Tony Cummings writes about Christian comedy and a brilliant song by BLAINE BOWMAN & HIS GOOD TIME BAND
Blaine Bowman is a Jack of all trades who works as a songwriter, preacher and record producer and who is the frontman for Blaine Bowman & His Good Time Band. Among the many songs he and his country-tinged family band from Lebanon, Ohio, have released is one which is that rarest of entities - one that is genuinely funny. To this no small achievement one should also add that "No One's Crying For The Tuna" deals with important subjects - concern for our environment and the contradictions of diet and attitude shown by meat (and fish) eaters - with sparkling wit.
"No One's Crying For The Tuna" demonstrates, to this veteran music journalist at least, just how clever a lyricist Bowman is for writing an effective comedy song, particularly one which makes a point. In a mock solemn country lament, liberally spotted with sound effects (seagulls, whales, etc), Blaine intones, "No one's crying for the tuna/I've just gotta know/Why is Flipper so special/'Cause he had a TV show/Even tuna have feelings/I just don't understand/No one's crying for the tuna/Now he's in a cat food can."
There wasn't always a lack of comedy songs. Back during the golden age of British music hall there were thousands of comedy songs being written and a few, like 1910's "When Father Papered The Parlour", were funny enough to be laughed at a hundred years or more on.
Then, during the golden era of Hollywood musicals, a Danny Kaye or a Bob Hope would sometimes perform a song which was, at least at the time, mildly amusing. Since the emergence of rock 'n' roll, it's largely been rock and pop parody songs which have made people laugh. Although, to British ears at least, Weird Al Yankovic is something of an acquired taste, the hit-making parody man has kept alive the ability to marry music and laughter.
The Christian Church has long struggled with comedy, and comedy songs - indeed some would say it has struggled with laughing per se. For hundreds of years it seemed that laughing was something frowned on in most church circles. Now that that particular heresy of laughter-free-religion has been vanquished from many churches, Christians are at last discovering that laughter, when it's not based on humour polluted by the world, is in fact a liberating and healing gift from God. British comedians like Tim Vine and Andy Kind are today able to entertain in churches and Christian festivals as well as pubs and concert halls.
But what about "Christian comedy"? For a while now comedians, particularly American ones, have tried to bring the church culture and indirect references to God himself into their craft. But the marriage of comedy and ministry has not always been a happy one. From Mike Warnke to Chonda Pierce, and through to the Bananas series of DVDs, most UK Christians have remained unimpressed and unamused by their records and videos. Similarly, American evangelicalism's answer to Weird Al Yankovic, The ApologetiX, are likely to produce more wincing than guffawing among British churchgoers.
So Blaine Bowman & His Good Time Band are to be congratulated in delivering a laugh-out-loud song. "No One's Crying for the Tuna" is just one of the hundreds of songs written by Bowman, who began songwriting during the Jesus music era, has produced tracks not only in country and Southern gospel but taken in such diverse sounds as jazz and even funk. His four CD collection of songs written between 1982 and 2005 'Blaine Bowman The Songwriter' offers a wealth of musical styles. To that one can now add the comedy song.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.