As I’ve stated before, I’m working on a chapter for my thesis that examines Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report. I cam across an article from Rolling Stone and Colbert Talked about losing and finding his faith again, and I thought I should share this. So here:
Did you ever go through a period where you lost your faith?
Yeah. It was a college angst thing. But once I graduated from college, some Gideon literally gave me a box of The New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs on the street in Chicago. I took one and opened it right away to Matthew, Chapter 5, which is the opening of the Sermon on the Mount. That whole chapter is essentially about not worrying. I didn’t read it — it spoke to me, and it was an effortless absorption of the idea. Nothing came to me in a thunderbolt, but I thought to myself, “I’d be dumb not to re-examine this.”
What caused you to go through that dark period?
Well, I had very sad events in my childhood. The death of my father and my brothers was understandably a shattering experience that I hadn’t really dealt with in any way. And there comes a time when you’re psychologically able to do so. I still don’t like talking about it. It still is too fresh.
Do you think experiencing that has helped what you do in any way? Or made it more of a challenge?
Not to get too deep here, but the most valuable thing I can think of is to be grateful for suffering. That is a sublime feeling, and completely inexplicable and illogical, but no one doesn’t suffer. So the degree to which you can be aware of your own humanity is the degree to which you can accept, with open eyes, your suffering. To be grateful for your suffering is to be grateful for your humanity, because what else are you going to do — say, “No, thanks”? It’s there. “Smile and accept,” said Mother Teresa. And she was talking to people who had it rough. That’s not how you make jokes, though.
Strauss, Neil. “The Subversive Joy of Stephen Colbert. (Cover story).” Rolling Stone no. 1087 (September 17, 2009): 56-110. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed July 7, 2011). Digital version had not page numbers.
Colbert is one of the great comedic minds of our time, and he’s also very thoughtful. His character on The Colbert Report seems very different from the man in this interview, but that’s all part of Colbert’s genius.
His thoughts on suffering I think are very important. Particularly when we think about the arc of comedy the U-shaped plot line which follows Good Life, Low point in life, Restoration. That low point in the story is incredibly valuable because it makes the characters more human and more relatable. Suffering is a part of everyone’s life and it becomes increasingly more important to realize that your suffering doesn’t have to be the end of your story.
Yesterday I was listening to the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. He gave the Keynote speech at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival. His speech dealt with the low point of his life: divorced, a career that was dying, and thoughts of suicide. But for him comedy saved his life, and he decided that the his suffering was not the end of his story. He began to take charge of his career, began a podcast where he reached out to other comics and began to process his pain. Having listened to almost every episode (I know I’m a pastor but Jesus has heard cuss words before so I’m not too worried about it) Marc has come to understand who he is, he has examined spiritual issues, and really become a voice for others who are suffering to know that they are not alone.
I read this last night in the book Subversive Laughter by Ron Jenkins:
“In a world fraught with danger and despair, comedy is a survival tactic, and laughter is an act of faith.” (1)
That laughter is the reminder that this moment of despair is temporary. This present suffering does not have to be the end of our story.
As a Christian and a Pastor, my purpose is to point people to Jesus. Jesus suffered, just like we suffered. And through the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus, the eternal son of God, because of his suffering understands our suffering. We don’t have to do life alone. We don’t have to suffer alone. We can embrace our suffering, learn from the moment and be transformed. We truly can live a life of comedy even though we might feel like we are living a tragedy.
Don’t suffer alone.