First, I think I need to offer the disclaimer that it’s not easy to speak last at such a dud of an event- especially when you consider that this is a church not a comedy club and all of you, besides Steve and Kathy Larkin, are sober right now.
Just looking at you all gathered up here on stage, I think I speak for everyone when I say…I expected you guys to have more talent.
You guys gave up the State of the Union for this? I know these are partisan times but I think we can all agree that you made a bad decision.
But seriously, it’s a great treat to have Bill Perry wheeled in here tonight. I joke about Dennis, but Bill Perry’s so old that whenever he stops moving, people throw dirt on him.
You all have gotten to know Bill pretty well, but you might not know his wife, Carol. Or, as Bill’s lawyer calls her: ‘Jailbait.’ Bill and Carol met in school. He was her 2nd grade teacher.
Alexander, my son. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say: You’re grounded for the rest of your life.
Andreas, what a song! There’s a lot of words I could use to describe how I feel about your music. I just can’t say any of those words in church.
Teer, I used to hate you for being the taller, stronger, younger, handier version of myself. Now I just hate you.
And Elaine, I take back every compliment I ever lied to you about.
And Terri Phillips. Not only does Terri make this church hum, she’s also the only straight person to have ever worked at the Walt Disney Store.
And Leah…our Staff Parish Chairwoman, I just want to say…you did an incredible job, absolutely amazing. The beauty and power of your musical gifts is exceeded only by your character and leadership and compassion and generosity and innocent humor. If you have one flaw, Leah, it’s that you can’t relate to all of us who have flaws.
According to the late Steve Allen, the “art of the comic roast lies in the speaker’s ability to hug the line of what’s appropriate and clean without going over the line.
I think we can all agree that’s a skill I have in spades.
So it’s not that I don’t have the requisite skills to roast the Rev Dr Dennis Wayne Perry, a man whose name will go down in history with names like Michael Scott, Gomer Pyle and Roscoe Peco Train.
It’s not that I don’t have the skills to ridicule our fearless figurehead.
I just don’t know if my heart is in it.
Frankly, I’m appalled at some of the things I’ve heard said about Dennis tonight. I don’t mean here. I mean backstage. Terrible, insulting, emasculating, hate-filled things that you can never take back. And that was just from his wife.
And so it’s not that I can’t roast Dennis for your sick, twisted pleasure. I just refuse to be a party to it.
I’m sorry, but someone has to draw the line. Who am I to attack Dennis Wayne Perry? I mean, I work with him. I spend nearly every day with him. I’ve known him for 20 years, and the only thing I think when I look at this man is ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’
Why would I tempt the providence of God to afflict me as he’s afflicted this man?
To reduce me to a humorless, passionless, useless husk of my former self, haunting the halls of Aldersgate Church like some walking, talking VH1 Behind the Music cautionary tale of former potential wasted.
I won’t do it.
Many of you know that the church world is littered with ministers whose success eventually went to their heads: Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggert, that lady with the purple hair on TBN.
But not this man. I’ve worked with this man for 8 years, and I can assure you this man has never overreached. He’s never attempted to do anything that was in any way different from the last thing he did. And that kind of unchanging sameness is just so refreshing in a church.
Instead of roasting Dr Perry, we should be honoring him.
This Rev works hard for you. Any one on staff can tell you, he’s working on the same thing on Thursday that he was working on on Monday. He never gives up. He never throws in the towel even though he types like a stroke victim relearning the use of their limbs.
Dennis Perry works hard. He’s not a quitter.
Not like that quitter Pope Benedict.
Who this week announced he’s gotten to the age when his tired, broken body, diminished mental faculties and antiquated job skills meant he could no longer lead the Church. To do so, Pope Benedict said, would require everyone else to do all the work behind the scenes while he got the credit.
Quitter, I say.
But not Dennis Perry.
Dennis Perry doesn’t let his worn-out body, rapidly fading mind, and prehistoric job skills stop him from showing up to work at least a couple of hours a week to take credit for our work.
No sir, he’s not a quitter.
And instead of roasting him we should honor him. Or at least just enjoy his company tonight. Between nose jobs, vacations, holy land trips and sabbaticals, this is the first weekday Dennis has spent at church in 3 years.
We should honor him, not lampoon him.
In these hyper-partisan times, Dennis Wayne Perry is perhaps the last remaining bipartisan citizen among us.
He expresses his ‘reach across the aisle’ spirit by sharing the same hair stylist as Gov. Mitt Romney. And in his work ethic and career achievements, Dennis strives to perfectly embody Barack Obama’s famous line: ‘You didn’t build that.’
We should honor this man, not ridicule him.
Because Dennis Wayne Perry- he’s not just a great man. No sir. He’s a great boss too.
Having Dennis Perry for a boss is almost like not having a boss at all. You have the freedom to do anything. All it takes is telling Dennis Perry: ‘Remember, we talked about this two days ago.’ And Dennis will agree, pretending to remember the conversation we did not have two days ago. He’s a great boss.
I don’t know whose idea tonight was, but I don’t think we should roast Dennis. He doesn’t deserve it, and he might not be able to take it. You might not know from his superficial, shoot from the hip sermons but Dennis Wayne Perry is a sensitive guy. He’s not Andreas Barrett sensitive, but he’s a sensitive guy.
He’s been sensitive- some might say touchy- ever since his twin brother made millions by recording ‘Islands in the Stream’ and starting a successful franchise of Fried Chicken Restaurants.
So I don’t want to be a party to this spectacle of shame.
For one thing, just to be honest, I don’t know if I trust myself to roast Dennis. You might not know that I harbor some unresolved anger towards Dennis Perry. You see Dennis Perry wouldn’t perform my wedding to Ali, 10 or 12 years ago.
Dennis wouldn’t perform my wedding, which is preposterous because we all know Dennis Perry will marry anyone. He’s the Johnny Cochran of the wedding industry. From drive-by I-Do’s to Destination Nuptials, Dennis Perry will marry any biped with a faint heartbeat and a roll of quarters.
But he didn’t marry Ali and me, and, truth be told, I’ve always been a little bitter about that, and that’s why I think we should focus on praising Dennis not poking fun at him.
For example, a lot of you give me credit for my ability to use words, like foreskin, to create mental pictures that stick with you long after the sermon ends.
But we should give credit where credit is due. I’m a novice compared to Dennis. Just consider this verbal-visual gem that Dennis once served up in a word picture that sticks in the mind like genital warts: ‘One morning when my daughter was a little girl she snuck into our bed and aroused me.’
Absolutely brilliant! He said that six years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I might have just said something wooden and pedestrian like ‘my daughter woke me up.’ But this man, this man is a master wordsmith I can’t possibly ever hope to match.
And we should celebrate him for it not roast him.
I mean- what would a roast of Dennis even look like? Me making jokes about how old Dennis is? How lame would that be? I guess I could stand up here and joke that Dennis’ life is like a glass that’s half empty, but technically at his age the glass is 2/3 empty, and we all know that last third is always just backwash.
And yes, I know make jokes on Sundays about how Dennis is old and forgetful and lazy and complacent. But that’s just a preacher’s exaggeration.
I’ve known Dennis for 20 years. His forgetfulness and laziness and complacency have nothing to do with his age.
I knew Dennis when he was young and, other than the obvious physical and mental deterioration, he’s the same person today he was then.
The first time I met Dennis was in a worship service my mother forced me to attend when I was a teenager. I’ll never forget that sermon.
At the beginning of the sermon, Dennis had us turn to our neighbors to share something, while he tried to come up with a sermon in his head.
After we shared with our neighbors, he told us he had three points for us and asked us if we were ready. We said yes and he began to preach.
He preached for about 20 minutes and then he told us what his second point was.
That was the first time I met Dennis.
Since then, he’s been a mentor to me, a father-figure, a colleague and partner and a friend. He’s taught me most of what I know and if there’s something I don’t know it’s because he has the wisdom to let some lessons get learned on their own.
I’ve no doubt that in some part of me my desire to become a minister was also a desire to become like Dennis.
Without a father in my life, Dennis filled that role for about an hour each Sunday. We now know each other well enough to finish each other’s thoughts. After my wife, I trust him more than anyone in this world.
Without sounding too cheesy or preacherly, I should say that my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life.
And Dennis is the one responsible for that relationship and so he will always be one of the most important people in my life and that’s why I’d never, ever dream of roasting him.