The "Airplane!" of the Bible!

Guaranteed to make milk come through your nose!

Guaranteed to make milk come through your nose!

            I find it's a favorite thing like-minded folks do not only to laugh, but to maintain and even escalate their jollies:  share favorite lines of a favorite comedy movie.  In my circles this always involves some sort of comic parody. 

             "Parody," as you may know, is a style of comedy that lampoons literature - a specific piece of literature or (stretching the definition a little) a specific kind of literature. 

"Come back here you yellow-bellied...."  Another favorite line from the  Grail .

"Come back here you yellow-bellied...." Another favorite line from the Grail.

             A couple of my favorite movie parodies (and favorites of my cohorts) are, most definitely, Young Frankenstein and Monty Python and the Holy GrailBoth are FILLED with lines and gags that beg endless repeating and laughing and repeating more and laughing more.  (Even now, perhaps you are saying to yourself, "Puhutteen on duh Riheetzuh!" or  "What's your favorite color?  Blue, no yellow.  Arghhh!")

             Another favorite parody to regale til the sun comes up (and you can because of course there are SO many hilarious lines to remember) is Airplane!  (I'm guessing your inner voice is now entertaining your head with "Surely you can't be serious?  I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."  That's pretty much always the go-to first line when regaling faves from Airplane!, yes?)

            To keep you from putting your brain on "random search" to find other great lines to laugh about (and share with others), here's a scene from the movie, randomly selected, for your funny bone to feast upon.  The reason I picked this scene originally was because it was the first to come up on You Tube.  Then I realized I HAD to use this scene because it stars Barbara Billingsly, a United Methodist.  (She went to my church!)  See how many funny bits stuff this little scene….

            Okay, how many did you catch?  Here's my list:  (1)  The ridiculous fact that a somewhat lame-brained retired pilot struggling with PTSD and a daffy stewardess are landing a giant plane in terrible weather.   (2) “A LITTLE HOT."  (3) The vulture.  (4) Dashboard Jesus with umbrella." (5) "It's a damn good thing you don't know how much he hates your guts." (6) "I speak jive!" (7) "What do you make of this?"

             That totals 7 pretty funny giggle-inducers in but about 2.5 minutes.  Not bad!  Just that scene alone is destined to create lots of joy amidst friends as its lines are regaled around.

             There’s a book of the Bible that is created to be experienced like The Holy Grail, Young Frankenstein and Airplane!.  Can you believe it?!

The Urp Heard 'round the World....

The Urp Heard 'round the World....

            It’s the short, pithy tale parable we call Jonah.  A whale of a tale! 

            While this story is often accepted as at least a little playful and bright (after all, getting swallowed by a giant fish and then vomited out again is just, well, funny!), the truth is, Jonah is intended to be a veritable laugh fest from beginning to end.  Silly, satirical, smart (and surprisingly progressive in its theology, too, I might add…), a true delight!  More truly delightful than we’re usually led to believe.

             Let’s discuss all of this by taking a look at a random sampling of its text.  We'll pick that  short segment that comprised last Sunday’s Old Testament lectionary reading, Jonah 3:1-10:

3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8 Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
— Jonah 3:1-10

            How many funny bits did you find here? 

             I would happily argue there are many Airplane!-esque moments in this short passage, and they line up in a remarkable way to the wacky scene just watched (or at least invited to watch). 

             (1)  The ridiculous fact that a rather lame-brained man (faith-wise, at least; he runs way the other way when called in Chapter 1 and is only back on track because of whale vomit) is called for one of God's biggest, craziest missions.



             (2)  “Go to Ninevah.”  This is silly!  Ninevah is not only the city most hated by the Israelites, but in prophetic literature, prophets go ONLY to speak God's cautionary word to His own people Israel.  "Go to Ninevah" is just as obviously absurd as a blinking “A LITTLE HOT” indicator on an airplane engine gage.

             (3)  “In 40 days Ninevah will be overthrown.”  Of course it will!  It's an evil, awful city.  Ninevah may just as well have a vulture on its shoulder. 

             (4)  "And the people of Ninevah believed God.Whaaat?  In prophetic literature, NO ONE EVVVER responds to the prophet.  All remain lost, and the prophet's endless efforts to effectively communicate remain a bust.  However, here Jonah succeeds, and instantly.   And with Ninevites! That's as zany as June Cleaver suddenly appearing to expertly and effectively talk jive the moment the need makes itself known. 

            (5)  No human being or animal…shall taste anything.  They shall not feed nor shall they drink water.  Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God.”  Kings and animals wearing sackcloth and ashes is a created visual as beyond-imagining daffy as Johnny making a hat, a broach or a flying pterodactyl when asked to make something out of a dreadful weather report. 

I would have loved to hear Johnny read from the telephone book....

I would have loved to hear Johnny read from the telephone book....

             (5)  God changed his mind.... What a stunningly different way of seeing God!!  It's as wacky as a dashboard Jesus holding a cocktail umbrella because it’s raining.  Ya think??

             (6)  Finally, there's a great parallel with the line where Julie Hagarty inappropriately repeats what Robert Hayes says to the person who most shouldn't know.  We don't see this joke replicated in Jonah Chapter 3, but it will come deliciously forth in Chapter 4, as the prophet has a meltdown complaining to God that he knew he would succeed in the mission God had called him, so now he just wants to die.  (4:2-3)  Of all of Jonah's stupid moments, that takes the cake.

             It's important to note that although Jonah and Airplane! are in some ways (arguably!) quite alike, there are significant political implications in the comedy of “Jonah” that aren’t part of Airplane!:  The former seeks to communicate the message that God has absolutely free will to save whomever God wants, and God’s beloved community extends beyond “our” borders.  The latter just wants us to enjoy Ethel Merman as Lieutenant Horowitz.  (Oh, I guess that’s political, too.)

             In any case, from The Comic Lens, enjoy this book of the Bible as the laugh riot it is!  And with friends!