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Catholic Comedian Looks at Lent

What’s that “little black spot on your head today”? Comedian Nick Alexander, who bills himself as the “Catholic Weird Al,” tells the story in a new musical video set to the tune of the old Police song “King of Pain.”

Alexander, 39, is a convert to the Catholic faith, a standup comic, a keynote speaker and worship leader. He has three comedy albums in which he takes a fun but respectful look at the Catholic faith, with songs such as “Should I Stand or Should I Kneel.” A computer programmer by day, he lives in Stratford, Connecticut, with his wife, Maryellen, and their 2-year-old twins, Matthew and Holly.

As Ash Wednesday neared, Fathers for Good spoke to Alexander about those 40 days.

Fathers for Good: Your video makes Lent cool to a new generation. Was that your goal?

Alexander: I think this is the first time one of my outputs has been labeled “cool.” I’m probably the least cool person of all time. As I see it, I wanted to make a video that encourages Catholics of all stripes to take Lent seriously. But we also live in a culture that happens to thrive on humor, and I figured that if there was a way I could share about the challenges and joys of Lent in a funny manner, but did not cross objectionable lines, then people will get the message. As of this writing, it appears to be right on.

FFG: How did the idea for the video come to you?

Alexander: The process of writing parody songs is often like that of a dating service. In one corner, I have real cool ideas that I’d like to build upon, and on the other side, there’s the entire repertoire of pop radio to work with. Over time, I knew I had to do a parody about Lent, and I inadvertently made the connection with “little black spot” from the song “King of Pain” to be about Ash Wednesday. But the parody song took a long time to complete, to get it just right.

FFG: How long did it take to produce the video, from conception to completion?

Alexander: The video was done very quickly, all last month [January]. I hired two young filmmakers from Iowa and bought them plane tickets. They both understood the youth culture, but also were dedicated Catholics.

Before they arrived, they had listened incessantly to the parody song I had recorded, and e-mailed me as many ideas as they possibly could. And it was my job to corral as many volunteers as I could, while collecting props and securing permissions for some of the locations. The shooting took a non-stop two days, after which it took them a little bit longer to get the editing of the video completed.

FFG: Any other projects planned?

Alexander: I wish I can say I have a perfectly tailored schedule on completing every single one of my (30+) parody songs, but I really don’t. I’m taking it a step at a time. We did get some very decent concert footage, so I hope to craft a few more videos out of those moments. Other than that, I’ll be honing my standup skills, writing worship songs, growing in faith-knowledge, and wrestling with my children.

FFG: Your website says you are a “Catholic-Charismatic-Christian comedian/worship-leader/speaker.” What does that mean?

Alexander: I’m a Catholic Christian, with a fondness and experience within the Charismatic dimension of our faith. I’m a comedian (hence, the comedy), but I also do keynote speaking engagements for all groups, all ages, all types. And before I even ventured into comedy and public speaking, I was a worship musician, playing for liturgies, eucharistic adoration, and prayer gatherings – I’ll even be playing for a healing Mass on Fat Tuesday!

I’ve even composed quite a few praise songs myself, as the final song in every one of my albums attests. And my audiences often alternate between entire parishes, and youth/young adults.

FFG: You have three comedy albums. Is the Catholic faith that funny?

Alexander: To answer your second question, the answer is, unequivocally, undoubtedly, affirmative. Absolutely. YES. And I mean that in the most reverent, respectful, loving way – the way that a newly adopted son looks upon his family and sees all the blessings in store, even in the less perfect times.

My three comedy albums are: “A Time to Laugh,” “Eternal Life: the Party Album,” and “I Wanna Be Debated.” The first album has songs that sing of my experience entering the Catholic faith (which is why “RCIA” and “Should I Stand or Should I Kneel” have become standards there).

“Eternal Life” was my attempt to go a little bit deeper, with songs about desiring sainthood, holiness, and unity between all the denominations (the song “We Want to Stand United” stands apart as a primer on all Christian history in four minutes).

The “Debated” album is me at my most topical, and most relatable. Not only do I address Lent (“Forty Days”), but I also address relational evangelism (“Ichthus”), gluttony (“Salad Bowl”), and respect for the priests in our church today (“Priest”). All three are available on iTunes, and a link is available on my website, www.nickalexander.com.