As Easter approaches, some local production companies will likely present their own representations of Jesus Christ on stage in the coming weeks, with some being more Bible-based than others. But none will come close to resembling the pizza-snarfing, video game-playing Savior in Defiance Comedy's original sitcom Jesus Is My Roomie: Episode 4.
"I kind of just portray him as an every man, who is maybe a little bit of a slacker, but he just happens to also have this enormous responsibility," says Defiance Comedy cowriter and producer Corey Jefferson, who plays the Messiah in the production.
- Courtesy of Defiance Comedy
Here, the cast of Jesus Is My Roomie performs Episode 3: Pulp Scripture of the part scripted/part improv sitcom at The White Rabbit Cabaret.
The staged sitcom traces the lives of Ben (played by Zack Joyce) and J.C. -- a pair of B.F.F.s who also happen to be roommates. As this fourth episode unfolds (as the show's season finale), the Son of God is hit with some rather heavy news, putting a kink in the daily interactions between the two bros.
"For 30 years he just grew up like a normal dude, went to college, and ever since then he's just been eating pizza and playing video games," Jefferson says. "And then on his 30th birthday an angel appears, and he's like, 'My Lord, you're 30 now. We must begin your ministry.'"
And to add dramatic tension to the comedy, the Anointed one and his buddy are none too swift with their finances and have fallen two months behind on rent. Will it take a miracle to pony up enough cash to avoid eviction? You'll have to head to The White Rabbit Cabaret this Wednesday (March 25th) to find out.
Originally staged in 2012, Jesus Is My Roomie was Defiance Comedy founder Matt Kramer's first attempt at a live sitcom production. Back then, there was no intention of continuing with this style of shows. But thanks to the success of his quirky idea, the longtime comedian began bringing more sitcoms to the stage through the comedy group, including a second season of Jesus, as well as Mom and Pop's Porno Shop, Boyband! and more. Now years later, Kramer has returned to his initial Jesus series.
- Courtesy of Defiance Comedy
Typical of Defiance Comedy's brand of humor, its first performance of Jesus is My Roomie took the title Episode 1: Pilot.
Although the show is scripted, its biweekly, short-turnaround nature also leaves room for SNL-ish improvisation, which has made this season of Jesus Is My Roomie different than its 2012 debut.
Kramer says, "I like to think of it as two-thirds scripted and one-third improvised. So lines are never going to be perfect, but our audience seems to like that." Keeping to the nature of traditional sitcoms and their laugh tracks, viewers are also encouraged to add their own commentary into the mix as well.
"A lot of times we'll have someone holding up signs to get the audience to either clap or go 'Ow! ow!' when the hot character comes out," Jefferson says.
And while the primary character is J.C., there are no blatantly religious (or sacrilegious) statements made, (other than the fact he's a bit of a slacker). So Jesus Is My Roomie is a safe bet for anyone looking for a good laugh.
"We have devout religious people in there, and we have people who aren't religious at all," says Kramer, who attended Catholic school growing up, but admits he isn't very religious now. "Jesus Is My Roomie isn't a show about religion -- that's just the vehicle to get us there. It's a show about living in this world, and how even Jesus would struggle making rent and holding a job."
Kramer does, however, hope that each of his Defiance Comedy sitcoms can gain religious followings, just like any other show on TV would. He asserts, "My focus is on the patrons coming. I want them to block out that time as if this is [something they] can't miss." In the future, he would even like for Defiance Comedy to have multiple shows going at once, creating its own live TV network in a sense.
- Photos by Kelly Gualdoni
Clockwise from the top left: Luke McConnell, Anthony Nathan, Zach Joyce, Corey Jefferson and Rob Johansen comprise the cast of Jesus Is My Roomie.
While those attending this Wednesday's season finale may be jumping into Jesus Is My Roomie late in the game, they won't have any problem following the show. Its structure is similar to most sitcoms in that each episode's plot can stand alone.
"The characters are clean and clear, and the plotlines don't really run into each other," Kramer says.
Kramer and Jefferson just want audience members to come and enjoy the zany sitcom world they've created. "I hope it's just something they've never seen before," Jefferson adds. "I think we really have the opportunity to provide an experience that they're not going to get anywhere else."
For more information on Wednesday's show, visit The White Rabbit Cabaret website.