Because Silliness is Next to Godliness

By

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 just can’t be a clown, and I can’t see any other way to do it. The whole ‘Yuk, yuk, yuk! Hey boys and girls!’ thing would just kill 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, (you’ll find out how you can help 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, yesterday 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.


28 Comments

  1. Tony from Pandora

    I’ve got my wife and three kids coming to see you in Columbus next Saturday. We’ve been looking forward to this for several weeks now.

  2. LauraP

    That Christmas idea — sheer brilliance! Can’t wait for the show in Omaha in November. Will be directing folks to this post so they can see what fabulous fun awaits.

  3. Becky

    We are really looking forward to the new CD and Christmas program. You are doing a wonderful ministry for families, RG. We also are grateful for your family, that they are willing to allow you to travel so much to share Jesus with other families.

    We are also planning on coming to the concert in Columbus. We’re driving 3 hours because a concert has not yet been planned in western PA.

  4. Dan Kulp

    Clan Kulp is heading to the show on the 25th. Getting 3 kids in the car @ 6am will be an adventure, but worth it.

    Is there any chance for the Christmas presentation package without needing RG? Basically can my tiny church buy and do the cantata without fighting onto your schedule?

    I guess we’ll find out more on monday. Thanks for your work.

  5. Word Lily

    I’ve told so many people about The Camel Song in the last month or so. I can’t do it justice because I’m laughing so hard the whole time, though! This is good to hear.

  6. JenniferT

    “Be as silly as possible while communicating truth with great artistry”…..you just hit on a big reason why I write children’s books. Thanks, Randall, and long live silliness.

  7. Jonathan Rogers

    Hey, RG–this is very exciting. It’s a blessing to be able to articulate one’s calling the way you have in this post. I know your work will continue to bless many people, little and big.

  8. Adam B

    You had me at “Gomer Pyle”…

    Awesome idea! Can’t wait to see/hear it. For some crazy reason, we just purchased Slugs and Bugs a few weeks ago. Our kids (2 and 5) bust a gut everytime. What a great record!! Can’t wait for more…

  9. Bruce Hennigan

    The camel song, the camel song.
    Hump, what hump?
    She turned me into a newt, not a camel.
    Great post. I have a poem somewhere framed but currently in a box since my wife and I have to readjust our home so my mother-in-law can live with us. It talks about all the wonderful accomplishments of life that many people regard as true “success” and then reveals that in a 1000 years all of those buildings and inventions and fame will be fleeting, but anything done to change and influence the life of a child– that has eternal value. Don’t turn your back on God’s calling in this regard. Our children are the future and they are God’s seedlings for His future work — Telling His story! This is why I am heavily involved with Kidstuf at our church instead of adult drama which I did for 15 years.
    Can’t wait to hear the new Christmas CD!!!! To Infinity and Beyond!

  10. RG

    These comments are filling my heart with joy.

    And yes, Dan, I’ve built it so you could totally do the Christmas program without me. Someone with a guitar around their neck would play my role, but they are all simple songs and easily attainable.

  11. RG

    Come to think of it, you wouldn’t even really need to play the guitar. We could adjust the track to include the guitar and my musical avatar could just sing the lyrics. Good question… thanks.

  12. Ashley Elizabeth

    Yes! I am joyous to see the Church come back to joy. His loving-kindness, for me, often shows up as laughter. I made the promise years ago that I would recount each night one thing that day which caused laughter. There are moments of great seriousness about our journeys, moments of great silence, great resolve. Thankfully, those days are few. I am resolved to laugh more, sing more, and let things like the Camel Song be a part of my soul.

  13. amy

    so much to love about what you shared. thanks, randall, for the post. i need to get my hands and ears on slugs and bugs now! and look forward to the christmas version.=)

  14. ashley b

    we are big time lovers of slugs and bugs at my house! my 20 month old son has gone to sleep every night and nap of his life to me singing “hey beautiful boy, mama loves you”(my rendition, hope you approve!) thank you so much for sharing your gift and willing to be used of God however He choses!!

  15. Danielle

    I officially need to hear Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies. I’ve already heard the one on Veggie Tales, and the other shockingly awesome silly songs you and AP wrote. SILLINESS RULES!!!!!!!!!! Considering you two are some of my favorite songwriters, it’s amazing that I haven’t heard it yet. I can’t wait to add it to the many CDs I’m borrowing from my older sister!!! 😀

  16. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    I’m so excited to crash the studio next week RG. Save a pirate “Yo ho ho” for me, will ya? I’m so proud of you for chasing this thing down. This post was inspiring, and got me so excited about all the good things that ought to come of this. Now to go watch some Monty Python…

  17. Ben Haley

    Thanks so much, Randall. I have heard you are coming to our town, St. Joseph, Missouri next month and we will be there with our two year old in tow. We are big fans of Slugs and Bugs and other projects on the way. Can’t wait for the show here. Take care and God bless.

  18. Allison

    This makes my heart glad, Randall.

    Until I read this I never realized that what I, too, experienced growing up was “an overabundance of sincerity”: I was an only child and found my laughter and silliness mostly in books, though I do have to admit I acquired a fondness for Monty Python in high school. I’m thankful for my husband, because he is a source of much goofiness in our house. We are quite the silly home, now, and sometimes my parents don’t get that. We’re always singing songs with made-up lyrics, and our kids have both loved Slugs and Bugs since birth.

    Thank you for bringing more laughter to the world, but also realizing that the joy of the Gospel is something parents need to share with their children as well. Christ has overcome! Let us be glad and rejoice in this!

    You wrote: “most God-fearing parents I know have trouble talking to their kids about the Gospel” and I would say that many also struggle with how to be humorous. I know we struggle with not being sarcastic around our children, because that is the humor we were used to being part of as adults. Silliness rules, and we always need more of this in our lives!

    Thank you, Andrew and Randall, for all that you do to share the gladness of the Gospel of Christ with the world!

  19. Tony Heringer

    I left the front part of the Lumberjack Song on Cherie’s answering machine when we were dating (I wanted to see her, so only the front half :-)). Great post dude, I hope to catch one of your ATL shows in Nov.

  20. MargaretW

    “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.”

    What kind of warped, twisted, household did you grow up in? Yes, I’m being cheeky. I mentioned this to my two boys (8 & 13) as they were pummeling each other and saying nasty things. Me: “Randall Goodgame grew up in a house where they didn’t do these types of shenanigans!” Them: “Huh?” and back to pummeling.

    How in the world did your parents do that?!

    I hear the news is positive for a Slugs and Bugs Christmas in St. Louis in November! Yay!

  21. J. Chris Wall

    This resonates with my heart so deeply. Thank you for articulating so well that desire to entertain from a place of innocent silliness. This kind of laughter is what I long for and is what leaves me a sense of redemption when it fades. Unlike the ugly sense of blah after so much of the current popular comedy. Godspeed towards the silliness!!!

  22. Randall's Older Brother

    MargaretW – There was no sarcasm in our house, but there certainly were two brothers occasionally pummelling each other. That’s what brothers do. The difference — if there is one — was that the pummelling was not because of sarcasm, it was because the younger brother was asking for it.

  23. Profile photo of Randall Goodgame

    Randall Goodgame

    @randallgoodgame

    My brother doth speaketh truth. I was a liar and a sneak and was occasionally pummeled. Probably not enough.

    Thank you all for the encouraging comments. Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, Nebraska and Tennessee – I’ll see you soon!

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