Making irreverent quips about Jesus is not exactly a conventional way to promote a romantic comedy, but that’s what Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-stars Jason Segel and Kristen Bell did recently when answering a question that arrived via e-mail:
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.
Daring, especially for a promotional campaign. Do they risk losing any potential audience members over this? Who knows. You might not ordinarily expect religiously sensitive people to go to a raunchy, R-rated comedy, but producer Judd Apatow did make some fans among the socially conservative set thanks to the seemingly pro-abstinence and pro-life themes in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007). So, who knows.
At any rate, this video does raise an interesting question. While it may be true that Jesus was not a professional comedian, is it necessarily true that he was not a funny guy? Certainly a number of recent filmmakers have made a point of emphasizing the humourous side of Jesus’ life and teachings — the most extreme example, perhaps, being Bruce Marchiano’s performance in The Visual Bible (1993-1996; my reviews). The comic sketches based on the parables in Godspell (1973) also come to mind, but I am not sure to what degree they bring out the humour inherent in the parables or to what degree they simply burlesque the parables VeggieTales-style. And then, of course, there is the scholarly discussion regarding the role of humour in Jesus’ ministry, which I don’t have time to get into right now — but it’s out there.
In any case, you may be wondering if anything resembling this “blasphemy” — as Segel puts it — exists in Forgetting Sarah Marshall itself. So for now, let’s just say that one subplot concerns a newlywed couple that has bedroom “issues” of a religious nature. More details to come when my review goes up on Friday.