What's So Funny About a Christian Sitcom?

Media watchers are calling it the first show of its kind -- a Christian sitcom.

Greg Robbins is the creator of the show, "Pastor Greg," and he sees comedy as the best medium to communicate the message of Christianity.

"I want to make no mistake about it. When I say this is a Christian situation comedy, that we claim Christ as our savior," says Robbins.

"Pastor Greg" is not a Hollywood production; it's being taped just outside of Pittsburgh. Robbins, who writes, directs and stars in the show, was once an actor and model in Los Angeles until he was born again. He says the character, Pastor Greg, is very much autobiographical.

"He was once your average guy with living in the world -- womanizing, drinking, gambling, that kind of thing," Robbins says. "And through a series of comical but real events, he surrenders his life to Christ."

Progressive Themes

The progressive themes covered on the show might raise some Christian eyebrows, however. In one episode, Pastor Greg discovers he has an illegitimate daughter.

Robbins shopped the show to television executives for nine long years. Secular executives didn't see much funny about Christianity, while Christian execs didn't see much Christian about Robbins' comedy.

"You get the look, a Christian what?" Robbins says. "I mean, there was a three-year period where I thought my name was, 'You're nuts.'"

But he managed to convince Ron Hembree, the president of Christian Cornerstone Television. He believes the social climate is right for this kind of show.

"We wanted to make the statement that I think is appropriate at this time in history," says Hembree.

Spreading the Word

Robbins is non-committal when asked if his goal is conversion.

"I've chosen service, so it's my job to go out throughout the world and spread the word of Jesus Christ," he says. "Does the show do that? I'm not sure."

Jim Young, who plays the church office manager on the show, has a background in Christian theater, and he hopes people will laugh first and then listen to the message.

"I think often when we're laughing, that's when we're open to hearing things in a different way," Young says.

Cornerstone says the sitcom will debut on Thursday in 100 markets around the country both on Christian and secular networks. Robbins hopes that number will grow and more people more hear his message.

"I believe that the masses aren't going to look and go, 'Well, they're claiming Christ as their savior and I'm not going to watch it,'" he said. "No, they're going to watch it, they're going to like it and then also they're going to see that Christianity is not what they thought it was."