The Role of Comedy in Crisis

If you had told me last Fall that in March 2020 there would be a global pandemic and life as we know it would change forever, I prrrrobably wouldn’t have sold my house and quit my job to launch a comedy production company. But then again, I’d probably think you were joking (not funny, by the way).

…so, now what? Well, we’re experiencing a global pandemic and the world’s largest civil rights protest in history. And it’s scary and stressful and inspiring and emotionally draining all at the same time and – from this comedian’s perspective – not really comedy-inspiring. 

 How Can You Make Jokes at a Time Like This?!

Well it ain’t easy, I can tell ya that much!

Comedy has long been a way for people to deal with, address, and talk about difficult situations – like opening a valve on a pressure cooker. It’s a way for us to come together and laugh at the absurdities in life. It’s a way to show not all is lost when it may seem like it. It’s a way of showing we’re all more connected than not.

While performing in my first online show in quarantine, I shared about the time I didn’t know the grocery store was closing early. So in the 10 minutes I had, I panic bought 23 frozen burritos. Worst. Supermarket. Sweep. Ever. I freaked out because, I mean, WHEN would I get a chance to go to the grocery store again? Umm… the next day, Lauren. The. Next. Day. 

Tragedy + Time = Comedy

Ok, but we could use a lot less tragedy

Obviously I get stressed easily. And truth be told, panic buying 23 frozen burritos wasn’t very funny at the time. But after I calmed down and had some time to process that small stressor, I think it’s actually pretty funny and absurd. So in time, I transformed that stressful experience into a funny story.

Comedians Are Tasked with Finding the Funny in Times of Crisis

As self-appointed experts on “funny,” comedians must dig through the tough layers of NOT funny to uncover the actual funny. Then we break it down, examine it, build it up, and deliver it in a way that the audience will appreciate and enjoy. And trust me, that is an art!

As a single, white woman (well hi here *awkward wink*), I make jokes about dating and being tall. And lemme tell ya, if I thought dating was difficult BEFORE quarantine…

As a comedy show producer, I book a lot of comedians who all have different perspectives based on their experiences and interpretations of the world. And I am all for a diverse line-up – age, race, age, perspective, style, etc. Younger comedians oftentimes tease older people, who regularly don’t get the joke – probably because their hearing aids aren’t up loud enough (hey, I can make that joke; I’m considered one of the older comedians). Comedians of color often talk about race. Married comedians talk about marriage (and it sounds awful, BTW). Comedians with kids wish they didn’t have them. You get it.

Whether it’s fluffier stories about bad first dates or less-funny topics like racism or abuse, there’s a place for all different types of humor. And the time for humor is now.

Comedians Bring Laughter Into the World – Not in Spite of Tragedy, but Because of It.

A good friend of mine once told me life is 80% drudgery, 10% crap, and 10% amazing. 80% drudgery – things like brushing your teeth, going to work, doing the laundry. 10% crap – losing a loved one, getting fired, losing a sock in the dryer. 10% amazing – going on a dream vacation, getting a promotion, not having kids.

And going through the 80% drudgery and 10% crap make you appreciate the 10% amazing. And it’s the 10% amazing that makes life spectacularly worth living.

My job as an entertainer is to help the crowd get closer to the 10% amazing. Even when in crisis.

The Benefits of Laughter

Prolonged stress can lead to high blood pressure, immune system suppression and a decline in mental health. Laughter has the opposite effect; it releases feel-good endorphins and serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. It helps promote group bonding. It helps to strengthen relationships and reduces conflict. It also makes others more attractive to us. (I don’t know about you, but I go from a 6 to a solid 8 when I’m on stage.)

Comedy is a beautiful and gritty art form. Comedy is a way of mirroring the world back to people. Comedy is a diffuser in awkward situations. Comedy allows us to laugh at uncomfortable situations. It can break up a tense situation. It helps us cope with trauma. Shared feel-good moments created by laughter help to create social bonds and make us feel closer to each other. Laughter provides us with a break from the weight of reality – even if it is just for a few brief moments.

Laughter is infectious in the best possible way. For proof, watch this:

Give yourself permission to laugh.

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment and share it. Thank you.

About Lauren Ansley:

Lauren Ansley is a stand-up comedian, emcee, speaker and producer of live stand-up comedy shows. Lauren Ansley Comedy Productions and Beerly Funny are both based in Charlotte, NC and operate with three main goals: To create moments of joy and laughter, to support local businesses, and to help elevate comedy as an art form. In the pandemic, Lauren has shifted to offer custom comedy shows, happy hours, and more online. Learn more at www.laurenansley.com. (Use Promo Code: Frozen Burritos. I do’nt know where you’d use it, but go for it!)

Resources:

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Laughter to the Workplace (PDF)

My Three Year Comedy Anniversary (Article)

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