Seriously Silly
Media, mission, and why the church needs to grasp the power of humor.

Back in the 1990s, Phil Vischer achieved success with the creation of CG Protestant produce. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were the stars VeggieTales, the kids video series that smashed sales records and taught a whole generation that God is bigger than the boogie man. The winning combination of CG, catchy tunes, and Monty Python-esque humor proved Vischer's company, Big Idea, could teach Biblical truth to a generation raised on NIckeolodeon and Mtv. But by 2003 the ride was over. Vischer lost his company and control of his farmstand friends. The story of Big Idea's rise and fall is told in his book,Me, Myself, and Bob.

Having learned the peril of seeking big impact rather than small faithfulness, Vischer began his next venture, Jellyfish Labs, just as the media world was being transformed by iTunes and digital platforms. He created a new stable of characters led by anchorman Buck Denver (think of Ron Burgundy as a Muppet), JellyTelly- an interactive website for kids, and a DVD series called What's in the Bible? that walks kids through every book of Bible. But now Vischer has his sights set on an older audience. Realizing his humor resonates with college students and older adults, next month he will begin "The Phil Vischer Show"–a talk show focusing on the intersection of faith with culture, politics, science, theology, and anything else that flows through his mind. Featuring guests and a live audience (and the occassional puppet?), Vischer hopes his show will bring some silliness to conversations about the serious topics of our day.

Skye: When did you sense that God was calling you to engage the media/entertainment world? How did this fit with the ministry legacy of your family?

Phil: My family legacy was all about missions and the pastorate. I had relatives who faced down cannibals. My great grandfather was a radio preacher, and I grew up at the missions conference he founded, hearing amazing stories about the amazing things amazing missionaries were doing for God. I couldn't figure out how a shy kid like me fit into that picture. I preferred playing with Super8 cameras and my Atari 400 computer at home in the basement. Then MTV turned on when I was a sophomore in high school. I loved the creativity, but was very concerned about the values. Definitely not what I had learned in Sunday School. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe God could use someone like me to bring biblical truth into creative media. Suddenly I had a picture of how I could be on mission with God without ever getting on a plane, or facing down a cannibal.

April 20, 2012

Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments


May 01, 2012  10:57am

It's always great to see people utilizing the gifts God has given them. God never planned for each of us to aspire to be an evangelist. He can use us where we are if we're willing.

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Teresa Crumpton

April 27, 2012  7:54am

Three cheers for someone courageous enough to use some humor addressing important issues. It's a great tool. My son and I run an writing and editing company; he supplies humor and I edit. We are looking for ways to use the gifts God has given us –in the world and in the church. Three cheers.

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Mary Brown

April 26, 2012  10:58am

I totally agree, L.R. God definitely has a sense of humor. Remember Balaam's donkey. How about Elijah's heckling of Baal's prophets on Mount Carmel. Jesus wasn't a somber person, either, or children wouldn't have wanted to hang around him. (I love his exchange with the religious leaders about who gave him authority to do what he did.)

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L.R. Merriam

April 25, 2012  10:12am

We need to take God seriously; we need to take His Word seriously; we need to take sin seriously; but I have observed that there are many other things that we take way too seriously (most notably, ourselves). Humour is a gift from God; we should be using as one means of proclaiming the Good News.

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Michael P Heslin

April 24, 2012  10:57am

It is about time that someone thought about God and humor. I am a deacon in the Catholic Church and I always thought that God had a humorous side only too many of us were into Gloom and Doom and still working with Fire and Brimstone. Yes, we must ensure that we do not make God seem trite or non-essential but I think His message can be delivered using humor.

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