother’s side. Jake watched a lot of television growing up, and, coming from a family of wise-cracking females, he learned early the value of making people laugh. He is able to discuss particular episodes in long-running comedy TV series, which is pretty much lost on me since I never watched more than one or two episodes of any series. More importantly then, Jake seems to have internalized what makes good comedy socially relevant and long-lasting, besides being merely funny. He just touches on this vastly interesting subject area and therefore makes one want to learn more about what comedy is.

Becoming a Jesuit may not seem like much a career path for a boy whose greatest goal was to appear on Saturday Night Live, but actually it would make a brilliant synergy if he could make it work. I saw a short YouTube video of Jake talking about his decision to go into the Jesuits and I was surprised. He seemed much more uncomfortable speaking in front of an audience than I was expecting. All the hand-waving and the aw-shucks unpracticed responses were at odds with the stuff he’d written in this book which seemed to indicate a man who’d reconciled with his earlier bad habits as an ordinary citizen and was looking deeper into the mysteries of both successful comedy and his faith. He seems on solid ground with the theory; why is he uncomfortable in practice and on stage?

He wasn’t funny in the book, but he stoked our interest in finding something funny about faith, about God’s will on earth, and in human vulnerability and striving. I made it hard for him because I opened the book randomly and expected him to land immediately. It actually worked…I continued reading, perplexed at his seeming gentleness and naiveté. Somehow the link between comedy and gentleness has been broken for me. It would surprise me if he could hold his own among the troupe at Second City, a famous improv comedy spot in Chicago where he began his comedic education on stage. Second City was the start for many stars we watch on national television today, so Martin is well-connected in that way.

I hope he can pull it off eventually, if he is just getting started now (actually, five years ago this book was published & we haven't heard of him yet). At least he appears to understand what a big canvas he has and what a huge number of examples he has of everyday ridiculousness.

Just to give you a sense of what I am saying. Please form your own opinions.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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