Preaching Punchlines:
The Ten Commandments of Comedy

Waiting in the wings is an untapped power that can transform the craft of preaching. It isn’t studied or taught because it has been mistaken as trivial or simply the means to get a laugh. What is this ignored superpower? The art of stand-up comedy.

In Preaching Punchlines: The Ten Commandments of Comedy, Susan Sparks brings two decades of experience as a preacher and a professional stand-up to mine the strategies comedians have employed for years. Lessons include framing messages that people will listen to, remember, and share; finding your creative voice; building bridges and community; and bringing full authenticity in the pulpit. The art of stand-up comedy is not just about jokes; it’s about developing intimacy, honesty, and trust—three dynamics that must be present before any sermon is truly heard.

How many preachers ever think, ‘My congregation deserve joy’? But that’s the key question that Susan Sparks puts to us in this lively, practical and searching book, which will make seasoned(i.e. jaded) preachers think again and look at what is demanded of them in what ought to be the joyful role of communicating the divine comedy of healing and transfiguration.

Rowan (not Atkinson, alas) Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

It should be obvious that the Rev. Susan Sparks has a great sense of humor when she is asking me, a Jew, to write a few words about her new book where she tries to teach preachers how to infuse their sermons with comedy. She has done a wonderful job giving a road map to the clergy on just how to do it.   In lovely sweet and humorous lessons, she has done a wonderful job that is simple, direct and to the point.   She has given a road map to helping find one’s sense of humor and how to use it. From preachers to public speakers, its a book you’re going to want to read and refer to.  With what I’ve learned I just may show up preaching at a Church near you.

Lewis Black, comedian

A preacher with a motorcycle, cowboy boots, a wicked sense of humor and a heart that warms you like a huge southern style breakfast. That’s my pastor!

Tamron Hall, Broadcast journalist, and television host

”It’s no secret that a cross-section of American society regard stand-up comedians as the prophets of our day. A comedian’s capacity to speak truth-to-power, hold up a mirror of self-criticism, and make us laugh at the absurd is their true gift. As both comedian and preacher, Susan Sparks is neither ready to cede the centrality of the Gospel nor accept the conventional, dull Sunday morning pulpit sedative. Preaching Punchlines provides playful and practical exercises to enliven our sermons and thus finally awaken those in the pews.”

Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, Harvard Divinity School, Pusey Minister to the Memorial Church

The amazing Susan Sparks has come down from the mountaintop carrying two stone tablets with 10 comedy commandments just for preachers (there were 15, but unfortunately she dropped a tablet). Susan has beautifully distilled exactly how to bring more humor, warmth, joy, and impact to our sermons. This is the most fun book on preaching you’ll ever read!

Rev. Peter M. Wallace, producer & host, “Day1,” and author of “The Passionate Jesus” and “Heart and Soul”

Preaching Punchlines: The Ten Commandments of Comedy is Susan Sparks at her best in blending grace-filled faith and laughter. She reminds us that worship should be and can be a joyful experience. Preaching Punchlines is packed full of practical advice and words of wisdom about using humor to connect with congregations, embracing creativity in preaching, and framing sermons so that people will listen, remember, and share.

Pam Durso, Executive director, Baptist Women in Ministry Atlanta, Georgia

Susan Sparks is a beloved preacher and nationally known speaker thanks to her skill wrapping wisdom in humor. In her newest book, Preaching Punchlines, Susan — well — preaches what she practices!

Rabbi Bob Alper, Comedian and author

Susan Sparks is a refreshing voice of hope in a time of doubt and of humor in a time of angst.  While not denying the shadowy sides of life, her bright and bold perspective consistently helps us locate the Light.  A don’t miss read for preachers … and everybody else who needs a faith lift!

Dr. Michael B. Brown, author, minister, professor, speaker

Religion is too important to leave in the hands of the joyless. In Preaching Punchlines, pastor and stand-up comedian Susan Sparks teaches us to use laughter to shatter our defenses and open our hearts. This is a book for anyone who knows that laughter and love work best when they work together.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author, teacher and speaker