Because Silliness is Next To Godliness

For two formative years of my life, my favorite song was Monty Python’s “The Lumberjack Song”. I was 13 and the silliness of Monty Python would make me laugh till tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes and my head throbbed from the perma-giggle. I remember being stricken with silent, heaving laughter while watching the skit “How Not To Be Seen” on Python’s comedy show. We had a “best of” VHS tape and my brother and I would rewind that skit and the dead parrot skit and others over and over until our sides ached like we were cramping from dehydration. And Monty Python and the Holy Grail was, well, the holy grail of funny for us. All those scenes seem so campy now–the Knights who say “Ni”, the dismembering of the Black Knight, the vicious, murderous rabbit, and the Bridge of Death (answer me these questions three…)–but they were like human catnip in the context of our blindingly sincere household.

There was no sarcasm in our house, which I’m thankful for now. We had fun playing games and stuff but nobody in my family likes to make fun of others or to be made fun of. I guess you could say there was an overabundance of sincerity. I would never poke fun at someone else’s expense, but I also wound up taking myself way too seriously and it took me a long time to learn how to laugh at myself (and be laughed at). I got my education in sarcasm in college when cutting down peoples’ mamas was the rage and fraternity brothers frequently brought each others mothers into lewd conversation.

So, in the Goodgame family, unmitigated silliness was like sap from the tree of life. Silliness meant laughter, and even more, laughter that was utterly safe for human consumption, even inebriation! You could get drunk on silliness, you could roll around in silliness and bounce off the silliness walls and never get hurt, and more importantly, never hurt anyone else. And speaking of getting hurt, it wasn’t (always) about seeing someone get socked in the groin with a bowling ball. For me, the clever silliness was the true elixir. It’s why I loved The Smothers Brothers and The Muppets, and why for a few years there I could never get enough Ren and Stimpy. Flagrant, brilliant silliness moved me.

One more thin mint… it’s only wafer thin…

Last Fall, my unscrupulously silly friend, Brian Long, was driving me to the airport in Houston and we were laughing about “Tractor, Tractor” and how one of his kids was not old enough yet to get the joke. She kept getting mad at Andrew for getting the words wrong. For probably the tenth time, Brian asked why neither Andrew nor I had any interest in doing more with Slugs & Bugs, and I told him, “You know, I might be interested in developing it, but I don’t see myself as a clown, and I can’t see any other way to do it. The whole ‘Yuk, yuk, yuk! Hey boys and girls!’ thing just isn’t me.”

“Dude. Animated videos,” he said. “You don’t have to be a clown, get my buddy Scott to make you some cool animated videos and you can just be yourself. The kids will eat it up.” And suddenly, I began to see.

You don’t get many moments like this in life. I don’t know what it’s like to have cataracts, but I imagine that after living with them for years your sensory perception adjusts to the dysfunction. People who live with cataracts from birth have to learn how to “see” when the cataracts are finally removed. Depth perception, color contrast, facial cues–much of what their brain is trying to tell them goes untranslated for a time while they adjust to the new brightness and clarity. After Brian brought up the videos, I couldn’t articulate the revelation that was flooding into my brain, probably because I really didn’t know what I was seeing. After a time, I said something like, “You know, I think I could do that.”

Over the next few months, I prayed about it. I talked to Amy, I talked with Andrew, I sought advice from my brother. I wrote a slew of new S&B songs, always moving forward with it, though not really knowing what that meant. Then somewhere in those first few months, my eyes adjusted to the light, and here is what I saw.

I am passionate about songwriting.
I am passionate about the struggle to parent well and reflect the love and joy of Jesus to my family.
I am committed to the journey of experiencing all of life with Jesus, not just the churchy parts of life.
I love to encourage others toward that journey.
I love silliness.

With Slugs & Bugs all these things come together in a way that’s personally and artistically inspiring, that can provide for my family, and that I am perfectly suited to and well prepared for. In the words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Following in the wake of our original inspiration to serve both kids and parents, Slugs & Bugs will strive to provide excellent creative content for kids which parents will actually enjoy and look forward to hearing (think Pixar, but with music). Slugs & Bugs records will be the ones that (I pray) keep getting put back into the CD player because they’re artistic and fun and because they care about children more than the rules they can teach children. Where the Gospel shows up overtly, it will be in words simple enough for kids to grasp but potent enough to keep parents listening. Maybe deep and meaningful conversations will arise. I don’t think that’s too much to hope for.

As much as it seems a contradiction, most God-fearing parents I know have trouble talking to their kids about the Gospel. So many of us feel like such a failure at living out our faith that we stumble when we speak about it with our kids for fear of exposing our hypocrisy. Through the Slugs & Bugs records I hope to help chip away at that barrier by acknowledging the reality of our hypocrisy, and by reveling in the boundless grace we have in Christ–and by crafting great songs about camels and underwear and not getting eaten. By being both silly and spiritual, Slugs & Bugs will hope to entertain, but also provide a familiar and fun context for conversations about deeply meaningful things.

The next big project will be the Slugs & Bugs Christmas record (which has an accompanying children’s Christmas production for churches). And as so many of you have asked, yes, if he can find a window in his sincerely crammed schedule, Andrew will be present and accounted for. His absence in this process has as much to do with his busy schedule and my evangelistic fervor as anything else. As for the release of A Slugs and Bugs Christmas, with your help, (hear more about that next week) it will come out this November.

Of course, I still write music for us “big kids,” and I still do regular Randall Goodgame concerts here and there. In fact, last week in Houston I played a Slugs & Bugs morning concert and then a 7:30 p.m. Randall Goodgame show. But at least for this season, God has tuned my heart to resonate with families, and point kids to the light of the Gospel in a way that challenges me to be as silly as possible while communicating truth with great artistry.

How fun is that? It’s almost too good to be true, which is just like Jesus. And just in case there was any doubt left in my mind about God’s hand in all of this, September, October, and November are now all booked up with Slugs & Bugs Live concerts. If I take into consideration some of the comments from AP’s stirring series on money, that may be the biggest clue of all.

I can’t see the future, so I don’t know how long this richly inspiring season will last, but for today God has given me a vision for ministering to kids and families and it’s as clear as the skies on the moon. And I am so thankful.

For more info about the Slugs & Bugs Christmas production (think Christmas cantata that mixes super-silliness with sincerity and the occasional shepherd’s crook), click here.

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