Preach like Mitch Hedberg? Yes… except for the getting high part. Don’t use illegal drugs before you preach, even if you know that third sermon point makes no sense.
Mitch Hedberg is a great example of how it doesn’t take much time out of your sermon to be funny and how even hilarious comedians plan their jokes ahead of time.
You can build comic relief into your sermon without making the sermon too long. Mitch Hedberg could make people laugh with one sentence. He also planned his jokes well, and I believe that anyone can be funny with some planning. Even pro comedians work hard at being funny before they ever hit the stage.
People Need to Laugh
Recently, a pastor somberly told me that he doesn’t like it when pastors use humor in their sermons because a sermon is too sacred to be funny.
I laughed hard. Then, I realized he was serious. Ironically, he was hilarious without knowing it. I thought to myself, “Good luck finding one person in your congregation who agrees with you, but you’re a natural deadpan comedian.”
You could make an argument that the greatest need your congregation has on Sunday mornings is to laugh. A substantial percentage of any congregation listening to your sermon has been beaten down by life during the past week. Even those who have great lives are probably at least worn down by the time Sunday rolls around.
Of course, the congregation needs to experience God on a Sunday morning, and I believe that people want to experience God when they enter the worship space. I also think they assume that will include helping them get back to what life is all about.
Like nothing else, humor has a way of cutting through all of the muddy emotions that build up throughout a week and revealing “the real us” underneath. After laughing, we feel more like ourselves. We’re more in touch with life. It’s cartharsis. Then, we’re more open to challenge, to change, to experiencing God.
Humor is Easy if Planned Well
Humor is too easy to not use it (if you plan it in advance). Humor is everywhere. It just takes some time and forethought to plan to use it in your sermon correctly. You can tell a funny story about something that happened that week or use self-deprecating humor, irony, comparsion, observational comedy about the absurd, an unexpected turn of a phrase, a funny photo or video, etc. Humor is all about surprise and irony. Avoid using canned humor (ex. email forwards) if possible. Instead, develop your ability to see the humor in your own daily experience and to communicate it.
Humor Makes Your Sermon More Effective
Humor also makes your sermon more emotionally effective. Laughing helps the congregation to relax between the serious points of the sermon and be ready for the next point. Imagine watching a movie that has no comic relief (the last Indian Jones movie, for example). It is unbearably draining. You want your money back… and we can’t afford for people to take their $1 back out of the offering plate (just kidding, big givers)!
A laugh gives the congregation a break from digesting heavy material. So, using humor approprately in the beginning, middle, and end of your sermon gives the congregation a chance to relax, and it also opens them to the next point you will make.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit
Beyond that, here is the most important reason to use humor in your sermon: Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, right? I’m willing to state that joy includes some laughter now and then. If joy is the norm of following Jesus, then sermons should include at least a little bit of laughter.
In fact, if you don’t consider yourself a “funny” person, I have to ask you a question. Do you have joy? If you don’t experience joy on a daily basis, then a deeper problem has been revealed. Joy includes seeing the humor in life and joking every once in awhile.
So, if you don’t think you can be funny, or at least be funny without adding lots of time to your sermon, check out Mitch Hedberg, the contemporary king of one-liners. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Mitch Hedberg…
A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap.
A lollipop is a cross between hard candy and garbage.
An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs.” Sorry for the convenience.
Dogs are forever in the push up postion.
Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!
Every time I go and shave, I assume there’s someone else on the planet shaving. So I say, ‘I’m gonna go shave, too.’
Fettucini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.
I bought a seven-dollar pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.
I don’t have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who’d be mad at me for saying that.
I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.
I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.
I like Kit-Kats, unless I’m with four or more people.
I like refried beans. That’s why I wanna try fried beans, because maybe they’re just as good and we’re just wasting time. You don’t have to fry them again after all.
I like to hold the microphone cord like this, I pinch it together, then I let it go, then you hear a whole bunch of jokes at once.
I love blackjack. But I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi circle.
I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks. And it was way to literal for me.
I think foosball is a combination of soccer and shish kabobs.
I used to be a hot-tar roofer. Yeah, I remember that… day.
I want to get a vending machine, with fun-sized candy bars, and the glass in front is a magnifying glass. You’ll be mad, but it will be too late.