Piety at the Pictures: Comedy cameos from Jesus

by Maryann O'Connor on 08/04/2012

At this time of year, usually once you’re sitting on the floor with bits of chocolate smeared about your person with the obligatory feeling of self-loathing, thoughts naturally turn to the man who made this custom of confectionary and compunction possible: Jesus.

Easter is traditionally a time of reflection about the bloodier and more solemn aspects of JC’s life (and death and resurrection) but today we’d like to focus on his contribution to the lighter side of film. For any who deem this crass or inappropriate I’d like to reassure you that I’m a baptised Roman Catholic and thus think that Jesus is just ace.

It would be wrong to consider Jesus and his contribution to comedy without mentioning Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It was clear to me, as it was to many of you, that Life of Brian was about a red sea pedestrian named Brian and not Jesus. JC’s only appearance in the film is a section of The Sermon on the Mount that some people (who may or may not have big noses) mishear and get confused about; “blessed are the Greeks?” Ahem. Other less tasteful depictions of the saviour include the literal interpretations of Zombie Jesus and Ultrachrist!, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and the legendary beauty pageant film starring Kirstin Dunst and Kirstie Alley, Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Rebecca Leeman, played by Denise Richards, is a shoo-in to be the American Teen Princess pageant winner and is very keen to show the judges just how much she loves Jesus. Everyone knows that strong Christian values are very important if you want to be a good beauty queen and consequently Rebecca begins her talent round number by singing ‘You’re just too good to be true’ whilst dancing around the stage with an almost life-size figure of Jesus Christ on the crucifix (on wheels). Naturally, everyone is deeply moved by her devotion to Jesus.

Moving on swiftly, Hamlet 2 is the story of a failed actor turned high school drama teacher (played by Steve Coogan) who learns that the drama department is about to be shut down. His answer is to write an original play for his students, which shall be a sequel to Hamlet starring none other than Jesus Christ. The film features a musical homage called ‘Rock me Sexy Jesus’, which contains the lines “moralistically he taught us to be good, how to set our souls free and do all the shit we should” (He died for our sins, you better believe us!). As you can imagine, the film had a bit of a mixed reaction in 2008 and didn’t manage to secure a UK release. Appearances from Elisabeth Shue, Lucy Lawless, Amy Poelher and David Arquette do soften the blow of the more ambitious material. Let’s face it, if we weren’t just a little bit offended by a film from one of the writers of South Park and Team America we would feel within our rights to demand a refund.

Comedy shock supremo Trey Parker likes Jesus to be in his films. JC had a cameo in two of his films, namely South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Orgazmo. Jesus features heavily in the South Park series, advising the people of that redneck mountain town how to live their lives via his regular TV show, Jesus and Pals.

What better to end a look back at Jesus’ comedy appearances in film than a cameo from God herself (they are one and the same you know). Alanis Morissette got the prized role of God in Dogma, appearing briefly to pardon Ben Affleck’s naughty fallen angel Bartleby so he can go back up to heaven. She then magically changes her flowing god-like robes to a sparkly silver number with a skirt and wanders off with a serene look on her face, as you might expect.

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