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Making people laugh in the pews

October 17, 2009|By CHRIS COPLEY

You have to give Jonathan Richard Cring credit. The singer, songwriter and screenwriter has been on tour nearly 300 days, bringing original music and humor to an audience that Cring said is hurting for fresh material.

His audience? Small-town churches.

"I think people have abandoned the church as a center of creativity. We're bringing back a wave of that," Cring said this week by phone from central Pennsylvania. "We're trying to bring the blending of inspiration and entertainment. I think the two are inextricably put together."

Cring and his stage partner, Janet Clazzy, will bring their variety show to two area churches this week - Bethel United Methodist Church in Chewsville on Thursday and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Williamsport on Friday.

During their one-hour shows, Cring plays keyboard, sings and delivers his church-friendly comedy. Clazzy plays oboe and an electronic wind instrument - a synthesizer that plays 250 different instrument sounds.

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He said his show is not religious. It's about being human.

"I want people to be entertained. Above all else, I am an entertainer," Cring said. "Beyond that, I want them to think that God made human beings the way he wanted to. They were not accidental. We all have been dealt a certain hand. We can all make the most of it."

Cring said the context for his show is a three-chapter passage of the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus preaches to a large crowd on a hillside. Jesus' message is called the Sermon on the Mount and synopsizes much of Jesus' precepts.

"The church's message can bring people back to the roots, back to the Sermon on the Mount," he said. "The advantage I have is I'm not a theologian. I'm a screenwriter. So I play this innocent routine. I just say, 'These are these four things I hold dear.' What you get is a joyous response from the laity. The simpler you make it, the better."

In addition to bringing music and laughter to his audience, Cring said he wants to listen to people telling their stories.

He said many people don't see eye to eye with national political figures or TV-talk-show hosts, but they're afraid to be seen disagreeing. There's an expectation that church people should believe the same things politically as well as theologically.

Cring said his audiences appreciate his encouragement to be themselves.

"Being human is not a bad thing. It's not something that shocks God that we have needs and wants and desires," he said. "The key thing is that other people have needs and wants and desires. We die without the Golden Rule. Whether you're atheistic or Baptist, that is a function that keeps us sane.

"When I say that, I hear, like, a sigh of relief in the audience."

For more information about Cring, go to his Web site, www.jonathots.com.




If you go



WHAT: Spirited, a variety show featuring Jonathan Richard Cring and Janet Clazzy

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday Oct. 22

WHERE: Bethel United Methodist Church, 21006 Twin Springs Drive, Chewsville

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: Call 301-733-8387

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 23

WHERE: Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 35 W. Potomac St., Williamsport

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: Call 301-223-7260

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