Judge David Johnson was pleased to find out that the terms "Christian" and "comedian" can in fact go together.
Believe it or not, yes, you shalt laugh.
For some of you, the confluence of the words "Christian" and "comedian" will likely send you heading for the hills. "Just what I want to hear," you may say to yourself. "Jokes about forgiveness and transubstantiation." If you've made it past these first two sentences, let me assuage your fears: though the comics featured in this special may in fact be Christians, their performances aren't "Christian comedy," which I interpret to mean a hybrid of jokes and proselytizing. There are no altar calls, no breaking of bread, no pre-set prayers, no laying on of hands, and barely a smidgen of Biblically-inspired bits. The extent to which the comedians delve into their Christian pedigree is limited to references to overlong sermons, gags about the Jesus vs. Darwin car fish debate, and a few mentions of "being blessed." What makes these comedians Christian-friendly is less the reverential content of the stand-up and more the family-friendly delivery. Bring your kids, your grandparents, your congregation—there is absolutely nothing found here that could be offensive to any age group. In short, this is essentially "clean comedy."
And here's the kicker: these comedians are pretty funny. Like any collection of stand-up, there are some performers who do better than others, and that's the case here too. The first two comics, Thor Ramsey (yep, that's his real name) and Michael Jr. are actually very, very funny and that's without using the caveat "for Christian comics." No, these two are legitimately funny comedians. Michael Jr., a low-key African-American stand-up, was probably my favorite of all the performers, and as long as we're being totally truthful, laid out a set that was as funny as any I've seen on any other compilation disc. Ramsey comes in a close second, a guy packed full of infectious energy that got the crowd behind him from the get-go.
Unfortunately, the momentum hit a slight lull following these two guys, and didn't rebound until the end, with puppet-comic Taylor Mason and his very entertaining routine. After Michael Jr., you had Jeff Allen, Teresa Roberts Logan, Joby Saad, Gilbert Esquivel and Mason. Allen did the family, grumpy father thing with varying degrees of success; Logan provided the sole female presence on the stage (besides host Patricia Heaton); Saad's gimmick is that he's "the village idiot," and, frankly, his shtick was borderline awkward what with the uncomfortable developmental disability parallels in his performance; Esquivel has some decent racial humor (softened of course for all ages), but his over-exuberance was too taxing. Mason's wrap-up left things on a high note. He started with puppet jokes that were far from groundbreaking, but when he brought up members of the audience to operate the puppets as he improvised the voices—gold!
Heaton had a fairly minimalist role as host. She had one or two jokes as part of the welcome, and then just acted as the transition between comics after that. Really, her main purpose, I think, was to pin a recognizable Christian celebrity face on the production, and to that effect, she succeeds.
As a Christian myself, it's refreshing to see a well-produced, and, more importantly, an authentically funny experience. I'll be the first to admit there's a lot of corny Christian entertainment out there, but it would be unfair to lump the folks with talent into that broad-brushed description. Though my expectations were low with this DVD, I can safely say they would have been exceeded even if they were at the mid-range. Thou Shalt Laugh is simply good, clean, profanity-free comedy that even a jaded stand-up fan like myself can appreciate.
The DVD is just as clean, with a slick 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a stereo audio track. Extras include a short batch of off-stage outtakes (kind of cheesy actually), some backstage, behind-the-scenes footage and a short featurette called "The Private Lives of Taylor's Puppets."
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