Looking on the lighter side

Brendan O’Regan looks at comedy offerings of the week

When Christians are made fun of on TV, one argument of those offended tends to be – ‘Well, you wouldn’t make fun of Muslims that way’. There’s some truth in that, though BBC’s comedy show Citizen Khan(Friday nights BBC 1) might seem to contradict it.

The main character, Mr Khan, is an Asian Muslim, played with gusto by Adil Ray, who fancies himself as a community leader in Birmingham and despite having a basically good heart can be an insufferable egotist. Last week’s episode showed him to be a racist – he refused to let his future son-in-law be attended by Indian or Sikh doctors, only to be horrified when the white doctor he eventually got was a woman! Mr Khan fits in a tradition that includes Alf Garnett and Archie Bunker from days gone by.

So, politically correct it ain’t, but it was hard to take too much offence. The comedy was broad, sometimes mildly crude, but it was good humoured rather than mean-spirited, and while there were many Islamic references and gentle fun poking I got the impression that it was warm towards religion, for example Khan made a loving reference to God to one of his long suffering daughters. I didn’t think it was in any way making fun of Islam or approving of the racism.

Another comedy I’ve been enjoying lately is Everybody Loves Raymondon Channel 4 every morning. At this stage it’s all repeats as the multi-award winning series ended in the US back in 2005. The Barone family is of Italian extraction so religion is certainly part of their cultural background, and there are occasional references to the family going to Church. In one recent episode there was a family conflict and Ray’s wife, Debra got everybody praying about it, though it was a comical scene. It’s mostly warm towards religion though one character’s parents are shown as caricature evangelicals, very stuffy and easily scandalised by the more freewheeling Barones. There is some restrained adult humour and themes, but the best fun centres around the normal ups and downs of family life, and on that level it rings true. The children don’t figure that strongly, but there’s great ensemble playing by the leads. It does feed into a common motif in US film and TV – the ineffective, easily distracted, heart-of-gold but not-enough-time-for-his-children father – both Ray and his father fit the mould. Homer Simpson would be an extreme case of this particular tradition.

I came across two interesting programmes on Spirit Radio recently and both are available as podcasts. Lay missionary Frances Hogan spoke to Ronan Johnston about her new book A Path to Healing a Nation, where she attempts to diagnose and offer a solution to our country’s ills. She rightly identified a crisis of leadership, but was hopeful for the future, putting her hope in the ‘little people’ to effect the necessary changes. She called for a new kind of patriotism and thought we had to go for either atonement or chastisement, the latter hardly the kind of language to attract young people! Personally I preferred the earlier part of the interview when she spoke of her early spiritual experiences, her dangerous time in Biafra in the 60s, her strong Catholic upbringing and vocation to lay missionary work.

I was impressed by Ronan Johnston’s interview with American gospel singer and writer Michael Card and wish I had been in the Spirit Radio studio that day. In a most insightful and good humoured way Card outlined aspects of his music ministry and sang some wonderful songs in the studio, including the lovely That’s What Faith Must Be– “To hear with my heart,/To see with my soul,/To be guided by a hand I cannot hold,/To trust in a way that I cannot see,/That’s what faith must be”.

There was also some fine music on RTE’s Mission Sunday Massfrom the choir of Coláiste Muire in Cobh. The work of the Presentation brothers was celebrated for the occasion, but somehow the studio atmosphere seemed a bit stilted.

Finally, I caught the God Slotdebate on euthanasia last Friday night on RTÉ Radio 1. It was scrupulously balanced as far as the speakers went – two for and two against (including our own Mary Kenny). The audience of journalism students voted for the pro-euthanasia side but not as strongly as they did before the debate.



Catholic lives – Bernadette Goulding

EWTN  Sat 26 Oct 4:30am

Kathy Sinnott with Bernadette Goulding, pioneer of Rachelís Vineyard featuring stories of Irish women wounded by abortion.


The Meaning of Life

RTÉ 1 Sun 27 Oct 10.35pm

Gay Byrne talks to Celine Byrne operatic soprano, committed Catholic, Pioneer and vocal champion of mental health issues.


Beyond Belief

RTÉ 1 Mon 28 Oct 11.15pm

Mick Peelo and his panel of Irish personalities ponder the meaning of life.