Karl Newyear has a theory why there’s no comedy in the Bible: “It’s because Judas was the funniest disciple … so they cut all his lines out.”
In case there’s any doubt, Newyear is joking. Making laughs out of his faith, congregational life and even the Bible are what helped the member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Waukegan, Ill., earn the unofficial title of “World’s Funniest Lutheran.”
An active comedian in the Chicago area, Newyear takes both secular and non-secular gigs.
He got started at his congregation with its annual music festival. He was asked one year to emcee the event. Soon, he realized, there was a niche for making humor out of being Lutheran. In 2003 he was a finalist for WGN-TV’s Funniest Person in Chicago contest.
Early in his career, when he’d be in clubs, Newyear said lots of other comics on the bill were Jewish, so he stood out. Gradually he started being introduced as the World’s Funniest Lutheran — and the moniker stuck.
His shows for a religious crowd begin the same as his nightclub shows, talking mostly about himself and everyday observations. Halfway through he moves toward issues that he thinks Christians of any denomination would find relatable. “I don’t do specific Lutheran stuff,” he said. “That’s easy, and Garrison Keillor covers a lot of that stuff.”
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