Monday, 29 August 2011

Frank Skinner and the Church

For those who are reading this from another country, Frank Skinner is a popular British comedian. He is also a mass-going Catholic. He has recently remarked on the generally poor quality of priests' homilies. My initial reaction to this was to think, "actually Frank, I don't think you are all that funny" (I don't as it happens). However, I think Frank has a point because I'm sure that many other mass-goers feel the same. At the New Dawn Conference, Charles Whitehead (a layman) began his talk with a joke. Before the priest began his homily, he took off his watch and laid it on top of the lectern. A little boy turned to his father and said, "Dad, what does that mean?" The father replied, "Absolutely nothing!" Frank said that the problem with many homilies is that there are too many ideas being presented; one idea is enough. In one of his excellent books, the late Fr. Leo Trese (from the 50s and early 60s) said that, (as far as I remember) according to scientists, the human mind could not concentrate on more than one thing for more than 30 seconds. Personally, when listening to other priest's homilies, I get a bit annoyed if they last longer than ten minutes. For me, that is the optimum (though I know, on rare occasions I have gone over that myself).

Admitting that Frank has a good point, I feel I also have to say that I have problems with Frank Skinner's style of comedy. He says that his comedy is about his life, implying, I think, that if we do not like his comedy we probably do not have much time for him. This suggests an element of insecurity - and I think it shows. He also says that if he can put up with the Catholic Church's "homophobia", it ought to be able to put up with some of his dirty jokes. This is a bad argument because it is dishonest. It rests on a slogan based on myth, not on truth. On the whole I feel sorry for Frank. I believe he is, deep down, an honest guy, perhaps trying to understand himself and the world around him, but there seem to be some deep seated problems there. Of course, if he reads this he will either laugh it off or, even, raise two fingers to it. If he does read it I want to say that I like him and pray for him, but I don't like his brand of comedy. On the whole I find it demeaning and undignified. If that is drawn from his life I see no reason to celebrate it. There is a need for humour as a safety valve and a way to deal with the pain, but ultimately it is not the answer either for him or for the rest of us. For humour to be truly healing it has to be based on more than pain and a clever wit (which he has). Ultimately it must point to the joy that we have in our Creator and the joy that He has in us.


  1. Frank Skinner kindly paid for our whole family to go to Lourdes...

  2. There is real goodness in him - of that I'm sure

  3. He's a recovering alcoholic too! I see what you mean though Father, I wouldn't buy my dad his latest CD for Christmas, that's for sure!!

  4. Which comedian do you like?
    Graham Fellows playing Arthur Shuttleworth makes me laugh out loud as did Les Dawson.
    For older US visitors George and Gracie Allen

    Of the young UK ones Miranda perhaps.

    Frank Skinner took the trouble to argue for celibacy with the big guns in public debate, though chastity seems not something that appeals to him personally.

    I get weary of camp comedians but this is because the tv channels are rather full of gay personnel so they get imposed on us. So boring.

  5. I blow hot and cold about some modern comedians. The trouble is some of them are often disgusting and then they start giving us their opinions on religion and politics as though they are important intellectuals. I'm afraid I am way back in the past with Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. I also like Norman Wisdom and one of my favourites is Peter Sellers as Clouseau (of who I have been known to do a passable imitation). I am also a great fan of the British series, "Dad's Army". I am told (by courageous souls) that I look like Captain Mainwaring!

  6. Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring was superb but I take it your resemblance to him is only in appearance.

    He was a fanatical perfectionist leading to heavy drinking and smoking, being reduced to pantomime in the end.

    Some priests I can see reduced to Aladdin, Mother Goose or Cinderella but not you Father John!

    Victoria Wood can fill a theatre. Her ex-husband became a devout Quaker and she occasionally attends Meeting for Worship, I'm told.

  7. I'm a musician. In my years of songwriting I can conclude that Music, Comedy, poetry and performing arts are the modern philosophy and there is an idolization of each performer today. People really swallow whole what they say. They look to these people for the answers in their lives and deem them to be - as you say - ''important intellectuals''. This is why the media uses them to get across and embed secularism in the minds of simple people like myself. In ireland we have a show with Gay Byrne in which he takes ''celebreties'' and interviews them. His last question is always about God and their views on that. 99.999% of celebs are either atheist or it's always anti-Catholic comments that are returned. This is a clever ploy by the media to really use those who society look up to and consider to have all the answers in life and truth to get their message of secularism across.

    We always become that which we love and we imitate it. By loving John lennon when I was young, I would walk like him, sing like him, talk like him and totally become John Lennon. This gift of imitation from God is meant to be for his Son Jesus but we are using it for more derogatory means. Loving celebs and wanting to become like them instead.

  8. Dare I ask you ,Father ,what you think of Father Ted--if you have ever watched it. ---and even worse Life of Brian--with its very catchy tune Always look on the bright side of life-----I watch very little television myself , in fact until my daughters reurned home, I did not possess one at all--which made my friends and relatives including my daughters -- conclude I was insane---- also a good few years ago, a computer came into the Citadel. ! Those were the days! I remain always a book person, and I do not know who Frank Skinner is or most stand up comics as I truly cannot abide listening to such foul mouthed idiots, along with talent shows and quiz shows and Big Brother and suchlike ( though if you can put up with the tearful blubberings and nastiness, I suppose they are an interesting experiment in human nature.)

    I do however, like the comics of yesteryear but with the Carry on films, which are funny in a totally idiotic way, it became very dickipoggy down the line, if you will forgive the unique Heckmondwike word from my ancestors,

    I do watch bits of this and that---purely for research I hasten to add , but I draw the line at the abominable. What a dilemma--you have to watch all this horrid nasty nonsence to express a view!


  9. "The gift of imitation"
    That's an interesting thought. I shall try to remember who I wanted to be and get back to you.

  10. Barbara, I am actually in the process of removing myself from the TV. I remember the late Malcolm Muggeridge speaking of "having one's arials removed". I am now simply fed up to the back teeth with much of TV and have cancelled my Sky subscription to the extent of simply having "FreeSky" in preparation for having nothing. In time I want to advise the licensing authority that I am going to use the TV only for DVD's (I like old black and white films and John Ford movies). My decision was confirmed when I heard that two detestable shows were coming back - the X Factor and Big Brother. Not only that, I cannot abide adverts and TV pundits. If I am now a grumpy old man, I am glad to be one if it means being free of all that rubbish. I hated Fr. Ted (and I said so) The Life of Brian was misunderstood (even by the aforementioned MM,) however the Monty Python crowd's repeated mantra that it was not an attack on Christ did not - and does not - convince me. The Carry-On's became disgusting and vile (my favourite was "Carry on Screaming" - brilliant!) so I cannot abide the later ones. Enough is enough!