What is the connection between comedy and tragedy? Is the answer hidden in the juxtaposition of human emotion; in that, to know happiness, must you know sadness, and vice versa? It is often said that adverse experiences can make us more resilient; is it possible humor plays a role in strengthening our ability to cope with struggle? Why is it that some of the world’s funniest comedians, whose lives are dedicated to making us smile, laugh, and even question our own moral integrity, sometimes leave us in the most tragic of ways? At Response Crisis Center, we recognize that both comedy and tragedy are connected, and we appreciate the important healing qualities that humor has on our physical and mental health.
The complex relationship between comedy and tragedy is sometimes experienced when there is incongruity or contradiction between reality and expectation (This may be why SNL's spoofs are so funny!). With the birth of sitcom laugh-tracks in the late 1940’s, dark, ironic humor was almost lost. Gag humor became the norm and laugh-tracks were supposed to make us feel we had to laugh because everyone else found certain things funny.
I, for one, am glad to see that trend long gone. I feel grateful for the birth of the ‘dramedy’, which explores the nuances of comedy and doesn't sugarcoat reality. ‘Dramedies’ incorporate elements of both drama and comedy, sending the viewer on an emotional journey of highs and lows throughout the programming. Because of the connection to real life scenarios and emotional authenticity, these shows are free to explore the part of life that isn’t perfect, and appreciate that the heartaches and victories experienced every day are an essential aspect of humor.
Comedians famously walk the line of comedy and drama. The persona of a comedian is one that laughs at themselves; But underneath this persona is often heartache and pain. Comedians have the ability to reflect on the human condition in ways that allow us to see the absurdities in our shared life experiences. Often, comedians share deeply personal aspects of themselves and, while this may be healing for the audience, it may make the comedian feel alienated, alone, and vulnerable. In an effort to provide laughter and amusement to others, some sacrifice themselves in the process and we have lost far too many to suicide.
This irony is something that the public has witnessed throughout the history of entertainment. We often perceive comedians to be the happiest, most joyful humans in the room – yet the truth is much more complex. Often, comedians may use comedy as an outlet to lessen the severity of their depression– to sit back and laugh at what truly hurts them deep down. It becomes some sort of defense mechanism that a comedian may use to cope with despondency. Recently, popular comedians have opened up about their struggles with depression, furthering the efforts of agencies like Response Crisis Center and our role in generating awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.
We have all heard about the benefits of laughter- they are well documented. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain and conflict. Nothing works more consistently to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, and keeps you grounded, focused and alert. With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. The ability to not only experience adversity, but to understand it and use it to move forward in a happy, healthy way, is what makes comedy so powerful.
Join Response Crisis Center for our Performance for Prevention on July 6, and help generate suicide awareness with laughter.