Conan O’Brien’s Stupid-Smart (and Spiritual?) Comedy

Joel Mayward

Joel Mayward
July 8, 2021

Discussing his retirement, the late-night comedian describes his sense of humor in surprisingly theological terms.

July 12, 2021

Dear friend,

I read the conclusion of your article this morning on Conan O'Brien with some consternation. In my younger days, I was a bright and clever — and nominal — Christian, with limited exposure to positive moral exhortation. And I watched a lot of Conan.

I remember distinctly jokes on sexual immorality that pale in comparison to the examples shared in the article. To equate that breed of humor to the wordplay of the Holy Spirit is irreverent, let alone putting the breath of God, by which all things were created, on the same footing as O'Brien's scatological humor. While the scripture cited in Philippians 3 is tangential to genitalia, the wordplay itself is on cutting.

This is the same Spirit which also inspired Paul to adjure Christians to "not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove ... what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Asking if O'Brien's stupid–smart comedy is spiritual, as the headline does, brings to mind Betteridge's Law, to which Betteridge would answer 'no.' I would argue if we were to consider O'Brien's works in light of the Holy Spirit's words in scripture, we could equivocate no different answer.

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