Like many churches, I can see the Church of Ha moving away from its original message. According to founder/ordained minister/stand-up comedian Don Barnhart, “My inspiration for doing the Church of Ha was having seen so many people turn away from comedy shows because of the overuse of shocking topics that just weren’t funny. It’s not censorship in any way, but I am asking comics to be more creative in their approach.”
On Friday night at Barnhart’s industrial workspace, the small but engaged congregation learned about the power of laughter. Speakers included a shaman discussing the necessity of humor to lead a fulfilling life, a gay Catholic minister who discussed the joy of performing, and an Air Force-man-turned-reverend who thought God was playing a joke on him by making him catch every red light in the city.
From there, it turned into your run-of-the-mill comedy show with many of Barnhart’s students (altar boys?) performing. The best was Keith Lyle, who used the spirit of the night to create the character of almost-Rabbi Shlomo Lifshitz, whose mix of roast-style and street jokes went over well.
If the true point of religion is creating a better world through kinship, then laughter is essential. So the Church of Ha might have something lasting to offer.