An interesting set of circumstances set into motion this column. An accidental email to a group not generally considered funny elicited this response.
“Can someone please tell me how to contact Derek Wilken, the writer of the (PWOMWBFY – People Without Money Who Beg For Yours) Toastmaster’s speech?
As a publisher of a holistic health magazine, I would love to contact Derek to discuss a regular humour column. Anyone that can laugh at Manic Depression is a hero in my mind. So, if you know how to find Derek, please get him to contact…” As the Gods ordained here I am and now that we have negotiated a fee (sorry free…) I feel compelled to talk about the therapy of comedy.
Laughter Makes it All Light
I am one of the principles of the CHEERS project and we teach people how to be a stand-up comic. At the end of the training the “comics” go on stage at a local Comedy Club and perform to an audience packed with skeptics. That sounds intimidating.
We have as our students people with a mental illness, a developmental disability, professional speakers, traumatic brain injury survivors and of course the police. We have just finished our first “Jr. Jokers” for ages 6-17. We have taught every type of person you can name. This gives you some insight.
I was going to call the column “Mind if I Laugh?” to coincide with this issues theme and then remembered it was supposed to say something. Anyone that takes a comedy class will become in touch with a part of their psyche usually only found in therapy. The painful and joyful parts are close together.
When we teach the class there is a general tone of fun and frivolity which decreases the normal boundaries we as social animals put up. Things are said (many a truth is spoken in jest) that are at once cathartic and funny. I know there is a drawback somewhere, but it hasn’t surfaced yet other than in my increase in therapy.
The best way I can explain it is to put you in the shoes of one of the performers. You are going to tell strangers in an audience the “joke” that is your life. They will laugh at your problems and with the laughter will come recognition that your life is indeed a problem. Not necessarily the usual straight line to mental wellness but an effective one.
When you tell someone your problem “in joke” you get a response that does not exacerbate the condition. Laughter validates your problem without making you the source of pity or condolences. Most of us are impressed by people who make “light” of their problems.
This flies in the face of the empathetic listening concept of psychology and works for me. I am from Saskatchewan (had to put it in somewhere) and have a hard time listening to myself… let alone complete strangers. Comedy lightens the problem so I can understand and gives me the medium to digest the message.
I would like to suggest the book “Stand-up Comedy” by Judy Carter. Try doing the first 4 chapters and you will find yourself saying “Maybe he wasn’t crazy… oh… sorry.”