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Clowning for God

Mark Tully asks priest and stand-up comedian Maggy Whitehouse how humour can puncture pomposity, hypocrisy and arrogance in religious leaders and their congregations.

Mark Tully asks priest and stand-up comedian, Maggy Whitehouse, how humour can puncture hypocrisy and piety in religious leaders and their congregations.

Together, they discus how holy fools can make people laugh at the pretentiousness of the powerful, the pomposity of the proud, and the absurdity of those who take themselves too seriously. They consider if Jesus himself sometimes acted as a jester, mocking human arrogance.

Mark also looks to Sufi traditions and the legendary satirical figure, Mulla Nasruddin, whose humour constantly humiliates those who feel they are above ordinary believers, demonstrating that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

Producer: Adam Fowler
A 7digital production for BCC Radio 4.

23 days left to listen

28 minutes

Last on

Last Sunday 06:05

Music Played

  • Arthur Bliss

    Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Hertfordshire Chorus. Featured Artist: East London Chorus. Featured Artist: Harlow Chorus.
    • Cala.
  • Sir Ivan Atkins

    Psalm 2

    Performer: Choir of St John's, Elora.
    • Naxos.
  • Dmitry Shostakovich

    Symphony no 13 in B flat minor: Baba Yar: 2nd Movement: Humour

    Performer: Bernard Haitink. Performer: Marius Rinzler. Performer: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
    • Decca.
  • Trad

    The Clown Dance

    Performer: Bernard Dawahoya & Hopi.
    • Canyon Records.
  • Charlie Chaplin

    Money For The Girl

    Performer: The City Lights Orchestra. Performer: Carl Davis.
    • Silva Screen.


Title: Jesus The Fool 
Author: Michael Frost 
Published by Baker Books

Title: Tripping Over Joy 
Author: Hafez, translated by Daniel Landinsky 
Found in 'Hafez, I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy', published by Penguin

Title: Laughter 
Author: Emmy Veronica Sanders 
Published by Bartleby

Title: The Laughter of God 
Author: Walter C. Lanyon 
Published by Union Life

Title: The Sacred Laughter of the Sufis
Author: Jamal Rahman 
Published by Skylight Paths

Title: The Clown's Prayer 
Author: Anonymous