If you are a funny person on my list and reading this, there’s a high probability that you had a lousy childhood. Isn’t that why we are funny? I think so. All the “normal” people who take my comedy workshops, the ones that are from loving families, where people “talk” things out rather than throw stuff-- just aren’t that funny.
Don’t most of us funny people sharpen our wit on the edges of our troubled past? We comics don’t need a study to tell us that humor helps get through tough times. That’s the transformational service we provide to audiences as well as ourselves - turning problems into punch lines. Larry David turned his divorce into an entire season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” What a great way to work out pain and anxiety by getting laughs, not to mention making gobs of money on your misery. But, are there life events that are too high on the Richter scale of pain to be funny?
A well-known belief is that, “comedy is tragedy plus time.” I disagree. Haven’t we’ve all seen a speaker or a comic talk about something that is still raw and it just feels awkward?
Very often in a speaking workshop, a female speaker will cry while telling her story. But, isn’t the purpose of a heartfelt story is to move an audience, not the speaker? Perhaps, the pain fallout from a tragedy needs to dull a bit before we have the distance to joke about it. So, it takes more than time to have a comedy perspective on a personal tragedy - it first takes some first aid. Then once you’ve built up that protective scab, then... let the jokes rip.
Laughing at a problem gives you a feeling of having some power over your troubles. When you can laugh at a problem, it decreases it in size. Besides, you’ll have a lot more fun being a comedy queen than a drama queen.
Author of The Comedy Bible, Motivational-Humorist, and Comedy Coach