Making Dreams Come True for Comics and Speakers since 1984
  Judy Carter's Comedy Workshops  

Turning Problems into Punchlines

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.

-Judy Carter

Author of The Comedy Bible, Motivational-Humorist, and Comedy Coach  

13 comments:

Jeff Vankooten said...

Someone told me once that humor is the "heart sweating" - It is a powerful elixir for stress and strain.

Marieeeee :) said...

This is SO true- and thank you for the reminder! :) A couple of years ago, by February, I had so many 'bad' things happen that I was feeling very depressed. And one day, I knew I had to write a comedy song about it. It made all the difference! I got a good song out of it ("This Year Sucks", 2010), and I truly got to find the humor in all of my "tragedy."
Thanks for your continued tips!!
-Marie Pettit :)

Pro Summarizer said...

I agree with everything you say, but one sentence bothers me a bit. Near the end of the article you wrote "When you can laugh at a problem, it decreases it in size." My question is, what if the problem itself was one of size. Won't laughing at it just make things worse?

I'm not talking about myself, you understand, but just maybe, you know, somebody can empathize with my, I mean THE problem.
Thank you. I will hang up and listen for my answer.

Pro Summarizer said...

I agree with everything you say, but one sentence bothers me a bit. Near the end of the article you wrote "When you can laugh at a problem, it decreases it in size." My question is, what if the problem itself was one of size. Won't laughing at it just make things worse?

I'm not talking about myself, you understand, but just maybe, you know, somebody can empathize with my, I mean THE problem.
Thank you. I will hang up and listen for my answer.

Pro Summarizer said...

I agree with everything you say, but one sentence bothers me a bit. Near the end of the article you wrote "When you can laugh at a problem, it decreases it in size." My question is, what if the problem itself was one of size. Won't laughing at it just make things worse?

I'm not talking about myself, you understand, but just maybe, you know, somebody can empathize with my, I mean THE problem.
Thank you. I will hang up and listen for my answer.

Anonymous said...

Laughter is how I always dealt with pain. An the bad things in life can make for a great story. I always seen pain as creative outlet. I remember back in 2010, I went for a check up at a clinic, & my cousin & I was crackking jokes.

canal Q pirate said...

Is it too late for my folks to abuse me so I can get an act together?

Rod CFP said...

You are exactly right about telling a story after we have gotten over it. I've been in story workshops and the teller is "sobbing" while trying to get to end of their story. We must have come to terms with whatever the issue is or was, before we try to share it with the world.
Rod CFP

Laura Breaux said...

I attended your workshop in Houston last week and I didn't quite understand why you were encouraging me to make jokes about my alcoholic husband. I was trying to escape for the weekend and didn't really want to talk about him but now I'm glad I did. I'm going to be speaking to an al-anon group next week and now I have some fresh material to help them laugh. I never thought of it that way before;you don't have to wait to create humor in hindsight. You can laugh in the moment,too. Thanks, Judy

Paul Simpson said...

Judy, you keep me inspired with your books and emails. Thank you for your time and experience, I can't wait to pass along my knowledge and inspiration to help others like you have. Our past is the medication to laugh at the future

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article. It really resonated. I remember acting out the stuff I would see on TV for the family. Unfortunately, we only had 3 channels so me doing my Mae West impression was more disturbing than funny. “Say’s big boy, how’s about pealing me a grape”. I think that’s when my mom pushed me more towards sports and got the piano and homemade “stage set” out of the living room.
Of course all of this had to happen in the living room before my dad got home. He was going to eat quickly and get to the Moose lodge so that he and the boys could have a couple of “Coke Colas”. It was not going to be pretty to come home and find his son swinging a feather boa.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your newsletter, which is why I was a bit taken aback when you insulted me in the first paragraph. I'm so sorry you had a lousy childhood. If I could make that better for you, I would. But I had a great childhood and that doesn't mean I'm "just not that funny." In fact, I consistently get feedback that my humor is my greatest strength.
It just goes to show you that humor can come from anywhere, even the "normal" people. In the end, everyone has the capability, and more importantly the right, to be funny.

Brian Henchey said...

I had a good childhood and I'm not at all funny.

That being said, despite my parents doing a good job of raising a good, moral person, that didn't mean that I was happy. In fact, something's been missing my entire life...and I still don't know what it is.

So if anything, I want to say that anyone who feels compelled to do stand-up does so to make themselves feel better so their thoughts and feelings aren't in the crapper.

-Brian Henchey
Talk Show Host / Producer / Comedian / Board Op (Seeking additional radio/TV opportunities)
CLIPS & DEMO: http://youtube.com/BrianHencheyShow