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Have you heard the one about the clergy doing stand-up jokes?

11 April 2014

Coach: the stand-up comedian Bentley Browning

Coach: the stand-up comedian Bentley Browning

THE third series of Rev has given the nation an opportunity to laugh at them for three weeks now, but members of the clergy in London turned the tables on Tuesday, by spending a day learning how to crack jokes.

Fifteen of them took part in a one-day workshop run by the stand-up comedian Bentley Browning, as part of their continuing ministerial development. The day concluded with each participant performing a three-minute set in "simulated gig conditions".

Mr Browning was impressed by the standard on show.

"They all did a fantastic gig," he said on Wednesday. "They took it really seriously, and that blew me away. They are all public speakers anyway, so not like the normal people I teach. They were really on fire about getting down to it."

The workshop, based on a "taster" session that Mr Browning runs for would-be comedians, at the Festival Hall, involves learning techniques and theory, including his conviction that "the truth is the funniest comedy technique."

There were, he said, plenty of in-jokes about life in church.

"It was basically billed as comedy for confidence - leaving your comfort zone," he said. "Quite a lot said that they would like to use humour, but I don't think they had used it on this level before. . . People in congregations watch comedy a lot; it's a language they use, and if you can drop in the odd comment, you are going to hit your congregation more, and start relating to people you've not related to before."

Although he is convinced that "you can tell unfunny people how to say funny things," Mr Browning believes that thisis not always necesssary with clergy.

The son of Canon John Browning, a retired priest in Sheffield, he grew up "with priests coming round all the time and I met a lot that were very, very funny. The majority were funny yesterday."

Reports are awaited from test audiences in London parishes on Sunday morning.


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