Park Ridge priest stands up for funny side of faith
The Rev. Britto Berchmans, pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in Park Ridge, will present a night of stand-up comedy Jan. 27 as part of a church fundraiser. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: February 20, 2012 8:27AM
So, a Catholic priest walks into a stand-up-comedy showcase ... .
What? You were looking for a punch line?
The Rev. Britto Berchmans’ upcoming one-man show, “Centennial Chuckles,” is no joke, but the pastor of Park Ridge’s St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church hopes his comedy act produces plenty of laughs.
“For too long people have thought church is kind of heavy and boring,” Berchmans said. “No, church is wonderful, and my theory is, if you do not laugh in the Father’s house, where will you laugh?”
Berchmans will be encouraging his flock to look at the lighter side of life and religion at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in St. Paul’s Morello Parish Life Center. “Centennial Chuckles: An Evening of Humor,” is a fundraiser to help support some of St. Paul’s 100th anniversary celebrations that have been taking place during the past year.
This will be the second time Berchmans is presenting a stand-up-comedy act at St. Paul.
“We did something similar last year. It was a fundraiser for the school and it was a great success,” he said.
Regular parishioners of St. Paul are already familiar with Berchmans’ comedy style — he is known for dropping short jokes or amusing anecdotes into his homilies to get across the message of the day’s sermon. Many of these tales will be incorporated into his “Centennial Chuckles” act, which he explained will largely consist of comedy in story form, often with a life lesson attached.
The audience can also expect jokes about marriage and relationships, children and growing older — and even about the church itself, Catholic priests and the pope.
“One of my favorite topics is actually relationships between men and women, which always provides a great amount of humor,” Berchmans said.
Laughing, he added: “I always tell people I love to tell jokes about married people because it makes me feel good as a celibate.”
Berchmans’ material is drawn from stories he has heard and collected through the years, and can also be found in the many volumes of joke books that fill his office. Some of his original material is based on humorous things that have happened to him or people he has known. His attempts at speaking Italian while serving in Rome, for example, have generated their share of amusing tales, including the time he accidently told a congregation, “If you are sexy, I am more sexy” instead of remarking, as he’d intended, on how hot everyone was feeling because of the summer weather.
“It always gets a good laugh,” Berchmans said of that particular account.
Growing up in India, Berchmans was exposed to wry, British-style humor and identifies Irish comedian Hal Roach as one of his favorite funny men.
“I have listened to him a lot and I love his jokes,” he said.
Berchmans is also a fan of American stand-up comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, as well as comedy TV and films.
“Life is too serious and I like, when I am by myself, to laugh,” he acknowledged.
Even God, the priest believes, has a comedic side.
“God has a sense of humor by making us the way we are (with) all our quirks and idiosyncrasies,” he said. “And life is too short to be so uptight. I think it is important people learn to smile and laugh.”
Tickets for “Centennial Chuckles” can be ordered through the St. Paul of the Cross website, www.spc-church.org. General-admission tickets are $35 per person or $30 for seniors if purchased on or before Jan. 20. Reserved seating is $50 per person.
After Jan. 20 the price of general admission is $40 per person and $35 for seniors.
For more information call Patti Nowak, (847) 698-0950.