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Comedic timing: Paul Kerensa on his newest writing venture

Comedic timing: Paul Kerensa on his newest writing venture

Headlining our Comedy and Cheese event on 23 May, Paul Kerensa spoke about the importance of humour in faith and parodied some popular songs, giving them a scriptural interpretation. The set had everyone laughing. 

For those who were unable to attend the event, we've asked him to report why it was important to him to retell Biblical stories for a newer generation.

The Story Behind The Story

I’ve been a writer for about fifteen years… although define writer. I wrote my first word at, oh, about three-ish. I wrote a story about a rainbow when I was six, though I don’t think that it holds up (although it literally is held up, in a frame on my parents’ wall – come on, Mum and Dad, it’s not that good).

I wrote a play when I was sixteen, although it was more a collection of words printed on rough paper then handed out to some classmates. I sold my first joke to a radio show when I was twenty-one, and from there bumbled about the BBC for a decade or two, writing on sitcoms and entertainment shows.

A good story is a good story

I’ve been a children’s writer for just the last six months or so, with the two new rhyming biblical retellings: Noah’s Car Park Ark and Moses & The Exodus Express. But a good story is a good story – and those of Noah and Moses have endured for millennia. They’re origin stories behind three world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They’ve been retold in countless media, and like my first attempt at story-writing, preserved above my parents’ dado rail, one of them also ends with a rainbow.

I always thought a writer would just write one type of thing, whereas I’ve tried on lots of different hats, like Mr Benn, that children’s TV show I used to watch back at first-word age. It’s only recently that I fully noticed the sporadic nature of my back catalogue – because at the time, you just go where the wind blows, telling stories and jokes as you go. It was over a cup of tea with another writer – another Christian writer in fact, of novels. Like my earlier impression of the pro writer, he had just stuck to one thing: his magnum opuses (there is no way that ‘opuses’ is the Latin plural, but I’m sticking to it – writing is all about making up new words, surely). This novelist asked what sort of things I’d written, and when I told him, he replied, “Oh, you’re a hack.”

We like making sense of the world via a good old-fashioned story

Ouch. That hurt. I always thought that word was reserved for the dodgier type of journalist. Moi? Hack? I just like doing different things! He meant it jokingly (I think), but ultimately, whether it’s joke-writing, play-writing, or the junior writing that is very literally on the wall, it’s all about telling stories. We like making sense of the world via a good old-fashioned story. Our Netflix binges are just the latest in a long line, a descendent of Dickens’ serialised tales, and of stories told around campfires before anyone even knew how to hold a pen. (Did you know that in schools nowadays they sometimes tell children not to worry too much about handwriting, because they’ll all be on computers anyway? That’s another story...)

With my new books, I’ve set out to tell some old Bible stories in verse – I’m not the first to and I certainly won’t be the last. But when I popped into my kids’ school to read them to the class, I was surprised to discover that 80% of the five-year-olds there had never heard of Noah and his Ark, let alone Moses and the Passover or the Exodus or the bit with the staff/snake thing.

So there’s a reason, if we needed one, to keep telling these old tales. Stories endure, and ears still want to hear them. Just not the one on my parents’ wall about a rainbow. Noah’s one was better...

Paul Kerensa has authored Noah’s Car Park Ark and Moses and The Exodus Express with SPCK.

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