A chat with Seth Dillon
BACKSTORY | On dad jokes, Christian courage, and the business of being funny
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A pastor’s kid walks into a bar … Oh, wait, wrong joke.
A pastor’s kid with a knack for comedy becomes a search engine optimization expert, buys a media company and—bam!—a leftist nightmare is born. That, in a nutshell, is what landed Seth Dillon in the news—and what landed the Babylon Bee, the much beloved satire site he helms, in Twitter purgatory. Here’s the story behind the story.
When you bought the Bee, did you see this controversy coming? There was no way to see it coming. I knew the Bee had potential, but who could have known it would become this popular and impactful? My goal at the outset was modest. I wanted to turn the Bee into a profitable business by providing it with the resources it needed to grow. I didn’t want to change it; I only wanted to boost it. So I left the writers alone (under Kyle Mann’s direction) and got to work finding ways to produce revenue, expand the team, and develop marketing messaging that would get us off the ground. It took off so fast it’s been hard to hold on.
Tell us a little about how growing up in the church intersects with what you’re doing today. The Bee writes satire from a Christian perspective. This means speaking truth to culture through humor. It also means holding the church itself accountable. Having grown up in the church, I can appreciate both of these efforts. We need levity and laughter in the church not just because we take ourselves far too seriously, but because we’re in just as much need of correction as anyone else.
You’re a dad who’s in the joke business. What do your kids think of your dad jokes as compared with those of, well … amateurs? My boys make me laugh far more often than the other way around. So there’s obviously something wrong with them. My jokes are hysterical.
You bought the Bee in 2018, and suddenly you’re debating Joe Rogan and locked in a free-speech death match with tech billionaires. What was it like to go from a (presumably) ordinary private life to a light-speed public life? Becoming a bit of a public figure has required some adjustment. I had to learn how to give a speech to a large crowd, for example. I’d never done that before. And the first live interview I ever did was on Tucker Carlson Tonight in prime time. It was a nerve-racking, sink-or-swim situation. But I adjusted quickly, I think, and became comfortable representing and defending the Bee in the media. Honestly, it’s become the most fun and rewarding part of my job. I now have the opportunity to fight for truth, freedom, and life on the biggest stages imaginable. I can’t ever complain about that, no matter how demanding it becomes, or how many death threats I receive.
Your alma mater, Palm Beach Atlantic University, disinvited you to speak in the school’s chapel. You told WORLD back then, “We need more backbone and less coddling in our Christian institutions and we need it yesterday.” What did you mean by that? Christians—and by extension, Christian institutions—can be far too squishy. In the name of love, we cede too much ground. We need to be willing to stand firmly in our convictions and in defense of the truth, even if it means making a few people mad on Twitter. The mob will get weaker only if you starve it by refusing to give it what it wants. And the truth will only prevail if it’s fiercely and unapologetically defended. When I said Christian institutions need a backbone, I meant that they need to stop caring about the mob. It’s cowardly and shameful to care as much as they sometimes do.