July 11, 2008



"Thou Shalt Laugh"? Where does it say that in the Bible? Did you miss a Commandment? No, but if you miss "Thou Shalt Laugh 1 & 2" on DVD, you'll be missing the best comedy of the summer.

"Thou Shalt Laugh" is a collection of some of today's brightest and funniest stand-up comedians. And they're all Christians.  Not only is the humor decent and suitable for the whole family, it's also original, brilliant and hilarious. Lest you're thinking that "Christian comedy" is somehow inferior to what's in the mainstream: it's not—partly because many of these comedians are in the mainstream. Michael Jr. was recently seen on BET, and Victoria Jackson is a Saturday Night Live alum. TSL is actually not "Christian comedy," but "comedy by Christians."

(I put off watching TSL because I was skeptical, having seen all kinds of Christian comedy through the years, from the best [Mark Lowry] to the outright bigoted, unfunny and obnoxious.)

So what do Christians joke about? Pretty much what everyone else does:  everyday incongruities and annoyances, dating, work, family life, with the occasional reference to God, prayer or church as a normal aspect of life. No topic is off limits or avoided, but everything is handled with good taste and respect for human dignity. Some comedians like Thor Ramsey and "The Village Idiot" are more physical, others barely move a muscle. They are male and female; young and old; Black and Latino, white and multiracial (Dan Nainan uses his East Indian and Japanese heritage as fodder). We are treated to their diverse entertainment skill-sets: ukulele, singing, piano, handstands. Special mention must be made of Taylor Mason who wraps up each DVD. He's a razor-sharp ventriloquist/puppeteer who is by far the craziest crouton in the Caesar's salad of TSL. He involves the audience extensively, even to the point of making them the puppeteers while he ad-libs. Both TSL's are worth it just to see Mason do his thing—it has to be seen to be believed.  He's even better than Comedy Central's Jeff Dunham (the ventriloquist with Walter and the dead terrorist), if that's possible.

TSL1 is hosted by Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") who was raised Catholic and makes the only explicitly Catholic reference (Purgatory).  Tim Conway (yes, THE Tim Conway from "The Carol Burnett Show") is the delightful host of TSL2, along with doing a little schtick of his own in between routines.

Hint: TSL2 is a tad funnier than TSL1, but once you see 2, you're going to want more. Several performers appear in both DVDs.

Will adolescents/teens like TSL? If the teens busting a gut in TSL's live audiences are any indication: affirmative.

TSL is as good as anything on Comedy Central, and there's no need to mentally edit profanity or raunch. TSL is one "commandment" you'll enjoy keeping. Don't transgress: feed your funnybone. See www.thoushaltlaugh.com for a sample!

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