I’ve spent several years working in youth ministry at a Christian church in the 90s, much like the one portrayed in Crystal Barnes’ web series, Churched. Fair warning, Christian comedy is tough to pull off and for reasons that have nothing to do with telling jokes.
Churched is about the new Walk This Way Church led by Pastor Axel Stevens (Ben Marten) and his staff. The series is a light look at the behind-the-scenes office shenanigans of this new church preparing for its first service. The ten-part comedy series is shot in the style of The Office with silly moments accompanied by talking-head testimonials.
Episode one introduces us to Pastor Stevens, who has finally realized his calling and is, at last, the lead pastor of a church. His staff is well-meaning, but not quite the sharpest tools in the shed. They struggle through simple team-building exercises like three truths & a lie and the good old trust fall. Episode two takes our staff through the perils of fasting.
“…the behind-the-scenes office shenanigans of this new church preparing for its first service.”
I’ve seen the entire series, but can only get into the first two episodes. If you’re familiar with Christian comedy and church humor, Churched is silly and tame and sure to please the fundamentalist, evangelical in us all. The cast is likable and pulls off the jokes admirably. A great deal of the comedy relies on silliness with nuanced moments of wacky—for example, the interesting preaching style from the quiet Asian associate pastor or worship songs that are a little too honest.
The conflict is harmless dealing with spiritual issues like farting during prayer and leading worship with instruments made of produce. If that’s how you like your humor, and you love the Lord, Churched is precisely what you’re looking for.
So, why am I not working in a church anymore and writing for Film Threat? Let’s just say, one reason is I like my humor a little edgier and doses of irony and cleverness. Christian comedy is hard to pull off because it has to remain inoffensive and pure. Ultimately, I could never survive the harsh judgment of Evangelical political correctness against my dark, edgy, and all-too-truthful look at life, relationships, and God. There’s a line that can’t be crossed, or your salvation is called into question. I need my humor to come from real life struggles.
I get it. The comedy of Churched has to stay squeaky clean to appeal to its broad audience that will not tolerate a single misstep. Writer/director Crystal Barnes does exactly that. Unfortunately, the humor has no bite to it and is unable to connect with the real struggles of imperfect sinners. I like to call this depth. To be clear, this is not an indictment of Churched and all involved as they do an excellent job “preaching to the choir.” Sometimes, I wish Christian comedy would “lower itself” to connect with an audience looking for “good news.”
"…sure to please the fundamentalist, evangelical in us all."