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Clergy risk dying as they stand up for the non-PC

22 April 2016

Christian comedy is on the rise. Hattie Williams checks out the latest gig, in a bar in Shoreditch

Yazz Fetto

Holy orders: the Rector of the United Wye Benefice, Ashford, the Revd Ravi Holy, performs his five-minute act

Holy orders: the Rector of the United Wye Benefice, Ashford, the Revd Ravi Holy, performs his five-minute act

SWEARING vicars, the wit of St Mark, and skits on the Ten Commandments raised laughter — and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust — at an “alternative” Christian comedy night.

More than 100 tickets were sold at £7 for the comedy show Holy Guacamole! in the Corbet Place Bar, Shoreditch, in London, this month.

There were 11 acts. The audience was divided in its reaction to some of the sets — including a “death metal” church service, and a ukulele player who sang pun-filled ballads dressed as an Orthodox priest — but clerics scooped the most laughs.

The Deputy Warden and tutor in homiletics at Durham University, the Revd Kate Bruce, sought to counteract stereotypes of “women of the cloth” by drawing on a personal anecdote involving a burning bush, disapproving nuns, and an inadvisable night-time “stroll” during a silent retreat.

Ms Bruce, who is researching the connection between entertainment and theology, said: “The whole event was excellent, and certainly showcased the point that Christians are not (a) all the same, (b) puritanical killjoys, or (c) without humour.”

The Revd Maggy Whitehouse, a comedian and mystic who describes herself as an independent Catholic priest, began her set by mocking the Oscars’ ethnicity row in February, a recurring theme of the evening. “Jesus was not white,” she said. “Apart from his ethnicity, the guy started his ministry with 40 days in the desert without sunscreen or a hat.”

Later, the Rector of the United Wye Benefice in Ashford, the Revd Ravi Holy, quipped that racism was not a problem he had witnessed in the Church of England — “unlike women and sexuality” — with the exception of one vicar who asked during a youth group: “Where are you from, originally?”

Mr Holy, whose father is Indian, is an Old Etonian and a self-professed “ex-Satanist” who was the lead singer of a band, God’s Government.

The night ended with the headline act Bec Hill, an Australian-born comedian, who posed different theories on the story of Jesus’s healing of a deaf and mute man by holding his eyes and spitting on his tongue (Mark 7.31-37).

Either he was on benefit fraud, she said, and Jesus was teaching him a lesson; or St Mark did not like Jesus very much for “getting all the attention”, and was laughing to himself while he wrote up the scene in “the book of Mark, by Mark”.

Nathalie Schon, who organised and took part in the evening, said: “It was different from other comedy nights, because we took risks; we didn’t go the politically correct route. I think PC does a lot more damage than good.”

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust funds research into the condition and provides support for patients and families.

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