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Beyond a joke

East Anglia became known as the most godless place in England after the last census and a new survey of churchgoers might reveal why. According to new polling, Christians in the region are less likely than those anywhere else in the country to recall hearing a sermon or talk which made them laugh. Congregations in Yorkshire and the Humber region have the funniest services, with 80 per cent able to remember laughing - just ahead of London, where 77 per cent could. The survey, by the polling group Christian Research, was commissioned by the Christian Resources Exhibition. But just as clergy are being losing the art of comedy, a handful of leading stand-up comedians have admitted they would be interested in trying their hand at delivering a sermon. Tim Vine said : 'I'd like to have a go at preaching actually - although I'd like to do it to a congregation who didn't know I was a comedian. 'I'd like to preach in a little church in the deep south of America where at the end of everything that the preacher says someone shouts "hallelujah". 'I'd use the hallelujahs as laugh substitutes to encourage me that it was going OK.' Eddie Izzard said: 'I can work with any non-dogmatic religious person. They believe in helping people in the community, charity work, live-and-let-live and treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself.'