I am not funny. No one would ever describe me as “the girl who makes people laugh.”
Yet, as an aspiring actress, I would often be cast in these whimsical roles. Not as Sandy in Grease, but “Jan” the Twinkie eating friend who makes everyone laugh. In college, as an overly self-assured Junior, I was sure I had the chops for “Baby June” in the musical Gypsy.
Raw talent would lead me to the character I was born for. I was ready. Three years of late nights spent memorizing Shakespearian sonnets, my days filled with improv, and deep theory discussions of playwrights like Pinter and Becket, I was ready for this. The audition was open, which meant the other theatre majors were allowed to watch. And judge. Lights shone hot and bright on the stage set simply with me and the piano. I fanned my fingers into jazz hands, and as the notes echoed through the auditorium, I enthusiastically sang Baby June’s lines, “Let me entertain you, let me make you smile!” I danced around that stage like the Broadway star I knew I was meant to be. “Let me show you new tricks…”
Until I wasn’t.
The piano stopped, and I heard distinct gasps from the audience.
Everything was interrupted by a booming sound. The sound not of my beautiful singing voice or extraordinary acting talent, but of my body hitting the floor of the stage. A stage edge that I clearly had not seen, flipped me right on my rear.
My training taught me how to handle the missed cue in a play or a faulty prop. You keep going. You get up and pretend as if it was all part of the act. So, I popped right back up and continued my frenetic dance and sang the song as if I had the flawless voice of Adele.
Let’s be clear. I didn’t.
I was not, yet again, cast as the talented lead with beautiful outfits and a dressing room with my name on it. Instead, I was offered the role of, “The Clumsy Little Sister.”
This is only one story, but I have hundreds. Hundreds of situations like this where I have fallen on my face, made a complete idiot of myself, and/or chosen to be the one laughed at. I have eaten a worm on stage, worn banana suits and Easter bunny costumes, and chosen without prompting to be my own singing telegram for someone at their place of work. And more times than not, I offer my own stories of idiocy or mistakes for humor at a dinner party.
We even have a large costume closet in our house, that we regularly use. My husband and I have been known to show up at parties in costume, even if it is not a costume party.
My all-time favorite comedian is Kristin Wiig, and I love her “Target Cashier” character. Whenever the register beeps, she yells, “Approved!” With the recent addition of chips on our credit cards, I loathe the rejection horn the machine makes when it is time to take your card out. So, I sometimes yell with my hands up, “Approved!” There have been many a Target cashiers that have looked at me oddly.
I may not be funny, but I can have a lot of fun.
There is a reason why fun and laughter is integral to the thread of my life, marriage and family. Because laughter, for me, is when I feel fully alive in who God created me to be. Laughter connects and bonds relationships. And the absence of humor almost kept me from giving my life to Christ when I was a teenager.
Very few people “sell” Christianity as fun, joyful or playful. No one handed out tracks when I was younger with this line: “Ask the Lord to be your savior, you will have so much fun. Oh, and lots of laughter.” And for me, as a teenager in a non-Christian chaotic and verbally abusive home, the only exposure I had to Christians were people with mouths in a permanent line, furrowed brows and who invariably wore turtlenecks and headbands.
I didn’t feel buttoned up. I didn’t want to be clamped down by tidy lines and demure posture.
I really struggled, If I give my life to Christ would I have to be like THAT? I liked funny TV shows and adventure and laughter. Lots of laughter. Would I have to give that up? I needed laughter.
Oh God, in his masterful plan began to surround me with Christians who loved adventure and laughter and taught me how to connect with others in this place of fun and silliness. Of course, this isn’t the only piece of following Christ, but I would say it’s one I see still today missing in so many Christian circles. We can often act like the turtlenecked-headband girls of my youth. We argue about theology and politics, and we create dividing lines and religions and rules and walls and fences.
But people! We know how the story ends! God tells us not to be afraid! So if we aren’t to be afraid then aren’t we then to step out in faith and walk on the water? Aren’t we to dance and sing and play with abandon! YES. I say, “YES.”
So why then do we have to furrow our brows and hold our hands in our laps like we have a schoolmaster ready to paddle us?
With this current culture of instant Twitter hate-filled responses and dividing lines, I believe we need laughter and joy more than ever.
And if my identity is in Christ, then I am 100 percent okay with being the object of an innocent joke or skit if it brings joy and a smile to your face.
When I fall on my face like I did in that audition, I am humbly reminded that there is one God and I am not him. That I am a mere human stumbling along (literally) trying to find my way, and THANK GOD, I am not in charge. Can God use my guffaws to his glory? Yes!
And, I will tell you, I don’t regret any of it. And, every time I make an epic fail (which can be often), it first leads me right back into his arms, reminding me of my own humanity and reminding me who is in charge. And, it isn’t me.
Bob Goff says, “Fail trying; don’t fail watching.”
Laughter and mistakes help me to feel free.
What does freedom feel like?
Like belly laughter. When we laugh so hard that tears come out of our eyes (and I perpetually pee my pants), that is when I feel most free. When I feel most like myself. And when I am most in the moment.
So, if we are called to love, laughter is the medicine that shatters those walls we build.
“Laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together. It is a hidden language that we all speak. It is not a learned group reaction but an instinctive behavior programmed by our genes. Laughter bonds us through humor and play.”
We need to create more room for laughter.
Laughter has buoyed my marriage in the hard times, it has bonded my relationships and it is what God uses to help me not get so discouraged and torn up over the hate and anger in this world. Laughter is medicine. We need so much more of it.
Laughter oftentimes comes out of those situations when we are brave, when we are unhindered and fully being the people God created us to be. We need not be afraid of it but pray for more of it. More unbridled joy. More pee-in-your-pants-like experiences.
Have you ever prayed that? God, show me laughter? Try it! He won’t let you down.
I may not be funny, but God has shown me how to have a lot of fun. And that fun starts with a good laugh. Won’t you try it?
Psalm 28:7 The Message (MSG)
Blessed be God—
he heard me praying.
He proved he’s on my side;
I’ve thrown my lot in with him.
Now I’m jumping for joy,
and shouting and singing my thanks to him.
Proverbs 17:22 The Message (MSG)
A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.