Sunday May 21, 2017

A Rabbi, a Pastor and a Muslim walk into a bar...

L-R Comedians Aman Ali, Susan Sparks, Bob Alper

L-R Comedians Aman Ali, Susan Sparks, Bob Alper

Listen 22:06

The Laugh in Peace comedy tour brings three interfaith comedians - a  Pastor, a Rabbi and a Muslim together. Each comedian takes the stage for their own stand-up routine, which often pokes fun at religion. Their show is a joyful lesson in understanding and shared humanity.

Bob Alper:  Rabbi and comedian

The idea for this tour began in 2002, when Rabbi Bob Alper's publicist suggested he do a two person show with a Muslim comedian, much to Alper's hesitation. He was a solo act and wasn't sure he wanted to do work so closely with any another comedian, whatever his faith. However, their first performance at a synagogue was such a hit that Alper has gone on to do about 400 more similar inter-faith comedy shows.

"People always ask me, 'Did you give up the rabbinate?' No." says Alper. "My rabbinate - my being a rabbi - is making people laugh." It's something he's been doing for 44 years. " When I give a sermon, I hope I move people spiritually. And when I make them laugh, I know I've moved them spiritually."

Susan Sparks: A trial lawyer, comedian and Baptist Minister.

"I started studying humour when I was a lawyer actually, because I noticed that juries reacted to humour. And that they would listen, and trust and engage with someone faster if they actually laughed with them up front." Sparks says. "It worked great in law. When I hit seminary, that's when it got complicated. The church and humour? Not necessarily the best of friends."

While her professors tried to dissuade her from studying humour as a healing tool, she reached out to Rabbi Alper, who was doing the kind of work she was interested in. They hit it off, and she joined his comedy tour. "I've always thought that laughter was perhaps the most powerful tool we've got in this life. If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself. And if you can forgive yourself, then you can forgive others."

"So many people have been turned off by organized religion, especially in the world of Christianity. So many people have been judged, damaged, felt they weren't welcome and we're trying to change that."

Aman Ali: Writer and storyteller

Growing up in Reynoldsburg Ohio, Ali was the only "non-white" person in his school. Much of his humour comes from the culture clashes he's experienced, and he finds that his stories resonate with people from other communities. "I can talk about being Muslim" he says, and hear from an audience member a comment such as, "I'm Greek and my family is just as superstitious as your family."

"I believe that religion and spirituality is a very personal and private relationship between a human being and God. And I believe that 90% - 95% of the problems in the world are because people try to dictate how we should have those relationships. And so I'm proud to be Muslim and I celebrate being Muslim, but I celebrate people that are Christians, I celebrate people that are Jewish."

Click LISTEN above to hear more comedy and conversation from Aman Ali, Susan Sparks and Bob Alper.