Why This Standup Comedian Became a Jesuit Priest with Fr. Jake Martin, SJ

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Here’s a list of famous comedians who all have at least one thing in common that’s relevant to this podcast: Bob Newhart, Bill Murray, Bob Hope, Chris Farley, George Carlin, Amy Poehler, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Dan Aykroyd, John Leguizamo, John Candy, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo and John Mulaney.

Did you guess? They all have a Catholic background in some way or other. Some were raised Catholic and left the church, some are still practicing Catholics today or practiced throughout their lives, and Bob Hope was a famous convert to Catholicism thanks to his devout wife Dolores. Why are so many Catholics, including a bunch of Jesuit high school and college alumni, comedians? What is it about the faith that leads performers down this road?

Today’s guest is uniquely qualified to reflect on this question. Fr. Jake Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest. He’s also a standup comedian with a deep background in theater, improv comedy and the study of film. After completing his Ph.D. in film studies at Trinity College Dublin earlier this year, Fr. Jake is now teaching film at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He also writes about culture for America magazine. And it was a recent piece on the Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan that led host Mike Jordan Laskey to reach out for this interview.

Jim Gaffigan, an alum of Georgetown University, has never been shy about including his Catholicism in his standup comedy performances, but his most recent special, titled “Dark Pale,” takes the religiosity to a whole new level. There’s a whole segment in the performance when Gaffigan just tells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego. There’s no big punchline or payoff. He just tells the story, in his own clever way. But it felt like it could’ve been a homily, or at least a talk at a parish mission.

Mike asked Fr. Jake about Gaffigan and for Fr. Jake’s own theories about why there are so many Jesuit-educated, Catholic comedians out there. They also talked about Fr. Jake’s own background as a performer and how he integrates his identities as priest in comedian into a single, unified person.

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