The Gospel According to Joel McHale

When I was a seminary student, a TV show about TV shows kept me balanced.

The Soup was a weekly show on the E! network that recapped some of television's most ridiculous, cringe-inducing, and hilarious moments. From reality TV to game shows to soap operas, nothing was safe from the watchful eye of The Soup's writers. I looked forward to my pre-DVR, pre-streaming days of sitting down each weekend to watch The Soup. It was a blessed break from my full-time role as a theology student, chaplain intern, and pastor in training. The Soup reminded me to relax, to laugh, and to stay informed in the pop culture world that usually wasn't a hot topic in "Systematic Theology" or "The History of Christian Thought."


One of the reasons The Soup was so popular was the likability of its host, Joel McHale. Sometimes, after showing a video clip, he could make the audience chuckle with only a facial expression. He seemed personable and came across as a down-to-earth guy who loved to make fun of bad TV. He had no trouble making fun of himself, too. Comics like him reminded me not to take myself so seriously in an often-serious vocation.

For three years, Joel McHale was a weekly presence on my apartment's TV, yet I never knew much about him. After graduating, I watched The Soup less and less until I forgot about it. I simply found other sources of laughter, and The Soup eventually ended.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from Netflix about "a new show I might like" (Netflix's predictions are freakishly accurate.). The name of it was The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale. I immediately watched an episode and discovered that it is a reincarnation of another show that helped me laugh my way through seminary. New episodes debut on Netflix weekly on Sundays. How did Netflix know that Sundays are the evenings when I most need to laugh at the end of the day? 

This time around, I wanted to learn more about the host and what made him so appealing. In a recent interview on the podcast, The Armchair Expert, McHale shared some details of his life that surprised me. He talked about the stresses of reading a teleprompter because of dyslexia. It took hours of reading and preparation for him to record one, 30-minute episode of The Soup. Though he struggled in school, he did well in geometry and physics. He did not speak of dyslexia as a hindrance but rather as something that helped make him who he is today.

He also revealed that he was raised in the Catholic faith, is now a member of a Presbyterian congregation, and has a brother who is an Episcopal priest. At one point in the interview he said, "Thank you Jesus," and I realized he spoke genuinely from his faith. I gave thanks, too, for the opportunity to learn the story of a person whose gifts elicit joy in persons he's never even met.

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common.
— Acts 4:32 (Common English Bible)

God's community of believers strengthen each other through the sharing of their gifts. What if we shared more freely the gift of helping each other laugh? 

Perhaps we could start by watching another TV show starring Joel McHale. The name of it is Community.

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian