Did you hear the one about the priest who’s a standup comic?


The Rev. Britto Berchmans’ upcoming one-man show, “Centennial Chuckles,” is no joke, but the pastor of Park Ridge’s St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church hopes his comedy act produces plenty of laughs.

“For too long people have thought church is kind of heavy and boring,” Berchmans said. “No, church is wonderful, and my theory is, if you do not laugh in the Father’s house, where will you laugh?”

Berchmans will be encouraging his flock to look at the lighter side of life and religion at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in St. Paul’s Morello Parish Life Center. “Centennial Chuckles: An Evening of Humor,” is a fundraiser to help support some of St. Paul’s 100th anniversary celebrations that have been taking place during the past year.

This will be the second time Berchmans is presenting a stand-up-comedy act at St. Paul.

“We did something similar last year. It was a fundraiser for the school and it was a great success,” he said.

Regular parishioners of St. Paul are already familiar with Berchmans’ comedy style — he is known for dropping short jokes or amusing anecdotes into his homilies to get across the message of the day’s sermon. Many of these tales will be incorporated into his “Centennial Chuckles” act, which he explained will largely consist of comedy in story form, often with a life lesson attached.

The audience can also expect jokes about marriage and relationships, children and growing older — and even about the church itself, Catholic priests and the pope.

“One of my favorite topics is actually relationships between men and women, which always provides a great amount of humor,” Berchmans said.

Laughing, he added: “I always tell people I love to tell jokes about married people because it makes me feel good as a celibate.”

Berchmans’ material is drawn from stories he has heard and collected through the years, and can also be found in the many volumes of joke books that fill his office. Some of his original material is based on humorous things that have happened to him or people he has known. His attempts at speaking Italian while serving in Rome, for example, have generated their share of amusing tales, including the time he accidently told a congregation, “If you are sexy, I am more sexy” instead of remarking, as he’d intended, on how hot everyone was feeling because of the summer weather.

“It always gets a good laugh,” Berchmans said of that particular account.

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  1. Confusion of roles, confusion of venues, confusion…

    I thought mass was about worshiping God, not about entertaining us so that is not “boring”. OK my opinion, and now the firing squad.

  2. And yes, he does he stand up act apart from mass, but he does “drop” jokes in his homilies.

  3. From what I can tell, he does the stand up routine outside of Mass…in the Parish Life Center.

    However, a little humor in a homily can do wonders to get the attention of the congregation (the hook), as long as it does not take away from the central message. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used it, as well as, many other wonderful preachers.

  4. I agree that a little levity can make all the difference in the world. Not that the Mass is designed to be stand up comedy routine, but a little humor can go a long way. I don’t believe for one moment that Jesus never smiled or laughed at a good joke. (I’ll put my rifle away, Rudy. No fears.)

  5. Stories like this are just like readjusting the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    There are huge problems with our clergy and their actions are causing the flock to abandon the Church in record numbers.

    Example of the week – 13 Jan 2012:

    “Thousands of Germans have left the Church over revelations of abuse.

    A German Catholic priest has admitted 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys in the past decade, saying he did not think he was doing harm. After being banned by his diocese from making further contact with the boy, he abused two brothers, aged nine and 13.

    About 180,000 renounced their Catholicism in 2010, up 40% from the previous year, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.”

    and the continued refusal by the US Church to abide by abuse guidelines set up to protect prisoners.

    Example 2

    “Prosecutors: Archdiocese delayed reporting priests’ involvement with child porn
    January 14, 2012

    The Archdiocese of Philadelphia waited until last month to tell law enforcement about priests caught with child pornography despite knowing years ago about their “deviant and possibly illegal activities,” prosecutors say.”

    What initiatives are there to reestablish trust and authority in the Church other than stand up comic acts?

    It saddens me to see what is happening to the Church, it’s like it is being destroyed intentionally by those who are in charge.

  6. Fr. Britto is one of the finest men I’ve ever met, and one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard, of any denomination.

  7. Yes, I’ve heard Fr. Britto, and never found his humor to be out of bounds.

    I, too, like to think of our Lord as fully human AND fully divine. This means that Jesus surely had a good laugh once in a while. Probably more often than that!

  8. You might want to reserve your comment for some other article that addresses those concerns. Lighten up.

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