Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Big "But"

I get many emails each day telling me that my skits are being used, often with complimentary words about them. I appreciate that very much. However, something I have noticed over the past few years since the site has been up is the use of the word "but" in their comments. Here's how it's most used: "I love your skits! They are funny, but they have a good message."

I know most people don't mean anything by it, it's just the way they express themselves. But it seems to me to illustrate a common perception that many have about skits. It's this: that "funny" and "having a good message" are usually mutually exclusive. The use of the word "but" implies that they don't expect to find a skit that is both funny and spiritually effective. Or that they are excusing the use of humor by adding the qualifying statement that it is also spiritual. The use of the word "but" carries the implication that there is something doubtful, or wrong, with humor.

Let me use it differently to make it clearer. Let's say that, in a conversation, I indicate a particular person and say about him, "He's a Baptist. And he's a good man!" That's simple and straightforward. However, what if I were to say, "He's a Baptist. But he's a good man!" Now, that puts a whole new spin on it, doesn't it? Wouldn't a hearer, being a Baptist, take exception to it as a slight? Of course they would. Adding "but" has the effect of suggesting that the speaker feels that there is something wrong with being a Baptist, and they add a qualifier to say that, in spite of that, they are good.

So, saying "Your skits are funny, but have a good message" is almost a backhanded compliment. Like saying, "You're smart, for a white guy." Not very complimentary after all. It suggests, that in spite of being funny, it is redeemed by having a good message.

I don't see such a dichotomy. When I write a skit, I strive to make it funny and meaningful, not funny but meaningful. See the difference?

The difference is in your approach to skits overall. If you see them primarily as entertainment, then they can be funny but meaningful. Maybe so, maybe not, but possibly, depending on if you can reconcile the humor with some kind of message. However, if you see them as a tool to impart a spiritual truth, then when you write humorous scripts, they will always be both funny and meaningful. It won't be an option.

Now, to some, that may not make much difference. But if you are interested in skits for the power they can have to impart a scriptural truth, like a parable, then the way you write or perform them will be different. If enough people see that type of commitment to ministry in skits, perhaps they will begin to understand that laughs and spiritual life go together naturally, not only when forced.

So, go forth, and leave the "but" behind you!