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Humour, truth and the surrounding culture

A conversation with professional comedian Adam Yenser during his visit to Finland. He has worked for figures like Conan O'Brien and Ellen DeGeneres, and now hosts a podcast of the 'Babylon Bee'.

AUTOR 369/Otto_Pellinen,104/Uusi_Tie HELSINKI 04 DE ABRIL DE 2023 09:55 h
Adam Yenser once arranged a Finnish comedian Ismo Leikola for Conan O'Brien's show. Now the Finns arranged for him the privilege of performing at Kallio in Helsinki; I think we're even! Adam laughs./ Photo: Johannes Haataja, [link]Uusi Tie[/link].

Adam Yenser spent a week in Rovaniemi, Lapland, with sleigh rides and watching the northern lights. The Finland trip ended in Helsinki, as Yenser performed as a stand-up comedian at Kallio's music bar On The Rocks.

Adam is a professional comedian whose career includes 6 years as a writer on Conan O'Brien's comedy show and 10 years on Ellen DeGeneres. Today, he works as a podcast host for the Christian satire website The Babylon Bee.


Childhood faith matured at college

Adam makes comedy from a Christian perspective. He often performs for liberal audiences, and finds the difference in perspective a nice challenge.

Adam grew up in a religious family that belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Today he belongs to the Lutheran Missouri Synod, as the ELCA has become very liberal over the years.

During his childhood, the family went to church and Sunday school on Sundays, the children were given their own Bibles, and Adam participated in youth retreats and the church band. Adam could always make his friends and family laugh, but was not a "class clown", but rather more quiet and a smart kind of funny.

While studying philosophy and film & video at Penn State University, like many others he started to think whether the faith he grew up with as a child was also really true.

Adam prayed very consciously, "God, let me study what else is out there, but I want to do this in a way that’s faithful. Guide me so I don't stray too far from you."

He studied different views and also read the Bible from cover to cover. During this time it became clear to him that the faith he was brought up with was also what he really believed to be true.


Babylon Bee, Twitter and Elon Musk

Adam worked for years for entertainment shows, until a friend of his arranged him to be a guest on the Babylon Bee podcast episode in the summer of 2021. After this, he started making sketches for Bee as a freelancer and from January 2022 he started working there full-time.

So Adam is a recent addition to Bee's team, but in just over a year a lot has happened. The Christian satire site had a surprising effect on Elon Musk's decision to buy Twitter. Musk had been referencing Babylon Bee's humorous stuff on Twitter for a year and a half, and Bee's people finally managed to get him to be a guest on the podcast in December 2021.

In March, newspaper USA Today named Admiral Rachel Levine "Woman of the Year". Since a biological man cannot be a better woman than all the women in the world, Babylon Bee named Levine as Man of the Year. However, this was too much for Twitter's censors, and Bee's account was suspended on March 20th. Twitter suspended the account until the Bee would bend the knee and admit that the joke was wrong.

The Bee refused to remove the tweet.

Two weeks after Bee's account was closed, Elon Musk had become Twitter's largest shareholder, and 10 days later he had made a $43 billion buyout offer for Twitter. Arriving at Twitter's headquarters in October as the new owner, he issued an urgent order: Bring back the Babylon Bee.

Prior to his purchase decision, Musk had called the Bee CEO Seth Dillon to confirm that their account had indeed been suspended, and had stated that he "might have to buy Twitter".

Yenser stresses that Bee's suspension was not the only reason for Twitter's purchase, but it seems to have broken the camel's back. Musk named rooting out child pornography as his top priority and he has given respected middle-of-the-road journalists a free hand to air Twitter's dirty laundry.


Why should humour and freedom of speech be defended?

It is dangerous if the culture stops laughing and bans comedy: "humor is the first victim of freedom of speech and its last bastion."

Yenser considers the best explanation of humor to be Peter McGraw's benign violation theory, according to which we laugh when someone breaks normal boundaries without being dangerous.

In a philosophy of humor course, he learned how many of the first stand-up comedians were black and Jewish, who used humor to deal with the injustice they faced.

Sometimes there are situations where humor gets to the truth better than straight talk.

On the other hand, satire is not always in line with love. If you only mock for the joy of mocking, then you're just mean-spirited. Humor should build us up, or at least reveal the truth.

A joke about Rachel Levine may offend, but the criticism is directed at an absurd ideology, and the offense is used to shield yourself from the truth.

And what else would exposing an absurd lie be, other than making it laughable?


  [title] Who is Adam Yenser [/title]


Aged 40, Adam is a Christian professional comedian and the host of the Babylon Bee podcast starting from January 2022. He Lives in California and belongs to the Lutheran Missouri Synod.

He has been scriptwriter for the Oscars and several entertainment programs such as Conan O'Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, Fox Laughs and Saturday Night Live.

Yenser won multiple Emmy Awards as part of Ellen DeGeneres' writing team.[/text]


This article was first published by Uusi Tie in Finnish and translated with permission.




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