This week, former pastor and author Rob Bell will begin taping his new talk show for The Oprah Winfrey Network, The Rob Bell Show. Bell, who left his Grand Rapids-based church in 2011 to pursue opportunities in Hollywood, has been no stranger to TV lately. in addition to being featured on an Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday talk show special, Bell has also recently been a guest on the TBS late-night comedy talk show, The Pete Holmes Show (the clip is featured below).
Here’s a look at six other times well-known pastors visited late-night comedy shows to discuss faith, culture and Jesus—as well as showcasing their own attempts at getting some laughs.
Joel Osteen on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Between megachurch pastor and author Joel Osteen and NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon, there was a lot of smiling when the two sat down for an interview on Late Night. Though Osteen visited Fallon to promote his book Break Out!, the conversation primarily consisted of Osteen providing his best attempts at stand-up jokes and funny late-night stories. Unfortunately, the visit’s most potentially interesting turn, when Rebel Wilson—who was seated beside the pastor—offered to provide Osteen with fresh jokes to deliver from the pulpit, was immediately shut down by Fallon (despite cheers from the crowd). We may never know just how awesomely uncomfortable this interview could have gotten.
Billy Graham on The Woody Allen Special
In 1969, actor and filmmaker Woody Allen hosted a variety show special, and among the various skits and segments, Allen conducted an extended, sit-down interview about God, morality and philosophy with evangelist Billy Graham. In the introduction to the interview, Allen calls the famed preacher, “A very charming and provocative gentleman. Whether you agree with his point of view or not on things, he’s always extremely interesting to talk to. I don’t agree with him on a great many subjects—there are a few we do agree on. But he is certainly the best in the world at what he does.” What follows is a funny, polite, sincere and good-natured conversation between two major cultural personalities—from totally opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum—engaging in a genuine dialogue that’s almost unheard of in the current era of talking heads, political shouting matches and sound-byte driven cable TV.
The Preachers of LA on The Arsenio Hall Show
The preachers behind the controversial reality show Preachers of LA recently visited Arsenio Hall for a late night “preach-off” showdown. Ironically, each got 30 seconds to deliver a sermon titled, “Life Is Not a Reality Show.” You can judge for yourself who the winners were.
Rick Warren on The Colbert Report
Back in 2008, Saddleback Church pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren appeared on The Colbert Report for an interview in which Colbert invited him “to explain to the kids out there that God does exists and God does love you.” Warren was able to present a concise, compelling, communication of the Gospel, adding, “He loves even Stephen Colbert.” To which Colbert replied with an ear-to-ear smile, “Oh, I believe that. Because He created me in His image, and I sure love me.” The interview is an interesting discussion of Biblical accuracy, fundamentalism, a “very friendly” God, purpose and eternity. You can go here to watch a video clip of the interview (which is not on YouTube).
Jim Wallis on The Daily Show
Sojourners founder, author and theologian Jim Wallis has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart multiple times since 2005 to discuss the intersections of politics, religion and activism. In this throwback clip from Jon Stewart’s early days on the Comedy Central staple (starting at 12:52 in the video below), the two discuss Wallis’ popular book God’s Politics. The discussion primarily involves the religious implications of the then current political issues, morality and activism. But in a more personal moment, Wallis tells Stewart (who is Jewish), “The Hebrew prophets used humor and truth-telling to make their point. Which I think you do very well. So maybe you’re one of the prophets.”
Rob Bell on The Pete Holmes Show
Comedian and host of The Pete Holmes Show, Pete Holmes, recently had former pastor and author Rob Bell on his late-night show (which airs after Conan on TBS) for a televised surfing lesson. Unlike some of his more polished counterparts, Holmes isn’t afraid to be goofy, a little blue at times and genuinely curious about real spiritual issues. Unlike many late-night appearances, though it’s laced with jokes, the pair’s discussion of spiritual authenticity, the real message of Jesus and being present is sincere and unscripted. (Just a heads up, the embedded clip contains some profanity and a few crude jokes.)
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.