by Jep Hostetler
and humor in the Mennonite Church? Yes, of course!
Jep Hostetler, well-known humorist, begins a column on humor
in the Mennonite Historical Bulletin, begining with the
July 1998 issue. Here's his introduction. jes
Hello dear readers, welcome to the Humor Corner. We welcome
your input and your surprises.
Prior to the Orlando '97 I
was asked to do a presentation on the history of humor in the
Mennonite Church. At that moment I told John Sharp, the requester,
"I would be happy to do the speech, but it will probably
last only three minutes and then there would not be anything
else to talk about." So, imagine my surprise when I found
a fair amount of material on humor, laughter and mirth in the
It is amazing how the early
articles warned of frivolity and jest. We were encouraged to
restrain ourselves and develop lives of solemn service. The upshot
of the early articles was remaining in control, and allowing
our "yeses" to mean yes and our "noes' to mean
no. Humor almost always involves surprise endings to stories.
In this way humor is very much akin to creativity. Both put unexpected
situations in juxtaposition with interesting results. However,
some humor depends on making up stories or stretching the truth
to make a point. Hyperbole is the order of the day. Thus it is
that our turn-of-the-century elders were fearful of straying
This column will be the place
where we can share wit, introduce humorous stories, and hopefully
at times be a bit prophetic. Others have gone before us. We are
familiar with columns by Ivan Emke in the Mennonite Reporter
and his sometimes-controversial contributions to the Mennonite
Distorter. We enjoy the wonderful antics of Ted and Lee and
their delightful productions of Fish Eyes and other creative
For the past 10 years I have
been doing humor workshops and presenting the "Joy Factor"
around the country. It is my personal hope that this column will
be a place where we can read fun stories, laugh at ourselves,
and observe cartoons that tickle our funny bones. I look forward
to contributing in any small way that I can.
Jep Hostetler, Ph.D., Columbus, Ohio, is a
humor consultant. He has taught in the Ohio State University
Medical School, and is currently Executive Secretary of the Mennonite