Dennis Swanberg: All of a sudden, water from the ceiling starts drippin’ on the choir. Or air conditioning units were up in the attic. Condensation pans were overflowin’, water drippin’ on the choir. You know how choir people are. (Laughter) “It is drippin’ all over us.” (Laughter)
End of Excerpt:
John Fuller: That’s Dennis Swanberg and his own unique brand of humor and we’ll be tapping into that on today’s “Focus on the Family.” It’s a fun program for you, as we feature “the Swan,” as he’s called and it’s one of our top broadcasts of all time. And our host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I think all of us as human beings, we love to laugh and Dennis Swanberg, like you said, “the Swan,” he makes us laugh. And that is why I think this is one of the most popular programs ever. Yes, he’s got a Master’s degree; he’s got a Ph.D., but more than that, he is so real and so funny, because he taps into those normal things that we all do, those habits–
Jim: –and those little quirks and he highlights them in such a way that it makes you giggle. And as my son, Troy would say, “You know, daddy, I’m laughin’ so hard, I’m gonna wet my pants.” (Laughter) I think the Swan can even do that. So, I think we’re all gonna enjoy today’s program.
John: Well, we’ve featured Dennis over the years a number of times and we always get a great response from our listeners. He’s the host of “Swan’s Place” and “The Dennis Swanberg Show.” Those are TV programs and he’s a very popular speaker. He knows how to tell a story. He has some great personal material and as you’ll hear, he enjoys life and he helps all of us to enjoy it a little bit better. Here he is now on “Focus on the Family,” Dennis Swanberg.
Dennis: My daddy is a disciplinarian type. My daddy … I don’t ever remember my daddy saying, “Wait till you get home; wait till you get home.” He’d never say that. He disciplined you wherever you committed the sin. (Laughter) If you were in the parking lot, you got it there, in the vestibule, you got it there, in church, you got it there.
At Wyatt’s Cafeteria … I remember one time at Wyatt’s Cafeteria at Hancock Shopping Center in Austin, Texas, just off I-35. We were going through the line, as a kid, you know, a 6-year-old–why do you do these things? I don’t know why you do them. (Laughter) I saw that little bowl of Jell-O [that] has those little Jell-O cubes. I sucked a couple of them out. (Laughter) Why do you do that? (Laughter) I don’t know why I did it. I just sucked a couple of ’em out. (Laughter) I was gonna put it on my tray. The next thing I knew, whomp, whomp on my back. The little cubes just … (Laughter) … my daddy discovered the Heimlich (Laughter) and never got credit for it. (Laughter)
I remember those days and it was tough times. We didn’t have a lot of money and I’m glad we didn’t, because, you know, I can relate to my people better sometimes. I mean, I can … I … better sermon illustrations when you didn’t have anything growing up.
And I can stand out there in the parking lot with my men. You know how men are; they’ll be out in the parking lot and they’ll go, “I guarantee you one thing. (Laughter) When we were growing up, we were so poor we couldn’t even pay attention.” (Laughter) Well, I can stand out there with them. I said, “Man, I know.
And what we did for entertainment, we would drive down to Austin. We’d drive to Congress Avenue, park in front of the State and Paramount Theaters there right next to each other. And we’d watch people line up to go in the movie and watch some come out. Watch another group line up. We’d just sit there in the car, a ’49 Ford and just watch people. I remember asking my mother, “What are we doing?” She said, “We’re watching people. Now hush.” (Laughter)
At home, we had our own form of entertainment. We’d tell stories and just, you know, be together. We didn’t have a television until I was about 7. And before that, you know, it just, you know, at home stuff. But when we got our TV, I remember as a little fellow–that was a big day. My daddy came home; he’d carry that TV in and say, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch it!” Boy and he was really proud. You know, I look back on it now and … boy, he was proud. You know, he’d saved up and had that TV there. We turned all the lights out, because black and white, we believed, showed up better in the dark. (Laughter) We’d just sit there and we’d watch “Sergeant Bilko” I remember. We’d just watch TV together.
And we didn’t have central heat or central air, you know. We just had screen windows and screen doors and June bugs to watch TV with us. (Laughter) You know, we were more environmental back then than we are now. (Laughter) Now we have these zapper things in our backyard that just kill every bug that comes around you know. You know, they think they’re gonna get a glow and (Buzz). (Laughter) Back then we just, you know, thump them off the screen if we got tired of ’em. (Laughter) Well, we’d watch that TV and I got caught up in it. And I’d watch those old movies that had Slim Pickins in there.
Dennis as Slim Pickins: Old Slim Pickins.
Dennis: I remember in 1969, it was a tremendous year. “Monday Night Football” began. For years, preachers never got to see an entire football game on Sunday. Remember Monday night–Howard Cosell.
Dennis as Howard Cosell: “No doubt about it, it’s Lenny Dawson back, to pass he throws the ball to, oh, yes, they were magnificent. Now later, third quarter it’s once again Lenny Dawson, the loquacious, abstemious quarterback once again throws to Otis Taylor, number 89, magnificent.”
Dennis: Oh, those were the great days. (Laughter) And there’s the boxing matches.
Dennis as Howard Cosell: Howard and Muhammad, “No doubt about it, but what about Smoking Joe Frazier?”
Dennis as Muhammed Ali: “I’m tired of Joe Frazier. They say he be smokin’. I’ll be jabbin’ and a-pokin.’ (Laughter) I’ll be all over smokin’ (Laughter) and after they ring that bell, I’m gonna jump over the rope and whoop you, Howard Cosell!” (Laughter and Applause)
Dennis: But let me pick on some preachers a little bit. Can you imagine? Remember Paul Lynde, Uncle Arthur on “Bewitched,” “Hollywood Squares”? Can you imagine if he’d been a preacher?
Dennis as Paul Lynde: “Okay, people, listen to me. (Laughter) Oh, I’ve got a sermon for you (Laughter)–a two-pointer. `Turn or burn.’ (Laughter) Oh, I love it.” (Laughter and Applause)
Dennis: Can you imagine if Barney had been a preacher giving the invitation?
Dennis as Barney Fife: “You know you need to come on down here. (Laughter) Otis, you know you need to come on down.” (Laughter)
Dennis: You know (Chuckling), Baptists are great. I mean, the church, isn’t it wonderful to be involved in the church? I mean, you have your home; you have a church home.
And I remember when I was a little nervous about Baptists, I don’t mind telling you. I was raised a Methodist, as you remember me telling. I remember going to Baylor University to play baseball. And there I was going to Baylor, I was nervous about going to a church school. I’d always dreamed of going to a state school.
But I got there at Baylor University and I was a little nervous. I figured everybody’d be walking around going, “[Gregorian Style Chanting] Hello, brother (Laughter). How are you?” “Okay.” (Laughter) I just figured they’d be that way. I got there and they weren’t that way. Baptists are regular people. They’re sinners just like everybody else.
We didn’t dance much back then at Baylor. If you did, you had to call it a “function.” (Laughter) And it had to be off campus. Some could function with an unction, I’m tellin’ ya (Laughter) and so, I walked the aisle at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. That’s the truth. I walked down the aisle. I took the pastor by the hand and remember him saying, “Yes, what’s your decision?”
I said (Clearing his throat), “I want to join up.” (Laughter) He said, “Have you been saved? Have you been saved?” I said, “March 15, 1971 on a Monday night at 8 o’clock.” Boy, his ole eyes got big. He said, “Man, that’s great. That’s great.” I said, “That’s right.” And I told him about it. He said, “Great, great.” Then all of a sudden, here comes the big question. “Have you been baptized?” (Laughter) I said, “A little dab’ll do ya.” (Laughter) He said, “A little dab won’t do you here.” (Laughter) I said, “What do y’all do?” He said, “We immerse you.” I said, “Immerse?” He said, “Baptizo, put under till you bubble.” (Laughter)
That night, I was up in the baptismal room. A baptismal room, it’s the last thing an architect designs in a building. It’s whatever is left over next to the heating units, air conditioning units, box of minutes, an old “Together We Build” sign and a bale of hay from the Christmas cantata. (Laughter) I asked an architect one time, “Why are they such odd-shaped rooms?” He said, “Because if we don’t make ’em odd-shaped, an educational man will try to put a Sunday school class in there.” (Laughter) Isn’t that right? (Laughter and Applause)
I remember that night I was gonna be baptized. Now you need to understand something. I’d never seen anyone immersed before. I was a Methodist. I’d never seen it. I was gonna be the first one I was gonna see with my eyes closed, I guess. (Laughter) But I was bold. I got up there and there’s my first encounter with a deacon. He was one of those deacons, he sort of had a big tummy and a short tie. Y’all know what I’m talking about? (Laughter) These are the greatest deacons, these kind. They usually give you half a calf at Christmas, you know what I mean? (Laughter)
And I got up there and he said, “Robe up.” I said, “Rub up?” He said, “Robe up.” I said, “Rub up?” (Laughter) And he was from east Texas; he was from China Springs, just outside of Waco. And he said, “Robe up.” (Laughter) I said, “Rub up?” And he finally went, “Huh, huh!”
And he pointed to these culotte outfits that are hanging there. (Laughter) I looked at him and I said, “Man, these are culotte outfits.” He said, “Robe up.” (Laughter) I said, “Robe up.” “Rub up.” “Robe up.” “Rub up.” I said, “I’m a man; I’m an athlete. I’m a man’s man. I ain’t never put on a culotte outfit before.” (Laughter) He said, “You need to if you love Jesus.” (Laughter) I said, “Where does it say that in the Bible?” He said, “Hezekiah 4. Stand up.” It sounded good to me. You might go home and look it up, now. (Laughter) I wouldn’t advise you to do that.
But the next thing I knew, I had that culotte outfit on. I had a piece of tape on my left shoulder with my name on it. And I practice this in my ministry, because I hate to get out there in the baptistery and forget a name and go, “This is Bubba. (Laughter) This is old Bubba right here,” you know. So I practice it. And they put a piece of tape on my left shoulder with my name on it with an M underneath my name, which stood for Methodist, which meant, “This one stays under just a little longer.” (Laughter) I’m just kidding. Don’t get shook up.
I never will forget. I got out there in the water and they put me underneath the water and wouldn’t let me up until I said, “Tithe.” (Laughter) And that’s how I became a tither. That’s my tithing testimony. (Laughter) I have started a new thing in my church. I put ’em under and I have them say, “Tithe and together we build,” you know (Laughter).
John: This is “Focus on the Family” and we’re listening to the humor of Dennis Swanberg. We’re calling this program “The Medicine of Laughter” and I do hope that you’re feeling a little bit better about life, listening to all the insights that Dennis has there. And you can get a CD of the broadcast, this presentation, for a gift of any amount when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or you can donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s go ahead and get back now to Dennis Swanberg on “Focus on the Family.
End of Program Note
Dennis: I became their minister of youth that spring. Is that unbelievable? I became their minister of youth. And I was their minister of youth for four years. And then I went to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When I was in seminary, I wanted to learn how to be the best preacher I could possibly be.
Well, when I was pastor at First Baptist Church, Saginaw, Texas, on the north side of Fort Worth, just on the north side of the stockyards (Laughter), I don’t remember it being funny, but (Laughter) it was a great ministry there. I was there five years. I remember one Easter Sunday–the biggest day in Christendom is Easter Sunday, amen? Everybody comes to church on Easter. I mean, they’d come in; they’d pack it in. I mean, people that hadn’t been there in years; they’d come on Easter. I was ready; I had my sermon ready. I was ready to let the hammer down.
I had our high school basketball coach giving his testimony. He was ringing the bell. I mean, he was doing good. I mean, I was almost sitting there, over there sitting there going, “Sic ’em baby, sic ’em baby.” (Laughter) You know, “You’re doing great.” Boy, I was getting fired up in the Spirit.
All of a sudden, water from the ceiling starts dripping on the choir. Our air conditioning units were up in the attic. Condensation pans were overflowing. Water dripping on the choir; you know how choir people are (Laughter). “It is dripping all over us.” (Laughter) So a couple of the men, you know, the husbands are out there going, “Yeah, hold on baby.” So they get up to go and fix it during the service. All they need to do is turn off the air conditioning units and we’ll fix it later, but, oh, no. They’re gonna go up there and be a hero and get up in the attic and fix it on Easter Sunday. We could hear ’em up in the attic, “Um, um, um,” (Laughter), you know, walking around.
The coach was giving his testimony. He hears it; the people hear something. I’m sitting there acting like everything’s fine and in my heart I say, “I’m gonna kill ’em.” (Laughter) You’ve heard of it happening; it happened. Old Terry came through the ceiling. (Laughter) He crashed through the ceiling right above the baptistery, just–whoosh!
Here he comes crashing through and he catches himself on these 2 ‘x 6’s. He’s torn his pants; he’s bleeding. (Laughter) He’s hanging for his life. He’s trying to step on something. There ain’t nothing to step on! (Laughter) And I mean, it scared everybody. Everybody went, “Oh! Oh!” (Laughter) And the coach turns and he has a lavaliere on. Only preachers can pray this fast. I remember praying, “Dear God, don’t let him say anything he’d say on the football field.” (Laughter) Not that he would (Laughter), but just in case. And he didn’t.
But he turned. He saw the guy and he said this–now this made the front page of the Fort Worth Star Telegraph. He saw him hanging there. He looked at me and said, “Brother Dennis, are we having a healing service over this guy?” (Laughter) Then everybody goes, “Ahh!” (Laughter) You know, lay people love for things to go wrong, because we’re going, “(Chuckling)!” I mean, people that hadn’t been there in years are going, “Man, is this what it is every Sunday? I have to go.”
That’s not the bad part. This is the tough part. While the guy’s hanging there, you can hear the other guy talking to him (Laughter)–like we can’t hear anything. What does he say, but he says exactly this, “Can you see anybody?” (Laughter) And old Terry, who’s hanging there for his life says, “I can see the choir.” (Laughter) Two more men go up, go up there and pull him out. And you know, and he’s bleeding and he was hurt and everything. And they take him away. And I got up; I preached–no decisions. So I called on a man that prays long, because I knew I needed time to calm down.
So when I got to the back when people come out, I go, “Good to see you. God bless you. Thank you, great day.” He finished praying. The first guy out was a rancher that only came at Easter. This is the truth. He had a big old chew of tobacco in his mouth, never did spit during the service. We did appreciate that. (Laughter) He came up to me and he said these words, “Brother Dennis, I told my wife, no need for me to come today. Told her if I did, the roof would cave in and sure enough, it did.” (Laughter) That’s the truth. (Laughter and Applause)
Oh, all right, Janice is going to give me a little background music. And let me tell you what I’m gonna do and she’ll go ahead and start up. One of my favorite voices, I guess, is old Jimmy Stewart. And I love old Jimmy. And this is a thing called the “Sweetheart Special.” And I wrote it for my sugar babe a long, long time ago. And every Valentine’s Day and what have you, I share it with her. So being she’s not with me here tonight, I’ll just share it with you. I’ll be sharing it with her tomorrow over the phone. But it goes like this, Jimmy Stewart.
Dennis as Jimmy Stewart: “I remember when I was just a little boy. And I remember my daddy saying, `Jimmy, you need to date some girls.’ And I said, `Daddy, I ain’t seen a girl in months out here in the country.’ He said, ‘Well, saddle up old Blue and go down to Murphy’s barn. And they’re having a do-si-do down there tonight and I want you to go.’ So I saddled up old Blue. Blue was 14, too.
Got down to Murphy’s barn. Why, they were do-si-do-ing, Virginny-Reelin’. And oh, I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like dancing, you know. “So I went back behind the barn and got me a chew. And I had it all in there just all situated perfect. And all of a sudden, I saw this gazebo.
“Y’all know what a gazebo is, sort of, don’t you? Sort of a souped-up chicken coop, you know. (Laughter) I saw the prettiest little filly I’d ever seen in there, the prettiest little girl. Fellows, you won’t believe what I did. I threw out a perfectly good chew. (Laughter) But I saw where it landed. (Laughter)
“So I went over there to her. And I said, `Hi, my name’s Jimmy. What’s your name?’ She said, `Well, my name’s Martha.’ And I said, `Martha, Martha, why Martha, why that’s a beautiful name.’ I said, `Do you want to dance?’ And she said, `I’m a Baptist.’ I said, `Well, can you walk?’ (Laughter) She said, `With the best of them.’ I said, `Well,’ so we started walking and talking.
“Well, the next thing I knew, why, she was walking down that aisle and we got married. And we kept walkin’ and talkin’. We’d go out in the country. We’d just walk and talk. And one day we was walkin’ and talkin’ and she said, `Shoogie-boogie?’ And I said, `Yeah, Honey-love Darling?’ She said, `Baby love, I’m PG. Back then, we never said, `Pregnant,.’ just said, PG, you know. I said, `Well, praise God.’ (Laughter) And we kept walkin’ and kept talkin’.
“Well, we had Henry; we had Nathan; we had Sam; we had Harley; we had Sarah and then we had the boy. And when she had the boy, why she walked on to be with the Lord. Oh, how I miss my Martha. Why, Martha was the love of my life. Well, finally all the kids grew up. They all went on their own way. But I sure could get low and blue around Valentine’s time.
“And one time I got so low and I got so blue, I got in my truck and I drove over to Murphy’s Barn. It’s about to fall over, but it brought back memories. I went over to that little gazebo. Why, it’s as pretty as it ever was. But, oh, the memories. I got out of the truck and I walked down those little pathways out in the country. And all those memories flooded in on the hallways of my mind.
“And all of a sudden, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I fell down to my knees and I heard the Lord speak to me–now not in an audible voice. I ain’t never heard Him speak in an audible voice. But He speaks in a voice that’s louder than an audible voice. He speaks to your heart. He said, `Jimmy, don’t walk ahead of Me and don’t walk behind Me, but walk right along with Me. Walk humbly with your Lord.’ And I’ve come to tell you tonight, that if you’ll walk humbly with Him, there’s joy and there’s laughter that’s deep.”
Dennis as Himself: God bless you, and thank you so much for letting me come tonight. You know, I tell people all the time, “A merry heart doeth like a good medicine.” People don’t laugh enough. Now, I make people laugh and I like to laugh. But sometimes, I just don’t laugh enough. You see, we need to be reminded that a merry heart doeth like a good medicine and we need to be reminded that for the joy that was before Him, Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame. Did you catch that? For the joy that was before Him. And each one of us, we have a different row to hoe. Each one of us, we have a different cross to carry, but we can do it with joy.
And that’s what the world is looking for. They’re wondering, is there such a place, a wonderful place, where people come together and know that kind of joy? And the good news is, yes, it’s here in the church.
And so, I hope and pray that you’ll continue to be the church you’ve been and that you’ll entertain folks with the Gospel and the Good News and the joy that it brings. And remember, “A merry heart doeth like a good medicine.” And I realize tonight I’ve given you the whole bottle; most times you just need a spoonful. God bless you. Thanks for putting up with me tonight. Thank you. Thank you again.
John: This is “Focus on the Family” and we’ve really enjoyed some good laughs on this program today with Dennis Swanberg. He’s an ordained minister and a very gifted comedian. And Jim, he delivered some classic humor there and some great impressions. And I think it’s given us a chance to take some of that laughter medicine that he talks about. We all need to lighten up and laugh from time to time.
Jim: Well, it’s true, John and I like the way you put that. And this Scripture that Dennis was referring to there, Proverbs 17:22 about the heart being merry. And I think God likes that. He wants a joyful heart. We are carrying many, many burdens for our marriages, for our children, for this life in general, for our neighbor. But there is a good time to laugh and to be lighter-hearted about things.
Sometimes we just get tense and upset and that’s why laughter is good medicine. And I think God has even shown that in our physiology. When we laugh, those endorphins are released. It’s a positive thing. It’s a healthy thing for us when we laugh. And I hope all of us can see the world that way. I think it’ll take some of that burden off of our shoulders.
John: You know, Jim, that’s one of the things I appreciate about working with you. We do a lot of work and hard work around here, but there are moments where we laugh. You and I are in the studio. It’s intense and somethin’ tickles your funny bone (Laughter) or we misspeak and we find ourselves saying, “Oh, that’s not what I meant.”
John: Our team assembled a bunch of bloopers–
Jim: Oh, no.
John: –some outtakes and we wanted to share those with you, just to show you that it’s not all serious here at Focus on the Family.
Jim: So, these are the things that didn’t make it onto the broadcast.
Jim: Well, No. 1, I just love their zeal for life and their humor. It’s great to have you both with us. Good to be back.
Greg Smalley: Hey (Laughing) …
Jim: Let me do … let me do your part, too. (Laughing)
* * * * * * * * * *
John: Well, it’s a simple queton … well, a simple … a … a simple, but profound question there from our guest on the last “Focus on the Fram …” (Laughter)
Jim: Franny. (Laughter) Our mouths actually do work. (Laughter)
* * * * * * * * * *
Jim: So let me ask the hard question, how do you do it, John? I mean, are you workin’ out?
John: Well, I try to work out almost every day for about 30 minutes on an elliptical and I probably really only make that three or four times a week.
Jim: So what? (Laughter)
* * * * * * * * * *
Jim: Hey, John, today this is an unusual “Focus on the Family.” We have Rick and Bubba in the studio and they are very popular in the Southeast. They have their own radio program reaching thousands of people every day, morning sh … it’s a morning talk show, right? They have a morning uh … they have a show … now we gotta …
Rick: It is hard to describe.
Jim: Yeah. (Laughter) Yeah, but …
(Everyone talking at same time)
Jim: It’s really hard to describe.
Rick: Can I tell you, I didn’t mean to throw you a curve on this doing a talk show. (Laughter) But uh …
Jim: Let me pull it back.
Rick: It … we’d just like to say, “Rick and Bubba,” host of the ‘Rick and Bubba Show.’
Jim: I like that. (Laughter) So, here we go; you ready?
Rick: Now you’re really overcomplicatin’ it. (Laughter)
* * * * * * * * * *
Jim: What did I say? Massachuchetts. Right now casinos can legally operate in Massachuchetts. (Laughter) I can’t … Massachusitts, chusetts. No, he’s not saying “shoots it?”
End of Outtake Clips
John: Well, Jim, those are some somewhat embarrassing moments to reflect back on. I mean (Laughter), there are moments were we just kinda lay it all out there and are a little more candid perhaps than we might be if we were speaking in public, even though we’re speaking to millions of people every day (Laughter) right here.
Jim: Getting back to the point that Dennis Swanberg was making today, you know, Christians we need to have that sense of humor. I think it’s one of the most depleted vitamins in the Christian community. And I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing Dennis and just a little bit of the lighthearted side, because so often we’re dealing with such tough topics day in and day out.
The bottom line is, Jesus Christ has rescued us from sin and hopelessness. And he has given us hopefully, that joyful heart. You know, where it says, the world’s gonna hate you for my sake, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. We so often forget that part. I think that’s the point we’re makin’ today. Let’s be people of good cheer, even though we have great burdens to carry. And we hope that you know and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that His burden is light. And I think in part, He meant it for this purpose, that we would have that light touch when it comes to life, to absorb those big blows and be able to smile. Certainly mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, but also to laugh with those who laugh.
John: Well, thanks for listening along today and laughing with us, as we’ve been encouraged by Dennis Swanberg. And if you’d like to know more about becoming a Christian and real joy in life, we have a complimentary booklet called “Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family.” We’ll send that to you or you can look at it at our website. And this message from Dennis Swanberg is called “The Medicine of Laughter.” It’s available as a download or on CD.
We’ll send a CD to you for a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family. When you support the work of Focus, you’re helping us produce radio programs like this and reach around the world with the truth of the Gospel. And so, please call today and make a donation, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. That’s 800-232-6459 or you can contribute at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We’ll be talking with the director of the new film, The Drop Box, as we discuss the documentary and how the making of it changed his life. That’s next time, as we help you and your family thrive in Christ.