Holly Laurent: The Rise and Fall of Twin Hills on the Mega Podcast

Artists, Comedy, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, High Demand Religious Group, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace
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This week’s guest is comedian and writer, Holly Laurent. See her full bio and work here

Holly tells a bit of her story, growing up in a fundamentalist evangelical household. From the fear of demons to eternal conscious torment, Holly is still dismantling the indoctrination. In comedy, she’s found a way to express her “voice that always got [her] in trouble” as well as an accepting community, something she struggled to find in the church.

Her podcast Mega has a new five-part mini-series parodying the downfall of an infamous Mars Hill pastor. Episode 1 of “The Rise and Fall of Twin Hills” drops May 21. It’s going to be a crazy ride!


Holly’s site

Mega the Podcast



“Sometimes laughter helps during certain types of hurt, and sometimes it doesn’t.” 

“I speak English and I speak Evangelical…”

“Nobody listens when you’re on a soapbox, but if you can make someone laugh, it can be really disarming…it opens up the possibility that there could be some reciprocity.” 

“I may be in the messy part forever.”

“My healing, my path is not linear. I feel like it’s more shaped like the milky way…”

“I see a lot of similarities between ‘preaching and teaching’ and performing.”

“The word that, I think, really defined the first three decades of my life is…fear.” 

“I think real love is a lot like truth, it liberates, so I’m trying to get better at recognizing cages.”

“If I can make you laugh, you’re in the palm of my hand a l little bit because at the very least, you’re listening…”

“Comics are supposed to be the truth-tellers.” 

“I want comedy to be my higher power.” 

“If having to be more intentional with our language and our content is what’s required at the moment, great! That’s a new challenge.”

“…the cognitive dissonance of trying to maintain and push a narrative of a god that’s both an authoritative, genocidal dictator and also have it be ‘the most loving, the most incredible love that you’ve ever had in your entire life!’”

“Everyone played their part perfectly so that I could play the game. The Church and my parents, everyone…they believed it so deeply that I did…”

“One of my biggest indictments of Middle American Christians is that they are theologically illiterate; they do not know what’s in their book and I do.”

“I think that’s what all these ‘Jesus and John Wayne’ dudes are…big man-children.”

“I don’t need and want love. I am love. I have love. I am this love.”

“What improv and comedy taught me is that deep, active, conscious listening is a posture and willingness to be changed.”

“Love yourself and be love, rather than need love…and we’re going to make things better!”


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios Podcast Network. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my Patrons for supporting the podcast. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at patreon.com/graceful atheist. If you're in the middle of doubt, deconstruction, the dark night of the soul, you do not have to do it alone. Join our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous and become a part of the community. You can find us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion

This week's guest is Holly Laurent the mind behind mega the podcast mega is revealing a brand new series that is absolutely out of this world. Mega is an improvised satire in the world of a fictional mega church, and they are releasing a comedy investigative miniseries inside the world of their own show called The Rise and Fall of twin hills. The Rise and Fall of twin Hills is a hilarious riff on the self important truth seeking that happens around church scandals and the twisted psychology of those who are inside them. This mini series is chock full of ridiculous scandal put it this way. If you think that the real megachurch pastor improprieties we've seen over the last few years are bad. Get ready for the outlandish high jinks of Pastor Steve Judson. If you're a fan of parody and satire or a comedic take on what it's like to be in the middle of deconstruction, then go check out mega and their new mini series that comes out May 21. The first episode of the mini series The Rise and Fall of twin Hills is out now go check it out. You can find them on Apple Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show. My guest today is Holly Laurent. She is the comedic mind behind mega the podcast. Mega parodies the experience of the evangelical world with heart compassion, and satire at the same time, Holly's brand of comedy and her words is doing comedy at the height of her intelligence and connecting with the audience on a deep level. Holly is one of those amazing people who can use comedy to communicate to break down barriers to get past people's defenses because she's being honest and raw in that comedy. You're gonna hear that now in this interview, that Holly brings the self honesty to the table. That is what makes her such a great communicator. Here is Holly Laurent telling her story. Holly the rot Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Holly Laurent  3:16  
Very happy to be here. This is my favorite stuff to talk about. And I don't even know what your questions are. Yeah.

David Ames  3:25  
Well, for like the two people listening to my podcast who don't know about mega, can you give them the introduction to your podcast?

Holly Laurent  3:33  
My podcast is a comedy and it's called mega and it is an improvised satire from the staff of a fictional megachurch, where we parody the power powerful systems and structures in place in terms of the what I consider kind of corny and cheesy mega world backdrop. Yeah, and and every single episode, we have a different comic who comes on and plays a different person who exists in that world. And we it's and we just improvise together and find a lot of really fun stuff. We laugh a lot. And one of the most interesting things that has come about from this podcast is it has brought me into a really delicious world of really wonderful people of you know, X van Jellicle 's and people who are deconstructing and like a really lovely supportive community that I was not even aware of before my podcast and which is really really lovely and it's sort of surprising to us at Mega that we have the audience we do because I think half of our audience is is kind of Christians who I don't know are probably like We're the cool Christians we can laugh at ourselves. We I'm not sure I'm not sure what they're thinking. But and and a lot of people who find themselves on the other side, people who have moved to being evidence based people and Have faith based people or however they describe themselves. So, um, I think, yeah, we have, the feedback I hear a lot is that so many people find it to be incredibly therapeutic to be able to laugh about some of this stuff. And you know what, sometimes I hear from people who are like, I go through periods where I can't listen to my gut because I don't find it funny. And if I'm hurting, sometimes it sometimes laughter helps during certain types of hurt, and sometimes it doesn't. And so we actually have our Patreon episode that comes out every week is called a mini. So we have the mega and we have the Mini and in the Mini, we just play ourselves, we are ourselves, we're not playing characters, and we kind of deconstruct all the ideas that our characters are we're wrestling with in terms of content that comes on the weekend episodes of purity culture, or scandal in the church and how people of faith navigate that, but the way we approach it is that we it's very Christopher Guest in its tone, I guess. It's very much like a mighty wind or Bastien show or a show like that. We're, we're playing to the top of our intelligence and sincerely playing characters, who are deep believers, and I believe we're playing them very lovingly, and we're really humanizing them. And we're exploring that point of view that me and my co host Greg grew up with, I really got it hammered. Hammered. It got hammered home, to say the least. And so I use my bilingual. I speak English and I speak evangelical. Yeah, I use my my by link quality. I think I made up a word to, to just create a specific backdrop that is really fun. comedically, you know, a lot of like, more specificity kind of creates, like a universality in terms of comedic language. So yeah, we have, we have a really good time with it. And I've enjoyed playing both sides of being the believer exploring that point of view, in a comedic way that, at the very least, makes people laugh, or hopefully even might help people. And it's really for us, I come from a tradition of improv and comedy where the, the way I believe the best way to make a statement about something or the best way to create a conversation is to be the thing that you have commentary about. And because nobody really listens when you're on a soapbox, but if if you can make someone laugh, a lot of times it can be really disarming. And then you're actually listening or opens up an opportunity for there to be some reciprocity or kind of a, an open, open dialogue. And I really don't have any interest in punching down at believers and taking swipes at individuals. I really, I really am kind of a I agree with. Oh, man, what's his name? I'm having a pothead moment. George Carlin. Yes, I really agree with George Carlin that like I love people, I don't like groups. And so I'm not I'm not punching down at any individuals in any way, shape, or form. I'm really intently, intentionally punching up at the power structures that really do kind of seek to control people and to oppress people. And that I really believe these systems cause deep harm, some harm that is becoming known to some and some harm that is not even detected at this point, which is really insidious. And so that might be placing a lot of responsibility on to a half hour comedy, but yeah, but seriously, that's where I am.

David Ames  8:52  
Yeah, my drop, we're done thanks.

I want to circle back to a lot of things that you just said. But I really do first want to hear just a bit about your personal story. What was like for you, as a believer when you really were a believer and growing up and so and then maybe lead us through? When the doubts came and what that was like for you?

Holly Laurent  9:25  
I really always struggled. It's hard to say because of revisionist history and memory being very, not trustworthy.

David Ames  9:38  
But honest about that fact. Yeah. Yeah.

Holly Laurent  9:41  
But you know, like, every time you revisit a memory, it's like you open up that folder, make some notes, cross out some old stuff, make some changes and put it back on the shelf and that memory keeps evolving through time. And I keep changing I mean, I'm, I'm always changing like if we had this conversation on a different weak, I'm positive, the conversation would be very, very different. Yeah. And I'm really in that messy. And I may be in the messy part forever. I never have felt like, ah, Hive, like, like a long jump you where you land in the sand and you're like, ah, that's where my feet are. Mark those two footprints that is me now it's all over. Yeah, I really, I really feel like my healing. And my path is not linear. I feel like it's more shaped like the shape of the Milky Way galaxy where it's just kind of a swirling thing with like, arms that shoot out, and then it comes back into the center and then shoot out again, and just a swirling kind of mass. That's what I feel like emotionally and intellectually. But the way I can describe to the best of my ability, my memory of having grown up with a very, I was in a high demand, religious environment in terms of sort of a fundamental evangelical culture. Both of my grandfather's were pastors, my so both my parents are preachers, kids, I'm a preacher's kid. My dad is currently the pastor of a mega church, but used to be an itinerant evangelist that was traveling around the country bringing the Good News of the Gospel to high school assemblies and mega churches and county fairs and you name it. And before that my parents had one of the first ever Christian rock bands. And so they in their day were considered very edgy and controversial. And, you know, should you be singing about Jesus? And it sounds like the Grateful Dead? Is that a problem? It was a problem for a lot of Christians. So my parents were kind of considered I think, yeah, some like for runners in the evangelical movement that has brought us well, Trump frankly, that that's all I do blame them emotionally. But yeah, they were kind of at the beginning of that like hold Jesus movement and you know this countercultural Geez long haired Jesus dude who loves you, like you've never been loved before. And a lot of their generation I think, really needed to feel some kind of that love. They came from parents who didn't talk didn't touch didn't affirmed in anything. And man were they just starved for love, at least my dad was. And he that that message really gripped him and transformed his life. And now it really feels almost like a love addiction or something. Really trying to know how to best navigate navigate this relationship now based on where I've come. And until a few years ago, maybe five years ago, I wasn't even like publicly speaking about what I believed because I was so afraid they would hear it.

David Ames  12:57  
Right? Do I have this right that you actually traveled with your dad at one point when he was doing the itinerant preaching?

Holly Laurent  13:03  
Yeah, like, as a kid, I would go on the road with him a lot. Because if I didn't, we would never see each other because he just that was his, like, kind of full time thing. So like, in summertime, like if he was going to be the chaplain at like a youth group, you know, summer camp, he would take me along for the week, and I would be wandering around the, you know, camp, looking at all these like Christian Church kids, you know, go to chapel every night and learning canoeing during the day. And I got a perspective of both sides of the curtain. You know, my father being a human being behind the curtain, and then being this really charismatic, storyteller, counselor, communicator. People really, really responded to him. And so I watched the power of that performance. I think it's probably it sounds crude for me to call it a performance but like, at its deepest essence, I just don't think it's, you know, an accident or it's a coincidence that I also became a performer because I see a lot of similarities in it in terms of preaching and teaching and, and performing.

If I had to really sum up, I am a, an extremely highly sensitive person, just very, very, very sensitive. So a lot of the messaging I was hearing there was all the love of like, it's a love like you've never known. It's a perfect love. It's an unconditional love. All of that I was getting that but it didn't matter as much as all the messaging of simultaneously demons and eternal torment of Hell, and what I grew up believing was reality, which was my entire reality was based on God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, and the stakes were fucking high. Because it is all eternity. I mean, I remember as a kid just wishing, like why couldn't? Why couldn't he just like, annihilate us? Like just pure annihilation would be compassionate, you know? Like, why do I have to be an eternal torment and gnashing my teeth for all in all eternity infinity, a sideways eight, that's forever of gnashing teeth for how will I have teeth left, you know, like a little kid mind was just so terrified. And the word that really defines, I'd say the first three decades of my life was fear, just just so. So afraid. So, so, so, so afraid. And all of that, you know, to this day has been stuck in my gut and my hips. And I'm having to do a lot of work now, like physically and in terms of embodiment, and realizing that I have completely dissociated from my body because it was so sinful, and dangerous and tempting and going to drag me straight to hell. And so I didn't enjoy. I didn't enjoy it. Yeah. Oh, my God. Pleasant. Yeah. No, I because I was so I'm creative, and imaginative and sensitive and emotional. So like, every time I had night of sleep paralysis, which was a lot like I had so many nightmares and stuff, but I would get sleep paralysis, and I really thought they were demonic attacks, right? I could feel like a huge, like, you know, demonic Talon coming out of the sky, the size of my body and putting its point into my mouth, like during a during a sleep paralysis episode, and I watched my dad cast out demons, as a kid with eyes rolled back and foaming at the mouth and guttural noises. And it took me well into my 20s. Before I was like, oh, people have seizures at music shows. And that is the sound of a grand mal seizure, not a demon that is responding to the powerful name of Jesus being spoken in its presence. So there was a lot of there was a lot of there is still a lot of dismantling of a lot of reactivity that I think I have to all of that. It's really hard sometimes to have a compassionate and understanding view of someone who is still in the church and experiencing it as a good thing. Because to me, it feels like, oh, that abusive relationship I used to be in where, you know, they seem to be beating the shit out of me all the time. What like, well, I guess they're being good to their new girlfriend. You know, like, yeah. Yeah, so there's a lot of cognitive dissonance, like all all of us who've kind of been through that stuff.

David Ames  18:01  
You know, several things, you know, pop out of just that discussion. One is that I think, adults Christians, I say that it's not that they take Christianity too seriously, it's that they don't take it seriously enough. And what you're describing is, as a child, you are taking it literally and seriously. And experiencing the trauma from that. And I think adults are able to compartmentalize and, yeah, you know, like, we believe this, but, and a child is not right, the child's getting the main line of that and experiences the full brunt of it. And children suffer from that. And it sounds like, you know, unfortunately, that this was pretty painful for you.

Holly Laurent  18:42  
It was and the hard thing about that, too, is that that's, that's just going to be an individual journey, because there's really no telling them or helping them understand that. I'm just a, I'm just a stark, raving liberal feminist who's pissed right at a, at a really lovely program, you know, in their mind, and that's okay. It's also like, same thing, you can't control the narrative after a breakup. Yeah, their friends are gonna think you're an asshole and your friends are gonna think they're an asset. You know, it's like,

David Ames  19:19  
yeah, that's a good analogy. I like that, actually. Because that's, yeah, that's very close to the reality. Yeah.

Holly Laurent  19:25  
Yeah. So I think yeah, there's so much work to be done and I'm always doing it

I had a friend recently tell me that she was talking about in her relationship, her partner is sort of ruminating and talking about her parents all the time, and the the abuse and the destruction and all of that, and as I was listening to my and describe that I was like, Oh, is that me? And then I, and then I was watching a rerun of succession recently. Do you watch succession?

David Ames  20:10  
You know, I haven't yet yeah, no, I'm familiar with it. But oh, it's so good.

Holly Laurent  20:16  
I really like it. It's but but there was a, it's basically like a parody of the Murdoch family, you know, controlling like conservative news and being like horrible, horrible people. And actually, that is like damaging the earth and like creating real, real problems. It's not just damaging humans is damaging the entire planet. But but there was a scene that stuck out to me when I was watching it recently to where the eldest son of Rupert Murdoch, of the Rupert Murdoch character was in a new relationship with a woman and she said to him, you talk about your data a lot. And I was like, Huh. And I've noticed that because my friend who, who I was discussing this with was like, I think that thing that you're ruminating about all day long, that is sort of like running your thoughts, and running the programming in your mind. That's your higher power. And I'm, like, interesting. Yeah, I really, I'm really working on changing my thoughts now being more intentional, trying to be more mindful, and looking for ways to continue to liberate myself. Because I do think the the message of the Gospel according to most Christians is love. But since I didn't experience that, then I want to do a breakdown of what love is. So what is love? Because if, if, if, if the story they gave me of what love is, really created some harm. Let me return to what love is, then because what is it and it might be a different definition for every single person who describes it. But there are certain things I believe to be true about love. And one is that I think real love is a lot like truth in that it, it liberates it, it liberates. And so I'm just trying to get better at recognizing cages. And, and, as a kid, I remember having real infinite thoughts, at least to me felt like bigger thoughts than the limitations of our own per sections in our in the language that we speak. Like, I remember, as a kid, when I learned the alphabet, I was like, Okay, that's interesting. Now I know, 26 of them, I can't wait to learn the rest, because I figured it went on into infinity, right? Like, like the way they say color does, like, but we, but our ability to see it stops at violet. So we essentially can see three colors and their variations. And we think that's it. But it goes on, and on and on and on and the spectrum. And I remember my brain being like that. I remember, I remember, our neighbors had kittens, and we were playing with the kittens. And they were like, this one's a girl. This one's a boy, this one's a girl. And I remember having the thought, that's weird that they're all only boys and girls. Yeah, because I figured that gender went on forever. Right? Right. And why would there only be two of all the you know, and, and, and then I remember those outside forces of socialization and education, coming in, and immediately limiting my ability to think and speak and everything became about limits. And I think the limiting nature of Bible based teaching. And I mean, if you really start, I think if you really start to break it down, it's it's everywhere, like I at one point, in terms of a high demand religion, discovered that the Cage had never been locked, and that I could push the door open. And I could come out. And I think for a long time, I pushed the door open. And I would come out in short, little stents and little experiments and then go back in Yeah, at least sleep in there at night. Until the day when I realized, like I, I can run, I can just run and be free and never go back to that cage. But I look around and I'm like, oh, man, if you start breaking it down, and this is kind of why I want to go get my PhD in linguistics, because I really think there's that that at its essence that so much of our human angst is because of the limitations of the language we speak and our ability to think and the the ways in which we believe lies and we stay trapped and caged. Because if you look everywhere, the cages are everywhere. It's like oh, late stage capitalism. Cage. Yeah, our education system can cage like, policing that is a cage. Like there's so many of us. I remember having that thought as a kid. I remember thinking about money and being like, I think money is the problem, like money because everything revolves around money, like money is the actual problem. And then I grow up into this day. I'm like, yeah, that is still the absolute problem. That's the problem. Anytime a good movie gets made, it's despite the money people not because of the money people. It's just, I know, I'm like, really? I don't hear a

David Ames  25:35  
couple things. One, like, please go get your PhD in linguistics, I think I think you're on to several things there. You know, there's there are those theories about even just speaking multiple languages, that you have a different perspective on things, I think there's definitely something there about being a human being and being trapped in language.

I do want to hear though, about, you know, in your 20s, you're recognizing that it was about fear, or maybe in your 30s. And you're able to go out out of the cage for a little while, like, what was that experience? Like, you know, what were the things that let you be free that led you escape as it were?

Holly Laurent  26:18  
Honestly, I owe a debt of gratitude to comedy, I would say comedy. Well, I found myself in a little improv theater in Chicago, where I started to feel community connection and acceptance, belonging, you know, I'm just going to every improv class I can take and getting jumping in every show I can. And I remember distinctly, in the beginning of my life in comedy, I remember thinking, I can't really be cast out from this. And that was a big fear that lived inside of me with imposter syndrome and all of this stuff within Christendom. Of, of I always was like, Oh, I'm a pervert. I'm disgusting, because I'm thinking things. I'm not supposed to think I'm longing for things I'm not supposed to long for oh, no, I'm a disgusting, wretched pervert. And, and I'm going to be found out I'm going to be cast out. I mean, think about it, the very first story, I mean, besides Eve, acting on her own will and then not just destroying everything for her but for all humankind forever. Not just that story of a beginning. But even predating that story is Lucifer who reading Paradise Lost recently, I was wondering if Lucifer is actually a sympathetic character, because yeah, to to question absolute authority is a good thing. And, and to demand absolute authority with annihilation as the only other option. Well, again, annihilation would be kind, compassionate. And again, why why a huge question I have is why why not destroy Lucifer, and all of the fallen angels. And what I also discovered for reading Paradise Lost recently is that most of our ideas of Satan and the devil are actually from Milton and not from the Bible, there's actually very little in the Bible. And, and I kind of, I kind of, I'm related to Lucifer in Paradise Lost when better to better to reign in Hell than to be a slave in heaven. Like, that idea is really interesting. And I think there's a cool conversation to have there. And honestly, it's always been my natural bent. I'm very anti authoritarian. People tell me it's because I'm Aquarius. I don't know enough about all that shit to speak to it. But, but I have I've always been very my mid and that's just, I don't know, I don't even know what personality is per se, but it's always been. My natural instinct is to if you're my boss, if you're a cop, if you're in charge, or whatever, my natural instinct was always to be like, fuck you. Yeah. Like, and, and so.

David Ames  29:09  
I have not been terribly good with authority figures either. So yeah, right.

Holly Laurent  29:12  
Yeah. I'm like, and not that I want to be one. I just don't want to live in your fucking cage. So I, yeah,

David Ames  29:24  
couple things. I'm gonna jump in here and just say we recently had a guest, Audrey, I think it was who talked about for her the deconstruction was deconstructing the devil? It reminds me of your story, and not like, you know, demons were very real in our growing up faith tradition. And it wasn't until she said, Oh, the devil is not real, that it wasn't God that wasn't real. But it was the devil being not real that her deconstruction process began and in earnest at that point, and so I think that's interesting that that that parallel with people who grew up in a more charismatic environment that it's just recognizing that oh, wait, this is kind of a story. You know, this isn't actually All and then being able to yeah, go and move forward.

Holly Laurent  30:03  
I relate to that. I think that was a big part that was a big Jenga piece that when removed helped the topple go down quicker. Same for me was Audrey I think it was I remember two things in college when I when I discovered that people in charismatic sects of all world religions speak in tongues. I was like, hold up. Hold the fuck up. Yeah. Wait, what? And even like in satanic, I even learned that in satanic rituals. They speak in tongues, and I was like, Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, like that was a huge moment for me where I was like, Oh, wait, is this from the inside out? And not from the outside in? Because otherwise, the Holy Spirit is working with Satanists? And, and also, yeah, I had a philosophy professor handed me a book called The Myth of Satan and asked me to write a paper on it. And I was like, offended by the very title. Yeah. And but yeah, that was a big one. That was a really, really, really big one.

David Ames  31:00  
Yeah, interesting. Since I'm here thinking about I think it might have been Stacey and not Audrey, but credit to both of them. Interesting idea.

I do want to segue to comedy. And then first just introduce myself to you like I was the kid of my grandparents had HBO when I was way too young watching Richard Pryor and George Carlin you've already mentioned, and we're Robin Williams, and, you know, some of these early guys and you know, comedy was just built into my life all of my best friends from growing up is because we would just cap on each other the you know, like that we like we showed love by tearing each other apart incessantly. And so comedy has always been beloved to me. And I think that satire is such a deep way to communicate the subtleties of being a human being and, and so I find what the work that you're doing both as improv and satire, super fascinating and that you said it already earlier that it is a way to get beyond people's defenses. So I want you to just talk about what was comedy like for you? How did you get introduced to it? And like, when did you start to do improv?

Holly Laurent  32:18  
I was forced into improv in college because of an acting class I was in where the, my, my teacher had just done a Paul Sills workshop over the summer and brought back improv to our college campus and was like, we're gonna be doing improv this semester. And I was like, oh, no, I hate that. And then I was so scared of it just because I had such crushing low self esteem. And everything in improv is you and so I did was so afraid of being judged for anything that came out of my mouth. And so of course, having to face that drag. So I moved to Chicago because I kind of thought of it as the sort of Mecca of improv at that time, definitely, like long form, was really having its kind of punk rock heyday, when I was in Chicago, so I signed up for every class I could and just was like, Okay, let's face this fucking dragon. And then, of course, in so doing, I discovered my little inner weirdo, my little comedic voice, that I had been telling to shut up for a really long time, because I thought it was the unacceptable side of me. It took me about 10 years, I remember, I was working at the second city, I improvised every single day and did every single show and class and tour and everything I could for a decade in Chicago, and finally got to the national touring company of the Second City. And then within three months of that got put on the mainstage cast, and then was able to write and run three different reviews for three years on the main stage where I was doing eight shows a week, six days a week, my absolute dream, like Please Don't pinch me, I never want to wake up. And it was inside of that, where I was improvising every single night and being paid for it and having equity insurance at the time was so and it was somewhere in an in an improv set. Where I was in a an, I was in a scene with one of my best friends in the whole world, Edgar Blackman, and we were improvising. And I felt this thing come from my deepest, deepest waters. And it came it was a sensation that came up inside my body. That happened simultaneously to a big laugh that I had just got from the room. And as I felt that really big laugh. I felt it affirm that deepest voice of like I realized that that laugh had come from me being in flow and unconscious. and allowing my little inner weirdo to speak. And that's when I stopped trying to improvise. And I just started allowing myself to drop into that flow better and not do it like him or her them. But me, and and that voice the voice inside of me that was always going to get me in trouble. And so I had to keep it under such lock and key speaking of cages, when I kind of started to let her out, I think that began the transformation inside of me that I guess I could call healing. I struggled to call it healing, but just changing, transforming, becoming, allowing myself to become the creature that I am. I guess that sounds sort of highfalutin, in a way, that's

David Ames  35:57  
your word progress. Yeah. Why for more

Holly Laurent  36:00  
progress, rather than the thing? I thought I was supposed to be all the shoulds which are should just equals suffering. Yeah. And so and so you know, there's lots of like, with comedy, I think. There's so many interesting things like the live comedy is my favorite, because it's a little bit like being on a surfboard waiting for the sets of waves to come in you. You're improvising, like in stillness, stillness, stillness, but you're watching, like, the waves. The waves that come to a surfer, are very similar, I think, to the waves of laughter that come to comic. And so you start to read those waves and figure out how to manage the plastic water at when do you want like little ripples? And then when do you want the big ones? And do you have the patience and guts to stay flat for a while to get a way bigger, more satisfying wave? Or do you want to? So all that stuff is really fun for me of like, tinkering around with like, what is funny? What is improv funny? What is sketch funny? What is film funny, what is live funny? What is funny, that works the next night. What is funny that only works in that one moment that I think that comedy The way it's interesting because I've I've done a lot of research into why a lot of men think women aren't funny, and so much of it is like a deep unconscious. A lot of people think that laughter is there's a primal thing that happens. When we are laughing together, we're showing each other our teeth, which is a very like primal animal thing, when you show your teeth to each other. And that there might be something that is happening intrinsically in. Because we've all been raised in such a misogynistic and patriarchal society, like there's something where men really don't like that, if I can make you laugh, essentially, in that moment, I have controlled your body in a way you're a little bit out of control that like, like, that was a like surprise and a physical response that was out of your control. So maybe you don't want a woman controlling you in that way. Or maybe you only want a female to be, I don't know, fucking sexy and alluring or whatever. And comedy feels like it's too much of a leadership role in the moment or whatever. But um, but I, I think what's happening is, if I can make you laugh, you, you're in my head in the palm of my hand a little bit, because at the very least, you're listening, which is the main thing that no one is doing now in our like, highly divided times. And I have learned through incredible failure, I have learned that as you're reading those waves of laughter and you're timing those out and figuring like what ones to ride and how to keep moving the room that a conversation starts to take place, this reciprocity of ideas, and it's a time where you can slip in, you know, comics are supposed to be the truth tellers, like just pointing things out shining a light in that dark place, shining a light in that dark place. How do we feel about this? Doesn't this seem kind of bizarre? And I think the the really interesting thing to me, is when the audience gives you the nose, the laughter a lot of times is yes. And the like, ooh, the grunts and groans and the hisses are our nose. And I'm, I've learned to now always look for those nose because I'm like, oh, okay, now we're getting to something like that. Okay, why don't you like that? And what I've learned is once you get those No, no, no, no, not they're not there. No, no, no, you back up, motherfucker. I I've learned I've learned that when they tell me to back off of something, that I've found an important thing. And so I don't often push past that point. But then I start to dance on that line and be like, well, then here's where let's then let's talk about this. What else is here? Yeah. Because yeah, I think the goal is that you leave a comedy show, feeling a little less alone and maybe a little less caged.

David Ames  40:38  
Don't want to get into too deep of water skier, but I am interested in your opinion on you know, I think comics today talk about they kind of complain that they can't make certain jokes. And I think you're right, that there's an element of comedy, that is to say the thing that is uncomfortable for everyone to hear, and a bit of truth telling. And so how do you balance that for yourself? Like, like you say, maybe not crossing the line, but going up to it?

Holly Laurent  41:04  
Yeah, it's a tricky time. It's a really tricky time. Because, you know, in the same way, the stock market has to reset itself. So does comedy, you know, like, and speaking of prior, like, some of that content is so harmful.

David Ames  41:19  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No, yeah, I've served basically everyone I mentioned are super problematic and 2023 eyes. Absolutely.

Holly Laurent  41:26  
Definitely. And I talk about this all the time with a lot of my friends in comedy have like, huh, like, you remember how I used to start this? That one set? Yeah, I wouldn't use that word anymore. You know, like, like, yikes. And I kind of follow Sarah Silverman's ideas in that regard of like, in certain ways, you know, holding someone's jokes from the 90s are, the odds are anytime holding that against them is like trying to show you know, Shaq a picture of him as an eighth grader and be like, You were only 510 You were only 510 You were only 510? Why are you trying to be 510? And he's like, I've grown. Yeah, yes, that was me then. But I've grown and I've, I, I really look for that in the artists that I listened to and promote and, and take in. Because as we know, looking at comedy right now, there's a lot of really, I'm looking at a lot of mostly white guys, but not all, but above a certain age that are there. So I'm so disgruntled. And I'm like, You know what? And I'm like, Come on, man. Grow, grow. Keep growing. And but you see it everywhere. Like it's the same problem with you know, Fox News, parents and liberal kids like what at whatever point you circle the wagons then I guess it's just that's all you're gonna get from them is is where they draw the line. But i really i i really like I just heard a friend of mine Mike yard do a set at the cellar in New York, where he told a joke about like, you know, all the school shootings is a real problem in this country, we have a real problem and it doesn't seem to be going away. And I feel like we need to get creative and look at what might be perpetuating this real problem. And he was like, and I just want everyone to think about I'm butchering this Forgive me, like, look, let's look at the candle industry. Because everyone goes and buys candles for these like vigils afterwards, and the candle companies are making out like crazy. And he and the audience kind of gave him a like, No, we're not allowed to laugh about school shootings. And he stopped in the moment I was watching him do this clip. He was he's talking about me. He's like, No, that's a good joke. Like that joke is okay, the target of that joke. Like, we're not laughing about dead kids. Right? You have to understand target. And I really don't have any good feelings right now about people who target marginalized groups that are suffering. It really hurts me because I guess, you know, I want comedy to be my higher power and um, you know, there's I guess there's cognitive dissonance to like, you know, when you ask a Christian like, how they feel about you know, the mass genocide of like Noah's Ark and like what why the two by two cute animal story and not like all the dead floating bodies of the entire world, even though I'm like I think that was probably a region that got flooded. Yeah, that to the writer was the whole world. But anyway,

David Ames  44:51  
I do think it comes back to you talking about punching down and or, excuse me, punching down and you know, punching up towards power structures as opposed To the marginalized and the disaffected. And that seems like a pretty bright line, that's obvious to anyone who's listening for most of the time. But I agree with you that we are having a bit of a reset right now, particularly in comedy.

Holly Laurent  45:13  
And it probably it needs to, you know, I mean, look at all the comics that we grew up on, using language and saying things and targeting groups that we really do need that reset. So even if that does make everyone in comedy, even the well meaning people, like get in trouble and get canceled and get all that like it, it's worth sticking with the conversation, wrestling and grappling with it, and trying to keep going and elevating comedy to the height of your intelligence with a sensitivity to that, because I mean, I even remember back in my training, like a lot of teachers being like, you know, going blue is, you know, sometimes if you get a dirty joke that hits really hard, it's great. It's worth it. But for the most part, just defaulting into going blue is it's just hack, it's lazy. And so if if having to be more intentional with our language, and our content, is what's required of the moment, like, great, that's a new challenge, give me the sandbox of like, sensitivity and transformation and evolution, over continuing to let something I believe in do harm, like, which is exactly my indictment of the church and people who, you know, remain part and parcel of a murderous, harmful commerce in the name of love, who really, I mean, if you look at all those individuals who are in church every week, and each individual deeply believes like, this is a good thing. Yeah. And, and every comic who is, you know, pushing their, their, their content, they deeply believe that thing, or it's deeply hitting a nerve in them that is, you know, making them obsess about it or whatever. But, like, it's funny, like, you mentioned, Robin Williams, like, when Robin Williams appeared in LA on the scene, like all the standups were like, fuck him that's not stand up. They were like, What is he doing? It's not it's not, you know, he's, he's not. And then he, but he's Robin Williams, you know, like we have to, we have to let each thing like, grow and transform and evolve and stay alive. And I think that's probably a lot of the suffering in and the angst inside Christendom right now is the the cognitive dissonance of trying to maintain trying to continue to push a narrative of a God that is both, like an authoritative, genocidal dictator, essentially, don't hold that. Also hold that and also have it be like the Most Loving, the most incredible love that you've ever had in your entire life. Yeah,

David Ames  47:56  
I love the way you say, to do comedy at the height of your intelligence. That's the kind of comedy that I that I enjoy. And I imagine that improv must be that every second that you are on stage

as a segue here, I want to hear the the formation of mega the podcast. So how did this idea come about? How did you collect the various comedians that have participated and just tell us the story about mega?

Holly Laurent  48:29  
Mega, um, kind of got forced on me? Okay, um, well, not really, I want to do a podcast and I pitched a whole bunch to this network, and they weren't going for anything. And then I had this in my back pocket. And I was like, I was kind of at a point where I was like, I don't want to, I don't want to think or look at or talk about that world anymore. Like, it was such a massive part of most of my life, and I'm really trying to move in a new direction. And but they were like, No, that's the one that's it, make that and so I kind of created a show Bible and like, named the church and the world and the ministries and sort of like, designed the format of it, and I recorded a pilot and and then it just kind of grew into itself on his own. And then during the pandemic, it kind of saved my ass because it allowed me to when the pandemic hit, I was used to performing multiple times a week and that had been for for 20 years, I'd been doing that and so then to not be performing anymore, was a real blow and so mega kind of continued to itch that scratch and then it also kind of introduced me to this new really kick ass community and the way we get guesses we just because of having come up in the improv scene, we just know so many incredibly funny people. And so we just started begging and borrowing from our friends. In the geniuses of their minds and having a guest on every single episode and, and yet it kind of became this thing that I'm glad I'm really glad and grateful to it, because I think it forced me to stay reckoning with that part of my history and continuing to try to have compassion for it and myself. And who knows, you know, sometimes if I get really metaphysical and get in, like, get stoned, I think like, you know what, maybe in the journey of my soul, I don't even know if I believe in any of the Buddha's stuff. But like it, let's say, for the sake of thought argument like that there is a journey of the soul. And let's say that you kind of do pick your thing. And let's, you know, I wish I hadn't picked the United States of America, I wish, I think there would have been cooler eras and places. But but let's say to put some agency in my soul, like, let's say, I picked this. And let's say I picked high demand mind control called to see if I could learn how to think and find and find it on my own No, no, and, and explore the gray and not stay cozy in the black and white. And so I guess, if I, it, let's say that to give myself some agency and not be a victim of it, let's say something like that happened metaphysically, then then then what? What does it mean? Because I guess I did. Do it. At least I got out of this cage. And so what's what does that mean? It doesn't mean keep uncovering cages? Does it mean? I don't know, I don't know. But I did have a high thought recently of like, well, I guess, if in that scenario, there's anything maybe productive from exploring it as a as a thought experiment is, maybe it can give me gratitude for where I came from, rather than angst and resentment. Because everyone played their part perfectly. So that I could play the game. You know, like, the church and my parents and everyone like the fundamentalism and all the like, because, like, they believed it so deeply that that I did, and, and so now, it's really tricky to be in loving relationships with people who fundamentally see reality differently than me. That's really tricky. And it's also a part of why I'm so interested in linguistics. And I should be spending the rest of my life learning as many languages as I can, because our ability to think is based on the language that we speak. So I think somebody who speaks 10 languages can think 10 times more than me. And that's really interesting to me, because a huge part of it is I'm like, is this semantics with me and my dad, I made a, I made a comedy short, I made a film that I wrote, directed, called brought to you by Satan, where I explore the idea of like, is it just semantics? You can can me and my dad look at the exact same thing and what I what he sees, he would describe as a powerful stronghold of Satan. And what I see as I stare at the exact same thing is addiction and abuse. Yeah, and who knows, when you're caught in the talents of addiction and abuse? Maybe it does feel like a powerful stronghold have an invisible monster. I just, I just don't know.

David Ames  53:41  
I really, I really think that, you know, that internet meme a few years ago, the dress, you know, that just shocked people that their their perception was different, that one group of people were seeing a blue and one was seeing gold and just could not believe each other that there's no way you can't possibly be experiencing it that way. One of the things that I talk about a lot is that a deep human need is to be known to be understood. Yeah. So you were talking about love, I think a definition of love is my ability to be authentically me and your ability to be authentically you and to connect somewhere in the middle of that, that's kind of love for me. But it's that feeling of you're both having, like you just said the same experience. But your dad sees it as a powerful, lovely experience of love and then transcendence and connection with other believers and you see it as a trap, and pain and trauma and and nothing good there. And, you know, and it's like, how do you reconcile those two perspectives? And I don't know, I, I guess me waxing philosophically. I think it is more than that semantics. But one of the things that we gain being on this side of the bubble is what by previous guests, Alice Greczyn said it really well, I'm no longer good at fooling myself. I've gotten less good at fooling myself. It's not that I'm impervious to fooling myself, but I'm less good at it now, having been in the bubble, and now out of it, and like, there's something to be said for being aware or self aware enough to recognize I can feel myself I know what that felt like, felt very real for a long period of time. And now I don't want that anymore. And so I'm on the lookout to make sure that I don't do that again.

Holly Laurent  55:33  
Yeah. And I recently heard someone say that attempting to change someone's mind is non consensual. And I was like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And and, and maybe that brings us back to the power of comedy and storytelling, which is that it that is a place where it is a consensual connection. Yeah.

David Ames  56:04  
So back to Vega for a second. You hinted at this, that, you know, first of all, it's spot on, right. Like, I mean, you know, again, I know everybody's listening has heard mega but if just in case you hadn't, right, you guys are playing full tilt. Christianese if evangelical that's at it kind of peak. What is almost difficult to satire, you know, you're doing it at this peak level. But there's a sincerity to it, there's a heart to it, that it doesn't feel cruel. It feels very honest. And more to my questions to you is like, how does this not hurt you? How are you able to do this on a weekly basis and not have that be? Re traumatizing for you yourself? Let alone maybe one or two listeners out there?

Holly Laurent  56:51  
Oh, what a compassionate question. I really appreciate that. And the honest answer is that it does hurt me sometimes I hear things tumble out of the voice of my character that bother me and hurt me physically. And I'm really I'm doing really intentional work right now trying to get into into my body as a human being a lot of embodiment work. I'm in a class right now called embodiment and embodied sexuality. I'm taking a dance class, which is absolutely terrifying for me dances and most the most like never, not in a million years. It's it's I don't even like to go to weddings, because I'm like, Oh, is there going to be dancing? Because I'm so awkward and self conscious. And I don't know what to do. I don't know how to dance. I don't feel like I have rhythm. I'm so insecure, I'm all these things. And so I'm like doing all this work to try to safely come back down into my body. And sometimes when I hear my character, Halle say stuff, I feel pangs in my body. I'm like, Oh, I don't know, I and I've introduced other characters where I play Halley's Sunday, which is an adolescent male version of, it's basically me playing me as a teenage boy. And I really like those episodes. And I'm like, can I just change characters? Because, because his name is de and he comes in as the skeptic and he's really wrestling with it on an emotional level and stuff and Hallie, my main character is, is toxically positive and completely trapped in a cage. And I'm trying to, I have tried to play a really long game with her of like, of her slowly, kind of getting a little bit fucked up by her deep knowledge of the Bible, because one of my biggest indictments of most middle American Christians is that they are theologically illiterate, and that they do not know what is in their book. And I do. And I, you know, took Greek in college and used to be able to translate the New Testament and I have really dedicated myself to grappling with this. And I feel like a lot of believers have not and so so with my character, I'm trying to use her deep dedication to biblical truths as a, as a seed that is starting to grow inside of her, trying to play it as a really long game of slowly breaking her down, because this podcast won't go on forever. And we are going to end it at some point. And I'm like, How do I want to end it? And, and I'm feeling it in my body to comedically of like, oh, I, I used to, I used to chuckle at a lot of things, she said. And now if I'm feeling physical responses to those ideas, even though I'm perpetuating these ideas in a comedic way, again, it's it's that is your higher power, the thing you're focusing on, you know, and so how much do I want to give it and all of that and saying, like, when people tell me like, sometimes they go through periods where it's hard to listen to mega like, that hurts me to even though I completely understand. Yeah, I completely understand. And I'm like, it hurts me to say it sometimes, too. Yeah, so I don't know. I don't know. It's a dance. Real dance. We recorded it but and I'm trying to find new ways of playing that long game with her exploring other characters. And then yeah, we have a mini series that is a spin off that's coming out that we're gonna be able to play other characters too. And that's going to be really fun. It's it's a parody of the story of Mark Driscoll this toxic, authoritarian style white guy who started a church and then spectacularly exploded it with his own toxicity. There was a Christianity Today, podcast that came out last year, I guess it was massive. Yeah. Where they detail the it's called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill about this spectacular explosion of a megachurch. And so we're gonna parody that because we got a so and, and so far, I think it's gonna be four or five episodes in total. And I've been working on editing the first episode, and it's really funny. And man, it is really, I think it's like, because it's a different format, we're able to take like, much stronger swings, and we're, we're being way more risky with it. And that, that excites the hell out of me. And I'm, and I'm really, really, really excited about it. So it's, it's all good, because it's helping me. You know, gestate whatever, whatever thing is next, you know, I feel like what you're doing with this podcast is going to lead you to the next thing you do. Sure. No, yeah. So yeah.

David Ames  1:01:48  
So Holly, this is how dedicated I am. I went and listened to the rise and fall of Mars Hill in preparation for this conversation. Wow, what did you think of everything super painful? Yes,

Holly Laurent  1:02:01  
it's painful, right?

David Ames  1:02:02  
There's just a couple of things I wanted to bounce off of you. So one is to give a little bit of credit, you know, the Christianity today, you know, does try they make the attempt to be self aware and to self criticize their movement. So and that's about as much praise as I'm going to give them because they also show throughout this, including the host, Mike Cosper. I just complete blindness to the larger factors right? It's not just that Mark Driscoll is an asshole it's that the structures are dangerous and and hurting people. And then the other thing that I just found deeply painful was the the advertising in between. So in this podcast that is about criticizing celebrity pastors, it'll this pop on this celebrity pastor podcast come join me doing it. It's just Oh my God, it was painful. It was.

Holly Laurent  1:02:55  
That's bananas.

David Ames  1:02:57  
Yeah, just the whole talk about read the room. Oh, totally. Yeah. So you know fascinating project all the way around and I really look forward to listening to how you guys parody it so

Holly Laurent  1:03:08  
Oh, well, you sweetheart. I mean, I really hope that when our our version The Rise and Fall of twin Hills comes out yeah, that you will I pray that it will graft over it will skin graft over all the burns for the Mars Hill one. I it's it's so interesting. I full disclosure, David, I think I only got through two or three episodes because I can imagine because my brain started leaking out of my ears when I got to hear his voice from the pulpit. I I was so filled with rage again that I was like, this isn't good for my body. I'm getting filled with cortisol.

David Ames  1:03:49  
Yeah. Yeah, I think a few times, you know, I'd be listening to it with earphones. And I, you know, be walking around the house doing chores or something. I'd be like, Oh, come on. Family members would be like, what I'm like nothing. I'm just just listening to a podcast.

Holly Laurent  1:04:06  
I know. So I think you'll really like I don't want to give it away. But it's my favorite thing is that we give in our in our party, we give the Mark Driscoll character who is the lead pastor, the fictional lead pastor of twin hills, our church, Steve Johnson. We we really give him a home man. It's so funny. We come up with a pretty great way to expose to expose him as both an absolute degenerate and also a big fucking baby. Yeah, yeah, I think that's what all of these Jesus and John Wayne dudes are. I think they're big man children and I have over the course of mega I have dedicated myself so deeply to continuing to stay in scholarship like this Listening to Bart Ehrman all the time trying to educate myself about New Testament knowledge, context, understanding of the Scripture understanding like original manuscripts understanding how text has changed understanding, you know, the act, what does it actually say? What does the Bible actually say about homosexuality, about Satan about all these things, like I've dedicated myself so deeply to it. And lately, I've found myself at a point where I'm like, this could change, but I'm like, I don't care anymore. I don't care what's in the Bible. I don't care what it says about homosexuality, I could give a fuck, like, I am looking for love. I'm looking for, again, liberation. And excavating that isn't really doing it for me. And I'm afraid it can keep me kind of angry and in resentment rather than gratitude. And I'm really looking for ways to change my thinking and my higher power or whatever you want to call it. And it's interesting even the word atheist day. God damn it, it's centers Christianity, it still has them centered. It's on our it's on our dollar bills is on in our Constitution. It's in all it's just so centered all the time anyway, that I'm like, how do I move away from that as center and continue to feed myself with things that remind me that that system made me want love, and need love and look for love and feel like I needed it so desperately. And that made me a vibration on this planet of need and scarcity. And that's also what I was experiencing. And outside of it, I'm like, Oh, I don't need and want love. I am love. I have love. I am this love. Like, I have it. Okay, I feel it. I'm trying to send out vibrations of like, there's love here. If someone was flying over and they were wearing like, like, love, like goggles, like green light goggles or whatever, they would see a little beacon like, down where I where my body is right now on this earth. It's like being warm. Like, there's love here like, I'm love. And so what I want to draw is, is I want to draw love to me by being love. Not by being a desperate sad, fearful, angsty, lonely, frightened kid who who is grasping for God, or a community that is promising that if you if you play your cards, right, I want to be like, You know what, fuck these cards. Yeah, I'm not playing this game. I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go play another game. And again, I'm in the messy part of that. I haven't like, I haven't arrived anywhere. And maybe you and I should talk in a year and see if we're both completely different people. Yeah.

Do you have any better words that you use? Like, uh, not better words than atheism? But like, more words?

David Ames  1:08:31  
Yeah, this whole podcast is what I call about secular grace. Right? And then yeah, this is this is the idea that the, you know, the horizontal, I recognize that. What we love about grace, the agave, when the love in the Bible is, is actually people connecting with each other. And when you start to look at even miracle stories, right, even miracle stories, often it's like, oh, well, this first responder showed up out of nowhere and saved me or you know, or this nurse took the time to help me out or this person gave me $10 When I was hungry, there's always another person involved. Right? And it's this is just the recognition that it is human beings being good to one another. That is the is the thing that we crave is the love that we've that we've been trying to describe and, and go after. Yeah, I agree with you. The language is hard. I call myself a humanist, but that can be misconstrued as well. You know it I don't think there are good words for it. So I use a whole bunch and I you know, I say yes, I am an atheist, but that is kind of boring. It's that what I believe in is people right? Like I believe in people and that's the thing that you need to know and so I'm constantly on the lookout for better words as well. So if you find any let me know.

Holly Laurent  1:09:51  
Because we are really limited we're not only limited to like the our perceptions and our senses, like we're, you know, we're living in three dimensions and And we have five senses. So that's all pretty. That's a pretty tight sandbox. Yeah, yeah. So like, there's a, I don't know, there's part of me that's like, there might be something. I don't know. I don't know what the, you know, the Hadron Collider in CERN, you know talks about the God particle. And you know, I wish they wouldn't call it the God particle. But there is something that is binding everything and I agree with you that it's connection. And I think that's actually at the heart of your, the thing you're scratching out with comedy is like, comedy is just connection. It's, it's, it's human connection. Yeah, and, and surprise, it's basically like you're connecting with me for a few moments. And then I'm gonna make you breathe differently by little elements of surprise, as we're connected. And yeah, and I think that's what improv is. And I used to always tell my improv students back when we still had improv theaters and training centers, before the pandemic like that improv is just about connection. It's about you. I tell everyone on my first and the first class all the time, and they never believed me. But I'm like, I'm going to tell you the secret to improv, and you won't believe me. But if you do this every day for 10 years, it something will kick in and you'll be like, oh, yeah, that's that's true, is that the secret of improv is listening. That's it. It's just listening. And people's biggest difficulty is getting over that hurdle. Because your inner monologue is so loud, because you're so self conscious when you're being observed. And when then when you're putting pressure on yourself to be funny, and low, literally on stage. And on stage, which is, you know, obviously, it's the Seinfeld joke of people would rather be in a casket than giving the eulogy. But like, so it's you're overcoming all these like great fears, or you're not overcoming your you're working inside, have great fears, and doing it anyway. And, but it is about listening. It's just about listening, if you just breathe and listen to what your partner's saying and respond to it. And then it just becomes a multi layered, like listening exercise where you start to have to listen to yourself, listen to that inner weirdo. Listen to that, like that, that whatever that little deepest, authentic spark of you is like listening to that, listening to the audience and listening to your scene partner. And if you can combine those levels of active conscious listening, because most of us, I think, we we confuse we think listening is the way we the way we listen is actually waiting, we're waiting for our turn to talk. Yeah. And waiting for your turn to speak is not listening, like deep. What improv and comedy taught me is that like deep active conscious listening is a posture and a willingness to be changed. Interesting, and, and that is listening. And when two people are are doing that, they are connected. And then that connection is the spark that makes magic and makes us laugh.

David Ames  1:12:59  
Well, I think I think we have to wrap there because I think you've just described describing comedy in the same way that I talked about. What we're trying to do here on the podcast is like, you know, in these interviews, as people are telling their story, there are moments that you've talked about the wave, right, I can feel the moment of oh, that was that was good, that's going to connect with the audience. Right? And it's, it's generally about being honest and vulnerable. And, again, authentically yourself. So I'm going to take that from you and, and run with it. So thank you. Thank you for that. We're not certain about the release date for the for the parody. So I will hear from your publicist when that is and we'll publish you know, we'll make that abundantly clear. Intro and outros. But how can people reach you? How can people find mega how can they connect with you?

Holly Laurent  1:13:50  
My website is Holly lauren.com. And same on Instagram, but Mega podcast.com and mega podcast on the socials. And yeah, I have all my I have that brought to you by Satan shortfilm on my website and all that. So yeah, listen, rate and review mega it helps us so much. And move love yourself and start to be love rather than need love, and we're gonna transform this place. We're gonna we're gonna make things better. Yeah, at least we'll have a little bit better of a human experience for we're not exactly sure why we're here. But here we are. And if we can help each other and help ourselves suffer a little less, then I say hell yeah to that and thank you David for such a thoughtful, lovely conversation. I really really dig you and I really have enjoyed this and the pleasure has been mine and anything that you take from this I feel like that's a gift And I'm so happy to give give it to you. So all the best.

David Ames  1:15:04  
That's awesome. And I might take you up on a year from now let's check in with this dude again.

Holly Laurent  1:15:08  
Okay, I would love it. This is my favorite shit to talk about. I can, I could go on and on and on and on and on. And maybe I'll be like starting my, my linguistic program by then yeah, I'll be writing a dissertation on the nature of reality as defined by language.

David Ames  1:15:30  
Final thoughts on the episode. My all time favorite interviews are with comedians. I've had. Karen Alia, from the deconversion therapy podcast. I've had Leon Lord who's a stand up comedian. And now Holly Laurent from Mega the podcast. These are always my favorite interviews because I think comedians have insight into human nature that is at least significantly better than the average pastor. What I think makes Holly in particular very good at satire and comedy, is the honesty that she brings to the table. Her story is gut wrenching, growing up traveling with her dad in evangelical circles, recognizing it as performance. Her seeing herself because she was a woman as threatening and bad. She talked about as a child, demons were real. And the trauma of that is evident, even today, but it's that realness. It's that honesty that makes her improv so powerful and so good. I think that's why mega the podcast is so ultimately successful. Although it's absolutely critique and satire. There's also heart and compassion and recognition in the characters. The first episode of the new mini series, The Rise and Fall of twin Hills has just dropped. I'm going to be checking that out shortly. But the the subject matter, the rise and fall of Mars Hill about Mark Driscoll is very target rich. So I expect that it's going to be absolutely amazing. And you should check it out. I want to thank Holly for being on the podcast for being rigorously self honest, for sharing with us her story and her comedy and her incredible mind. I love the way she said she does comedy at the height of her intelligence. We're going to talk about the human connection part in the secular Grace section of this podcast. But thank you so much, Holly, for being on and sharing your story. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is human connection. How could it not be? As I've said, Now, repeatedly, I'm a huge comedy fan. And it is so powerful to hear Holly talk about comedy and improv in particular is about that connection that improv is about listening, active listening, instead of just waiting for your turn to speak with a in her words, a posture of being willing to change. That's brilliant. Holly said, connection is The Spark. And she talks about anticipating and riding the waves of laughter and being willing to sit in the quiet time before that happens to get the better laugh. I just love everything about that conversation and her perspective there. What this podcast the graceful atheist podcast is about is human connection. So many things that we call spiritual, are just about human connection. When you think back on your church experience, what were the good things? Was it the sermons? Was it going to the building? Or was it the potluck? afterwards? The coffee breaks, going to IHOP with friends? Was it somebody who cared about you when you were sick, and they came to your house and brought you food? The entire point of secular grace of my brand of humanism is that it is human beings being good to one another. That is this spark, that is this thing that we are searching for. It's what we are referring to when we say connection in the transcendent sense. I don't mean to imply that it is mundane. But I do mean to be explicit that it is not transcendent. It is just people. And that's fantastic. You don't have to believe anything. You don't have to force yourself to accept unwarranted truths. You can just love people and be loved by them and experience that sense of transcendence, that sense of spark, and connection. Next week, Arline interviews Shifra that's going to be an amazing conversation. Until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful. The beat is called waves by MCI beats. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful atheist@gmail.com. For blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful atheists.com. This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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