Fathers Ted and Dougal – two televisual comedic men of the cloth – could be given a run for their money by a real life vicar cum comedian from Burnley.
Fr Alex Frost, the curate at St Matthew’s Church, and his mirth-making partner Fr Chris Krawic, discovered a shared love of comedy in the unlikely setting of a pre ordination silent retreat – and now perform in their own videos as “Jack and Krac”.
I went to meet Fr Alex at his home in Rossendale Road where he recounted his remarkable journey to the priesthood, which saw him ordained only last year, and how faith and comedy can go hand in hand.
As you can guess, Alex is not your traditional Anglican vicar. Indeed, his journey to church has taken a very unusual route.
Alex greeted me in the expected uniform of dog collar and black, but soon revealed how he often wore black in his earlier life – as a non-league football referee, and how an act of unsporting behaviour caused him to think again.
“I was laying flat on the floor, out for the count, when a bucket of ice cold water was poured over my head. Back in the early nineties I was an up and coming football referee who had managed to officiate at one of my favourite places, Turf Moor.
God gave us the gift of laughter, and laughter is one of the most healing qualities.Fr Alex Frost
“However, the bucket of water had landed in less romantic settings, Haslingden recreation ground, where I had been floored by a punch from a player who hadn’t taken favourably to the red card I’d offered him for using foul language a future man of the cloth should not have been subjected to.”
It would signal the end of Alex’s flirtation with the sometimes not so beautiful game and also lead indirectly to him pursuing his other great interest of comedy.
An open mike session at Manchester’s famous Frog and Bucket was where Alex made his first tentative steps into the world of stand-up and pretty soon he had acquired an agent and was making a name for himself to the point where his material was used by an established television comic.
“One of my biggest interests is comedy. I was brought up idolizing the anarchic comedy of Rik Mayall and the Young Ones, and my ultimate comedy hero Les Dawson.
“In fact, a little part of me sometimes wonders if my journey of faith was influenced by Les who in his autobiography tells a lovely story of seeking assurance from his late wife about a potential new relationship.”
While filled with comedy, Alex’s childhood in Worsthorne and education in Nelson, faith was not something he ever discussed.
A good job, perhaps, considering the future vicar, would regularly see the near-to-the-knuckle stand-up routines of Roy Chubby Brown and Bernard Manning, routines that would make a navvy blush.
Yet all this was to change in 2007 when Alex’s eldest daughter expressed a desire to go to Sunday School.
Suddenly, Alex’s face lit up as he explained to me how this first visit to church would change his life forever.
“I went to St John’s in Higham and I was almost hoping everyone would be horrible,” he said.
“It would give me an excuse never to darken their doors again. The fact is, everyone was very nice. I remember getting in my car afterwards and telling my brother Rob I couldn’t do the comedy anymore. He was shocked.
“In my routines, I wasn’t averse to using adult language. I had very quickly felt the desire to get baptised and the comedy just didn’t feel right as a practising Christian. I stopped completely.”
Soon afterwards, Alex embarked on his journey to the priesthood. And it was a challenge. The former GUS employee had left school with no qualifications.
Registering as an independent student with Cumbria University and soon added more theological literature to his collection of comedy autobiographies.
“This started a long and very difficult road to ordination. Can a bloke seriously turn up at church and in less than 18 months suggest he might be called by God to ordained ministry?”
But ordained he was – ironically, a process that brought Alex back to comedy.
A chance meeting with Great Harwood curate Chris Krawic at a silent retreat saw the silence broken with chats about a shared love of humour.
“Chris suggested doing some funny sketches together. I was reluctant at first but he persisted. I now believe comedy and faith can work together.”
The pair, under their stage name of Jack and Krac, have now produced a number of sketches which can be viewed on Youtube and also share a Twitter profile @jackandkrac.
Alex added: “We haven’t performed live yet, but it’s something we are considering. God gave us the gift of laughter, and laughter is one of the most healing qualities.”