Two friends in my congregation organized a Friar’s Club Roast of yours truly at the local country club to kick-off my book’s release. It turned out to be a hilarious evening.
As part of the night, Dr. Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus? and the one who first encouraged me to start this blog, to launch our podcast, and to write the book, came from the Twin Cities to be a featured roaster. Also on tap, Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, author of Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times and Professor of Religion at Elon University, was another guest roast master. Along with my friend and mentor Dr. Dennis Perry and a host of others.
The Roast Master for the night was my dear friend Brad Todd, a frequent guest on Meet the Press who runs OnMessage Inc and is one of the architects of Trumpocalypse.
I’ll post the video when it’s edited, but here’s the manuscript of my roast of all the roasters at the end of the evening. Obviously the humor here is blue and the language profane so be warned.
I want to thank you all for coming out to tonight to Mt. Vernon Retirement Home, for this occasion where you numb yourselves with alcohol while listening to me talk about myself nonstop. Or, as my wife likes to call it, marriage. Who knew when I arrived at Aldersgate Church over 11 years ago that one day you’d be willing to sling back liquor and cough up $75 a head just for the privilege of hearing me get mocked and ridiculed and raked over the coals.
The jokes on you. You could get that for free after every 8:30 worship service. Well maybe not quite as biting as the jokes have been here. Some of the teasing from you all tonight has cut pretty deep, so deep…I almost don’t have the heart to tell you I found out just yesterday I’ve only got a few months to live.
Oh, come on. Knock it off or I’ll let Dennis have the mic again.
In this whole process of writing and publishing my first book, I’ve had a lot of highs- and not just from the medicinal marijuana Steve Larkin sold me at his discounted geezer rate. I’ve had a lot of highs during this publishing journey. Tonight’s not one of them, but it’s is an experience.
But seriously, if I’d known that Megan and Libby Todd, the Immelda Marcos of Old Town were going to go to all this trouble, I never would’ve pretended to have cancer. Now I feel bad. With Dennis taking a sabbatical every time Donald Trump gets a new wife, cancer’s the only way I could get a little time off.
Let that be a warning to you Karla. You’re probably going to have get AIDS in order to get a vacation.
[This is where Ali wanted me to add the disclaimer that ‘AIDS isn’t funny.’ However next fall Tony Jones is publishing a book by that very title, AIDS is Funny.]
First, I think I need to say it’s not easy to be the final speaker at such a dud of an event- especially when you consider that as a preacher I’m used to speaking at church, not the Mt Vernon Nursing Home, and most of the time at church the only person who’s been drinking is Steve Larkin.
Dr. Tony Jones, Dr. Jeff, Dr. Dennis Perry, Dr. Maureen Marshall…just looking at a lineup of pretentious prefixes like yours, I think I speak for everyone when I say…I expected you guys to have more talent. All you had to do is make fun of me. How hard is that? That’s easier than making Melania Trump jokes at a MENSA meeting.
I’m like the Gallager of the theological world. I’m my own punchline. Tonight should’ve been like shooting fish in a barrel.
You all gave up your Friday night for this? I mean, Giada Hot-Laurentis is at a Cooking Festival at the Washington Convention Center right now, tonight. I appreciate the sentiment but if this were the first and only good Matrix movie, Giada was the smokin’ hot red pill and you, by being here tonight, chose the blue one.
Of course, Dennis has been chewing those little blue pills for a while now but for the rest of you…
I want to thank Brad Todd for being the Roast Master tonight. Even though tonight was a dud, Brad’s a good guy; in fact, my brother-in-law, Mike, dates Brad’s wife.
When I heard Brad was the MC for tonight I got excited. This event should be good, I thought. After all, Brad does political advertising for Republicans. Bullshit is his job.
You might recognize Brad from his gigs on Meet the Press where he somehow manages to make Chuck Todd look well-tanned and camera ready. Brad was excited to MC tonight too; in fact, Brad is happy to have anything to do these days besides pretending he’s happy the Donald got elected President.
But he did get elected and people like Brad convinced people like you to elect him. You just remember that…when you order drinks tonight at the open bar on Brad’s tab.
Of course, I have to thank Megan Gianchetta for brainstorming and spearheading this event tonight. Megan’s a great friend and because she’s a friend I know how happy she was to have something to do other than breastfeed for a change (she’s gluten free).
Seriously though, it’s no exaggeration. I know Megan’s breasts better than my wife’s or the future first lady’s. Maybe you didn’t notice but Megan delivered their 11th son in between cocktails tonight.
And my friend Andreas Barrett is here tonight. You might not know- after my wife, Andreas was the first person to mouth kiss me while I lay in the hospital. You also might not know that Andreas Barrett is a huge fan of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, which just proves the liberal media elites don’t produce any real news. If Andreas had heard anything but fake news from Rachel Maddow the last 8 years there’s no way he’d still be wearing his Cosby sweaters out in public.
Speaking of lesbians, my assistant Terri Phillips is here tonight too. Not only does Terri make our church hum, she’s also the only straight person to have ever worked at the Walt Disney Store.
My mother, Sue, is here tonight from Richmond. Her on-again, off-again foot on the gas only made her carsick four times during the trip. Truthfully, without my mom, I wouldn’t be nearly narcissistic and dysfunctional enough to have written a book.
Over the years, some of you ladies at Aldersgate- I’m thinking especially of Juanita Csontos and Val Gass (bless your hearts)- I’ve told you how you’re just like a mother to me. Well, here she is. Talk to her for a few minutes and you’ll see what I mean.
Megan had wanted me to roast my wife, Ali, tonight too. But I’ve only recently recovered from the chemotherapy drugs that rendered me impotent and I don’t want to push my luck tonight.
But, I digress.
In between child deliveries, Megan told me that I was supposed to roast my roasters. So here goes:
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.
Rotation of Roasters
Jeff, you are the greatest contemporary theologian in America. Dr. Jeffrey Metaxas of Elon College, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
Jeff, you are a great man, as you told me yourself right before we started tonight.
I asked Stanley Hauerwas- a mutual friend, who recently preached at Aldersgate, what I should say about you. Stanley rubbed his bald head and told me: ‘Jeff is an asshole.’
If any of you have read Jeff’s new book on the End Times you know that back in the day Jeff was a follower in a batshit crazy end-times cult.
Jeff my mom read your book and she asked: ‘He was a follower in an End Times cult? Why not a leader?’ And then she sighed and said ‘That’s a shame.’
He never got to be a leader of that batshit crazy end times cult so he left it…for the United Methodist Church, which was an easy transition, requiring only that he give up most of the illicit drug use.
Jeff you are the most foul-mouthed, vulgar, profane, and inappropriate United Methodist Elder I know. In other words, you give me something to aspire to.
Dr. Maureen Marshall– I hope you’ve had your rabies shots.
Just kidding, I love Maureen like that TSA Agent who winked at me once.
For those of you who don’t know, Maureen is the Polit Bureau-approved principal of Stratford Landing Elementary School. Thanks to her inspiration, communion will now be levied by a meals tax.
This June, I drove all-the-way, non-stop to Ft. Apache, Arizona with Dr. Marshall. And Laura Paige Mertins and Karli Eddinger went with us because that’s a 70 hour drive, that’s way too long a drive for just one designated driver.
Except, her taste in road trip music could lead you to drink that much. You try listening to CC and the Music Factory and Barry Manilow on an endless shuffle loop and see if that endless array of Jersey walls across Oklahoma don’t start looking like Elysian Fields to you.
Kelly Wolschlager I mean Garr – I’ve known Kelly longer than anyone else here, including Dennis and my wife. In those terrible Social Darwinism years of Middle School, Kelly has the distinction of being the only- the only real live, human style- girl who was always nice to me.
And as a Nurse Practitioner, Kelly was there for us several times during my illness. In those sad, neutropenic times, I routinely would say to Kelly “I don’t want you to see me like this.”
And Kelly would always say “I’ve seen worse.” I always thought Kelly meant “I’ve seen worse cases of cancer.” But now that I’ve seen the pictures she’s shown, I realize she meant “I’ve seen YOU worse.”
And I have no idea how many other pictures from my Middle School years Kelly might posses so I just want to say tonight…Kelly, you are the nicest, kindest, warmest, most compassionate and beautiful person I’ve ever known…
Andrew DiAntonio – I’m glad to see you decided against the sweaty crotched stained basketball shorts and flip flops that was your Aldersgate employee “fashion.”
Andrew, our former Youth Minister. Andrew, I never got the chance to tell you before but you earned every penny the church hardly paid you. It’s funny timing- tonight- only yesterday we finally received all the parent permission slips for your last youth mission trip.
But, Andrew, we were so close. I thought I knew you. We worked so closely, planned confirmation together. We traveled together and slept together in Guatemala. We ministered together through some pretty tragic times. We knew each other well. And I’ve always been perceptive. I’ve always had really good radar (or so I thought).
I don’t know how I missed all the clues: the fake spray-on-tan, the fastidious man grooming and neatly trimmed beard, the man jewelry, the love of Jersey Shore, HBO’s Rome, the Cher poster in your office.
I don’t know how I missed it. And it makes me sad the church was never the open and affirming space where you could come out of the closet and let us all know that you were in fact…an Italian-American.
Tony Jones – Tony, I’ve never said this to anyone before but you are the greatest contemporary theologian in America. Or, as his wife says, Tony’s narcissism has prepared America for the Trump era. Speaking of his wife, you might not know that Tony trains and raises hunting dogs. It’s true. He gave it up though when his wife complained that you can’t mount Christian Orthodoxy on the wall nor can you grind it into sausages.
In case you didn’t hear it in his voice, Tony’s from Minnesota. Whenever you wonder how heartland, midwestern Minnesota goes blue every year just consider that Tony Jones is to the left of Garrison Keillor. Tony is my editor, publisher.
Just yesterday a number of you who’d pre-ordered my book forwarded me the emails you’d received from Amazon telling you that my book which released yesterday would get to you in February. It speaks for itself, Tony’s great at what he does.
And not just with me. I don’t want to spill any secrets, but Tony’s also the editor of other forthcoming titles like ‘Zika is Funny,’ ‘Gonorrhea is a Giggle,’ ‘Herpes is Hilarious,’ ‘Leukemia is a Laugh,’ ‘Testicular Cancer is a Tickle,’ and ‘Syrian Refugees are a Riot.’
(It’s a niche market.)
Finally of course there’s Dr. Dennis Wayne Perry, a man whose name will go down in history with names like Michael Scott, Gomer Pyle, and Roscoe Peco Train. I think I speak for everyone at Aldersgate when I say:
‘Huh, I completely forgot that worked here.’
Over the years, nearly every day Dennis has actually worked I’ve spent with him, which is to say: Holy Week.
I’ve known Dennis for over 20 years, and the only thing I think when I look at this man is ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’
Megan asked me in between breast-feedings, but why would I roast Dennis tonight and tempt the providence of God to afflict incurable cancer-stricken me as he’s afflicted this man?
Why would I tempt God 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.
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 Dennis Perry. I’ve worked with this man for 11 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, I should close tonight by honoring him.
Sure, what bankruptcies and sexual assaults are to the President-Elect, sabbaticals are to Dennis Perry but, I can assure you, this Rev works hard for you. Any one on staff can tell you, Dennis is 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 Hillary Clinton. Conceding?! When Donald and Brad Todd both sharted in their pants when they found out they’d won?
I can tell you Dennis Perry never concedes in the face of reality.
Here in the Beltway Democrats whispered for months that Hillary Clinton was too old to be President.
Nonetheless, 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 like Crooked Hillary.
And instead of closing tonight with a roast of him I should honor him. After all, Dennis interrupted one of his sabbaticals to come visit me when I was in the hospital and here he’s interrupted another sabbatical to be here tonight.
For that, 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- just ask our most recent Bishop.
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.
He doesn’t deserve for me to finish tonight with a roast of him. I tried to tell Megan but she was too busy open-air breast feeding their 14th son. I tried to tell Brad but he was too busy preemptively taking our civil liberties away.
I tried to tell them that Dennis Wayne Perry doesn’t deserve for me to rebut his roast. He’s a sensitive guy. He’s not Andreas Barrett sensitive, but he’s a sensitive guy.
Dennis has 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.
You all know how much I love Dennis, but you might not know that I harbor some unresolved anger towards Dennis Perry too. You see Dennis Perry wouldn’t perform my wedding to Ali, 10 or 12 years ago. I’m not sure which.
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 damp, sweaty 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 10 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 Megan should’ve asked me to close tonight by celebrating him for it not roasting 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 9/10 empty, and we all know that last third is always just backwash.
And yes, I know I 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 plus 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.
What really matters though is that Dennis was the first person I called when I learned I maybe, probably, had cancer.
What really matters is that Dennis was the first person who showed up.
And when you think that person is probably the person who’s going to do your funeral, you take a good, long look at that person.
What matters is that Dennis was there before I went into surgery. He was there with Ali while I was in surgery, and he was there for us for the 12 months of shit that followed.
And so were all of you. In different ways.
Some in ways I name in the book.
Others in ways I’ll name in the 2nd Edition (if you buy enough copies).
One of the arguments I make in the book is that Christians don’t have an explanation for suffering because any god that can ‘explain’ suffering and evil and tragedy isn’t a god worthy of our worship.
Christians don’t have an explanation for suffering.
We have a community of care.
That’s an argument I could not have made without all of you-
from Terri leaving beer on porch to Teer and Andreas and Karli showing up in my hospital room, to Mikey moving in with us, to James and Paul and LP driving me to chemo, to Megan and Libby organizing events like this to Andrew and Brad and Tony emailing with me and Jeff encouraging me. Shit, this has already gone on too long. I can’t name you all.
I’d dedicated this book to all of you, but then you roasted me.
So, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart: Go to Hell.