I thought it would be fun to get some insight into the heads of some of my favorite funny people. When operating on their brains was ruled out as a viable option (what can i say? tough economy.), I decided to subject them to a series of questions about humor, faith, and swordfights. The result is The Ramblings and Such Humor Survey.
Rob Stennett likes to make things up. Some call this lying. The rest of us call this being a fiction author.
Rob has written two novels, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher and The End is Now. He’s also an award-winning screenwriter, a produced playwright, and a film and theater director. (At least that’s what Zondervan wants you to believe.) He also works alongside musicians Jared Anderson and Glenn Packiam in Colorado, which makes him cool in my book.
1. What were a few of the things you remember laughing at the most as a kid?
RS: I loved (still love) The Simpsons when I was in junior high and high school. This taught me what being funny really was, how a joke worked, and how effective comedy could be. I was a sitcom junkie (I even watched stuff like Just The Ten of Us and Head of The Class) and I liked all of those shows, but The Simpsons was king.
2. What about now as an adult?
RS: TV – Arrested Development, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Family Guy (yes, a lot of awful jokes, but there are three to five jokes per episode that are jaw dropping good)
Movies – Wes Anderson, The Cohen Brothers, and Judd Apatow and all of his disciples are doing really great stuff. Seth Rogen and Jason Segal are comic geniuses.
Books – Christopher Moore, David Sedaris, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams
3. Conversely, is there something that lots of other people find humorous that never really makes you laugh?
RS: Wow. Great question. I never understood what was so funny about M*A*S*H. Seemed like a lot of people were dying. I think someone else said Dane Cook, but I agree. He’s more a preacher then a comedian.
4. Do you think Christians are afraid of humor?
RS: Yes. Some are. Because they think humor means we can take really serious stuff like God and eternity lightly. This is not a laughing matter, they would say.
5. How do you think humor can be useful to Christianity?
RS: Humor is how we process the world, influence people, and it makes some subjects more approachable. I think Christians have seemed unapproachable to the masses largely because they have seen us dour. And if we’re as grumpy as Nurse Ratchett we’re pushing away people and this seems like a bad thing for Christians to do.
6. In your opinion, how is humor different from sarcasm/cynicism?
RS: Not much humor in cynicism. Mostly it’s just doubt. Sarcasm is turning something on it’s head. There can be lots of humor in sarcasm, but it can also come off mean or just annoying like the valley girl who says, “You’re shirt is so cool,” even though she doesn’t think the shirt is cool. That’s just messed up. So, you need to be really skilled if you’re going to use sarcasm. It’s like the black belt of humor.
7. At what point in life did you really start to embrace the idea: “wow, i think I might be funny.”?
RS: It was just the way I saw the world. I remember there was this class project where we had to invent our own cereal when I was a kid. Other kids made up healthy cereals, or cereals that would make you strong. I made Michael Jordan cereal and it was composed of nothing but marshmallows. I came dressed like Jordan for the presentation and had all these one-liners. Everyone cheered for me like I was in a boy band after the presentation was over. I thought comedy was the key to being successful. But then I got a C on the presentation so I don’t know what that means.
8. Why do you want to be funny?
RS: I just like funny things, I hate when facts are presented as just facts or opinions as just opinions. Humor forces us to say things differently and put more thought behind it and I like that.
9. Have you ever tried to do stand-up?
RS: I have hosted conferences and written jokes and told jokes. But not really at clubs. But yeah truthfully, if I could write some good material I’d love to do stand up. Why not man? There’s nothing like having an audience laugh at your joke right then and there. You’ve really inspired me. I need to work on a stand up routine. This is going to be awesome.
10. Do you have a favorite quote (or joke or story) about comedy, humor, and making people laugh?
RS: I’ve written two satirical novels. Ernest Hemingway described it best: “A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.”
Thanks for playing along, Rob!