I had the privilege of attending a unique engagement of two very gifted professionals. Rob Bell is a very well-known author, speaker, former pastor, and beloved spiritual leader while Pete Holmes is a gifted and insightful comedian whose timing and inflection really differentiate him from the crowd. Both Rob and Pete have successful podcasts and the two met when Pete invited Rob onto his show.
Their duet was held at the Boulder theater, which is a smallish, historical venue that really adds to the intimacy and flow of their work. I wasn’t too sure what to expect since the advertising and promotion of this show was pretty vague. I was made aware of it because I attended a recent event with Rob Bell in Laguna where he shared about this upcoming tour.
Within minutes of opening, Pete had the audience in a massive uproar. As I sat there I wondered how the night was going to play out. I thought, “Is Rob going to do comedy?” I know he is very funny as a communicator but comedy isn’t is usual vehicle. The two shared how they met and how they were hoping to share the hysterical conversations they enjoy with a larger audience. These conversations, like all of our conversations, are laced with meaning, real questions, and laughter that stems from a love and connection to God and close friends. I can tell you that it actually worked very well, though some people might struggle going back between meaning and humor if they are “black & white” thinkers.
Personally, the most distinct and enjoyable aspect of the night was the up and down, fast and slow rhythm of the two together. What started as a question mark as to whether it would work, became a most welcome balance. Not unlike really fine food where salty and sweet, spicy, and mild all come together. Meaning is actually very funny and funny things contain vast meaning.
They would begin with a topic and each would give their spin on it. Pete would bring the energy level up and put the audience in stitches, and then Rob would dive into his forte of telling vivid stories that illustrate the depth of life that we all touch but somehow fail to put our words around. Back and forth they would go, interjecting their own humor and one liners in an improvisational way, keeping the audience engaged, and truly inspired.
I’ve always respected comedians as some of the most intelligent people and this event really exemplifies the power of humor to be a tremendous delivery system for meaning and even transformation. Both Rob and Pete mine what most of us call the minutia of our daily existence for the ingredients that fuel their craft. Pete does so with an emphasis on humor without forsaking the deeper questions that boil up from life experience. Rob does so with an emphasis on transcendent meaning without forsaking the humor and oddities that living brings us everyday.
Perhaps the neatest ironies of the evening is that Pete and Rob hint at their post-evangelical spiritual journeys. While many modern people dismiss contemporary evangelicalism because it is so distant from it’s founders intention, I actually believe that events like this are the new hallmark of what it means to be evangelical. The events call all comers into a deeper contemplation. It is inclusive and not exclusive. They embrace and even laugh at the hard questions of life rather than avoid them or argue them. They actually model what life should be for each of us: a deep experience of laughter, tears, questions, fears, and pains along with meaning and purpose that transcends us all, while it brings us together for joy and brotherly love.
Congratulations Rob and Pete for living out what all your critics claim you lost. And thanks for bringing us all into this amazing conversation. God is no doubt the source that makes us “Together at last.”