Pope Francis to meet Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, other top comedians at Vatican

Pope Francis Stephen Colbert Stephen Colbert and Pope Francis. | Credit: Montclair Film, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Vatican Media

It’s no joke: Pope Francis will take the mic in front of over 100 comics, stand-up comedians, and humorists, including Americans Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, at the Vatican next Friday.

Jim Gaffigan, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Whoopi Goldberg are the other U.S. comedians expected to take part.

The June 14 meeting was organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education and Dicastery for Communication and “aims to establish a link between the Catholic Church and comic artists,” according to a June 8 press release.

As of June 8, a list of 105 comics and humorists from 15 countries had confirmed their participation in the papal audience. 

The Vatican said the encounter intends “to celebrate the beauty of human diversity and promote a message of peace, love, and solidarity, and promises to be a meaningful moment of intercultural dialogue and sharing of joy and hope.”

Most of the comedians and humorists slated to participate — 67 — are from Italy, while six are from the South American countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, and 22 from European countries other than Italy. Two comedians from Mexico — Florinda Meza García and Chumel Torres — will also take part. The only Asian country represented is East Timor.

Jesuit Father James Martin is also slated to attend. Martin is the former chaplain of “The Colbert Report” and appears to be the only clergy member listed among participants in the June 14 encounter.

The audience, which will take place in the Apostolic Palace, occurs almost exactly one year after Pope Francis addressed a group of approximately 200 prominent artists in the Sistine Chapel — an event also organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

The 2023 meeting notably included figures such as U.S. film director Abel Ferrara and U.S. photographer Andres Serrano, creator of the controversial 1987 “Piss Christ” image, a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in urine.

The pope greets Italian actor Roberto Benigni after the closing procession for World Children's Day in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday, May 26, 2024. The actor took the stage for a lively and inspirational monologue that combined good humor with a call for children to read and to dream. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
The pope greets Italian actor Roberto Benigni after the closing procession for World Children's Day in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday, May 26, 2024. The actor took the stage for a lively and inspirational monologue that combined good humor with a call for children to read and to dream. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Pope Francis previously met actress and daytime talk-show host Whoopi Goldberg in October 2023.

Another notable attendee is the Roman street artist Mauro Pallotta, who goes by the name “Maupal,” and is known for his 2014 depiction of Pope Francis as superman, “Super Pope.”

In its announcement of the papal meeting with comedians, the Vatican highlighted the words of Pope Francis in a 2016 interview with the Italian Catholic television channel TV2000.

On that occasion, the pontiff said: “A sense of humor is a grace that I ask for every day, and I pray that beautiful prayer of St. Thomas More: ‘Give me, Lord, a sense of humor,’ that I know how to laugh at a joke … it’s beautiful, that prayer, isn’t it? Because a sense of humor lifts you up, makes you see the temporariness of life and take things with a spirit of a redeemed soul. It is a human attitude, but it is the closest to God’s grace.”

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