Brain surgery didn’t wipe out cartoonist’s sense of humor

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (BP)--Thom Tapp admits he wasn’t always happy. In 1987 he had brain surgery to have a tumor removed and “didn’t know if I would ever … have a sense of humor again.”

He began drawing cartoons, however, to pass the time. “The cartoons became a vehicle for mental healing,” Tapp says. “It helped me to not take everything so seriously.”

It doesn’t take long to find out Tapp maintained a sense of humor.

Humor is important, Tapp says, because the world sometimes paints Christians as humorless. “I believe the Christian life is a happy life and we should have humor and fun in our life,” says Tapp, pastor of Oral Baptist Church, Lenoir City, Tenn.

He uses Proverbs 17: 22 to back up his belief: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. …”

Tapp takes his humor to the printed page through Eli Chortlesnort, pastor of the Church of the Covered Dish.

Chortlesnort is the main character of Tapp’s cartoons which appear in Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal as well as various other publications, including Leadership Journal, Preaching, Ministries Today and Christian Computing.

Why the Church of the Covered Dish as the name of where Chortlesnort serves? Tapp, who has been at Oral Baptist Church about two years, noted his congregation always seemed to be having covered-dish meals. “I kidded our members that we were the Church of the Covered Dish,” hence the name of his cartoon strip.

Tapp also makes his cartoons available to churches for use in their newsletters and bulletins on the Internet at www.baptist1.com/toons. The cartoons are available for a modest fee (approximately $1 per cartoon if bought in a package). Since January his cartoons have been viewed by people from 47 countries. As of Oct. 21 his site had been visited 19,136 times since Jan. 21.

About 900 churches, including churches in Taiwan, Australia and Singapore, have requested his strips for use in their bulletins and newsletters, he adds.

Tapp also has made his strips available to Ray Luck, his local director of missions, for use in Loudon County Baptist Association’s newsletters.

By posting on the Internet, Tapp became acquainted with a bulletin board for professional cartoonists called “The Wisenheimer.” He started posting his Christian cartoons and began developing friendships with different cartoonists worldwide. He is now their “unofficial chaplain.”

Tapp notes he received an e-mail from a cartoonist in Greece who professed to be an atheist. “He told me, however, that if he was to go to church anywhere, he would want to go to mine because of what he has seen in my comic strips.”

Tapp confesses with a smile that in some ways he is Eli Chortlesnort. “Almost everything that happens to me in the pastorate will end up in a comic strip,” Tapp notes.

“In most of my cartoons there is some element of truth in them somewhere underneath the surface,” he says. “The cartoons take the real and exaggerate it to the humorous.

“My goal for the cartoon strip is to provide Christian humor and things for churches to use that are attention-getting,” Tapp says.

Tapp notes he has always enjoyed expressing himself through cartoons. “I have never been able to feel comfortable with ‘real art,’” he laughs.

Prior to developing Eli Chortlesnort and the Church of the Covered Dish, Tapp drew editorial cartoons for the Roane County News of Kingston, Tenn., while serving as a bivocational pastor in Big Emory Baptist Association.

He thinks his cartoons have been received well because they are not negative. “I do not try to make someone look bad.”

Tapp notes “God has given me something I can do that others cannot. “I try to take that and do the most I can for his purposes.”

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