What happens when a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, and an Atheist walk into a bar? The Coexist Comedy Tour, that’s what. A bunch of different religions coming together to make people laugh? What could be better? Why, that’d make a great film!
In fact, while this film started out as a way to showcase a touring comedy show featuring comedians of the vastly different religions mentioned above (“What in God’s name could possibly go wrong?” touts the film’s tagline), it becomes something quite different when the Christian suddenly drops out.
Thus begins the search for a replacement Christian comedian. Apparently, they’re not that easy to find.
“The Coexist Comedy Tour” — the film — is directed by Larry Brand and produced by Rebecca Reynolds and her husband Jim Carpenter under their indie film production company 8180 Films. They also happen to be in my backyard. Well, if you count across the bay and through the woods my back yard — which I do. I live on the Old Mission Peninsula, just north of Traverse City, Michigan. Reynolds and Carpenter live in Leland, Michigan, just across West Grand Traverse Bay from me.
The documentary began life as a project on Atheism, but Reynolds, co-writer of HBO’s “Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl,” wanted it to be funny. So she Googled ‘atheist comedians’ and up popped Keith Lowell Jensen’s name.
Turns out the Sacramento-based Jensen had assembled a show called “The Coexist Comedy Tour” with Tapan Trivedi, a Hindu comedian also from Sacramento. They recruited a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew to diversify the comedy, and took the show on the road to places like Seattle, Portland, and New York.
The filmmakers were brought in to film the show in 2010, and “The Coexist Comedy Tour” film was in a go mode. Until the Christian dropped out, and that’s when things got interesting.
Part concert film and part behind-the-scenes documentary, the film takes viewers on a journey to find a new Christian comedian for the group. After auditions were held in New York, Los Angeles and Sacramento, John Fugelsang was asked to come aboard as the funny Christian. Score.
Here’s the rundown on who’s who in “The Coexist Comedy Tour” (and Film):
- Keith Lowell Jensen – the Atheist (@keithlowell)
- Moshe Kasher – The Jew (@moshekasher)
- Tissa Hami – The Muslim (@tissahami)
- Tapan Trivedi – The Hindu (/tapan.trivedi)
- Sammy Obeid – The Buddhist (@sammyobeid)
- John Fugelsang – The Christian (@JohnFugelsang)
After screening the film at the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival in February, I can confirm that they are all very funny. And believe me, by the time February rolls around in northern Michigan, we need a good laugh to stave off the slow descent into madness brought about by cabin fever.
Sometimes religion gets a bad rap when it comes to comedy. People get super serious about their religion and forget to laugh. As a lifelong Methodist, we’re great with the potlucks, but tend to get mired in the seriousness of it all.
Add that to the fact that you’ve got all these different religions coming together to poke fun at both themselves and other religions, and “The Coexist Comedy Tour” is pure comedy gold. Coexist + Religion + Comedians = Very Funny.
Follow “The Coexist Comedy Tour” on Facebook, and be sure to see it if you have a chance. Seeing it on the big screen in a theater makes you feel as if you’re actually at a club listening to the comedians, but the filmmakers are working on a deal with a TV network, as well. And by all means, if you have a chance to see the real comedians on stage, run don’t walk to get your tickets.
The film is rated R for language (which is one reason it was a challenge finding a Christian comedian), but it’s still fairly tame in the stand-up comedian world. I’d say it’s ok for kids 16 and older.