*** DEBUG END ***

The Gospel According to a Sitcom Writer, by James Cary

17 September 2021

Malcolm Doney enjoys the laughs from this ebullient Evangelical

JAMES CARY is a sitcom writer who has contributed to the BBC series Miranda, Bluestone 42, and Thanks a Lot, Milton Jones, among others. He was also a member of the last General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, with a degree in theology. The author draws on his background, providing a collection of comic sketches, most of which are riffs on parables or incidents in the Gospels. These are interleaved with Cary’s own commentary on the nature of humour and where we might unearth it in the biblical text.

He says that he wants to be “funny in a way that takes the Bible seriously, does not belittle Jesus Christ and laughs at our own petty vanities and foibles while being enlightening and increasing our understanding”.

Cary is an accomplished comic writer. His sketches here are hilarious, clever, knowing, and beautifully crafted. Interestingly, they are hedged by Cary’s own rules and creed: “I believe Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3.16 that ‘Every Scripture is God breathed.’” He gives himself wriggle room for his extra-biblical material, cheekily quoting the precedent in the Gospels, “Early manuscripts do not include the following . . .”, but there’s a limit: “a red line for me is having Jesus say things he did not say.” This is a shame, because it turns Jesus into a shadowy, off-screen figure, and arguably robs Cary’s material of a certain edge.

Cary’s cheery commentary — rooted in his ebullient Evangelical certainty — too often reads as dismissive of those who might have the occasional question. “I would say it’s not just possible to believe in miracles, but that it’s impossible to not believe in them,” he asserts, for instance. The sandwiching of sketches between slightly harrumphing asides gives the book an unfortunate cut-and-paste dimension. But he’s genuinely funny, which helps a lot.

The Revd Malcolm Doney is a writer, broadcaster, and Anglican priest.


The Gospel According to a Sitcom Writer
James Cary
SPCK £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90

Listen to an interview with James Cary on the Church Times Podcast

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.