Faith and fun combine with pirates in Geraldton’s Funtavia show

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Comedian Paul "Werzel" Montague and Father Chris Bedding explore the wacky world of religion in their unique comedy show Pirate Church, only at Funtavia on February 9.
Camera IconComedian Paul "Werzel" Montague and Father Chris Bedding explore the wacky world of religion in their unique comedy show Pirate Church, only at Funtavia on February 9.

Father Chris Bedding may be hilarious on stage, but you won’t catch him cracking jokes during church services.

“When people visit expecting comedy they are surprised by how serious I take my work,” the Anglican priest said.

“In a comedy room the goal is laughter, but in church your goal is to almost become invisible so people are accessing the divine.”

Rector of the Darlington-Bellevue parish, Father Bedding is also an actor, activist and comedian, starring alongside “the King of Perth comedy” and Protestant Minister Paul “Werzel” Montague in the unique comedy show Pirate Church.

What started as a conversation about religion and comedy eight years ago quickly evolved into a pirate-themed show about the quirks and peculiarities of religious faiths, focusing on Christianity.

Featuring sea shanties, rum and a “sarrrmon”, Father Bedding said the show attracts a mixed bag of people, from the devoutly religious to the non-believers and a lot of pirate lovers.

“Most people have had some experience with religion, and a lot of what we’re making (jokes) about is shared experiences,” he said.

“In a sense it’s about human condition — it’s a bit dark sometimes, a bit snarky and occasionally even smutty.

“We do like to think it’s a pretty positive form of comedy; we laugh about being a human and all of our weirdness.”

Father Chris Bedding outside St George's Cathedral in 2012.
Camera IconFather Chris Bedding outside St George's Cathedral in 2012. Credit: The West Australian

Before his 10th birthday Father Bedding knew he wanted to be a priest, and he was ordained when he was 23.

Around 10 years ago he decided to take part in a RAW Comedy competition heat and has been in the Perth comedy scene ever since.

On the flipside Mr Montague started out as a comedian, performing his first stand-up routine while he was still in school.

After several false starts, Mr Montague now runs a church with his wife.

Although people are often surprised by their split roles, Father Bedding said there’s no reason religious practitioners can’t flex their funny bone.

“We laugh and we have faith and we don’t see those things as contradictory,” he said.

“Some religious people are really very serious and never swear, while some comedians are quite justifiably scathing about religious practices.

“We straddle both of those worlds; on the outside we’re making jokes but on the inside we’re laughing at ourselves.

“And religion is very silly; if you can’t laugh at that you’ll go crazy.”

The duo will perform Pirate Church at Funtavia, Geraldton’s Fringe World Festival Hub, this Saturday.

For those thinking of heading to the show, Father Bedding had one bit of advice: “If (your) approach to faith is to get offended all the time, don’t come to the show.

“It’d be better to stay home, have a cup of tea and read the Bible,” he said.

“But if you have a faith and are willing to laugh at the strangeness of it all, please do come along.”

Tickets to Pirate Church can be bought at www.funtavia.com.

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