Intelligent comedy is so rarely found. I consider it a gift when I run across something that moves me and makes me laugh and think, or makes me laugh with respect for the speaker. One occasion to do all of these is in Lilly Tomlin's one-woman show, "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" (montage; reviews). I highly recommend it.
Happily, I've just discovered another serious comic, Julia Sweeney, whom some may remember as a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s. I came across a clip of Sweeney's monologue, "Giving Up God," which she performed during the TED talks in 2006. In this routine, Sweeney talks about the journey she took from being raised as a Catholic, losing her faith, and then finding sense in the idea of understanding the universe without a belief in god. In her blog, she says of this:
One of the astounding results of me losing my faith, (which was a beautiful experience...), was that I suddenly saw how alike we are to our fellow animals. And how different. But different in ways I had not previously considered. I saw my own behavior being influenced by millions of years of evolutionary history, but I also gained a new respect for ethics and the ability of the human race to make informed choices. Much more informed choices than many other animal species. After I lost my faith, I stopped anthropomorphizing in a childlike way and started anthropomorphizing in an informed way.
The clip is only 15 minutes long, which makes it definitely worth a look. It's unfortunate, though, as it stops in the midst of what is actually a 2 hour monologue, dropping the viewer unceremoniously in mid-thought and mid-laugh.
During the telling of her story, Sweeney also relates the the foundational myth of the Mormon religion. This seems timely, since Mormonism is on America's mind these days and much has been made of Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's faith. Surely, those with little knowledge of Mormonism are wondering, "What do Mormons actually believe, anyway?" Here's a chance to find out, with humor, without misrepresentation.
Sweeney's full monologue is being produced as a little indie film to be shopped around to distributors in 2008. Meanwhile, for those who want to hear the rest of her story, she's made a CD available (it seems her website is currently undergoing a major re-design, so interested parties may have to check back later).