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The Sacred Art of Joking [9780281080922]

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Every few weeks a politician, pundit or soap star causes a media storm by making a gaffe or tweeting a joke that some people do not find funny. Comedy is very hard to get right and yet we think it's important to have a sense of humour and not take yourself too seriously. On the other hand, a sense of humour failure can lead to losing your friends, your twitter account, your job, your career and, in some cases, your life. James Cary knows about this. He is a sitcom writer who's written jokes about bomb disposal in Afghanistan (Bluestone 42), defended comments about Islam by Ben Elton on Newsnight, been on a panel with radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, sits on the General Synod of the Church of England and somehow managed to co-write episodes of Miranda. An odd mix, but one that makes him very readable. This entertaining, breezy book, explains how comedy works (with jokes and quotes) and gives much-needed insights into the controversy surrounding humour.

PREACH REVIEW:
James Cary is well qualified to write on this subject, having been a sitcom and joke writer for over 20 years. He has written extensively for both TV and radio, including for Miranda, My Hero and My Family.

As stated in the preface, the whole point of the book is ‘because we need to think seriously about the issues surrounding comedy, religion and offence in a measured and informed and good -humoured way.’ Indeed, Cary writes in an engagingly compelling and authoritative way throughout. He uses plenty of relatable quotes and humour of his own. He also uses a good amount of references including psychiatrists and Greek philosophers.

Carey covers all areas of comedy, including the history and context of comedy and jokes, comedy stereotypes, and how social media has affected both how comedy is portrayed and the power it can hold. He also explores how comedy is present in the Bible and how Jesus used comedy, although it is often overlooked or not even recognised. The place of religion in comedy on TV is acknowledged and Carey notes that it is often affectionately portrayed, such as in The Vicar of Dibley. It is interesting to discover how the church’s attitude to jokes and bawdiness has fluctuated throughout history.

The appropriateness of comedy is paid attention to and Cary notes that audience plays a part in the success of its acceptance.

Morality and responsibility of joking is explored in some depth and I found it refreshing to realise that Jesus was unafraid of upsetting people with satire or name- calling!

In these difficult times, it’s helpful to laugh and retain a sense of humour. I recommend this book as a good and ‘different’ read to lighten your spirits, but also inform you a little more about the place of joking in our lives today.

Preach magazine book review by Wendy Magee: retired from teaching, I now enjoy local preaching and pastoral work. My interests include travelling, cooking and reading. 


AUTHOR: James Cary is a BBC sitcom-writer (Miranda, Bluestone 42, Another Case of Milton Jones) and theologian. He's also a member of the General Synod for the Church of England, and has spent a lot of his life watching jokes (some of them his own) go horribly wrong. He runs a touring theatre company and performs. He has just produced a 64-date tour of the UK of a show about Martin Luther and 95 Theses, called A Monk's Tale, which ran for two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe. There are very likely to be future, perhaps even bigger, tours in 2018-9. James is married, with two children and lives in Somerset.

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SKU:
9780281080922
UPC:
9780281080922
Availability:
Delivery Usually In 6-15 Working Days
Author:
James Cary
Publisher:
SPCK Publishing
Publication:
17-Jan-2019
Format:
Paperback
Pages:
160
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