For ages, theatre and the arts, have been represented by the “tragedy and comedy” masks. These masks highlight the intertwining of laughter and sadness in art. These two concepts are inseparable and support each other in ways that are not always obvious. I believe that laughing, and getting others to do the same, is one of life’s greatest pleasures and that comedy is a beautiful way of coping with life’s pain. One of my inspirations, Robin Williams, believed that comedy was a type of therapy that could enrich people’s lives. He enabled me to gain a greater understanding of comedy’s brilliance. Comedy is an inclusive art form that allows for diverse people, beliefs, and backgrounds. In the hands of people who do not know what to do with it, comedy can be detrimental. Yet, this craft is worth investing your time, energy, and passion into, nonetheless.
There is often a fine line between laughing and crying, and successful comedians often balance the two well. Anthony Jeselnik is a poplar comedian who walks this fine line in his stand-up performances. He is infamous for joking about national tragedies such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, 9/11, or mass shootings. This type of dark humor manages to offend many people. Yet, others find it a type of catharsis, able to heal psychological wounds caused by the tragedies themselves.
However, in some cases, comedy can have its hand in causing the actual disaster. The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, is well-known for its tragic shooting in 2015. The magazine was allegedly targeted for some of their comic publications mocking the Prophet Muhammad. During the attack, 12 people died, with even more injured. The attackers were cited as taking pride in avenging the Prophet. Comedy can have a beautiful ability to bring people together and to promote understanding. However, it is not always so. In this case, it ended tragically. Humor is relative. What makes some people laugh will make others cry, and even some to act out in violence. Here is the danger in wielding such a powerful and influential tool, such as comedy.
Gabriel Iglesias, or as he is affectionally known “Fluffy”, is a comedian and voice actor who often tells the stories of his drunken adventures with his friends in his stand-up routines. One of these stories recalls the time he is pulled over after going the wrong way on a street. When the cop comes to the window he asks if he knows why he was pulled over. Fluffy, conveniently, has an open box of fresh donuts in his lap. So, Fluffy says “because you could smell [them]”. Finding the remark hilarious, he lets Fluffy go. I do not recommend trying your hand at avoiding a ticket with humor in every situation, but it certainly can work. This is because making someone laugh can cross boundaries, lighten the mood, and solve difficult situations.
Humor makes a difference. It can have monumental effect on a community, or simply change the mindset of one person. Comedy is an occupation of dividing what is acceptable, what is not, and what the audience is not sure about. Comedy itself has a purpose, and can be used in many different ways by various people. French playwright, Moliere, described the duty of comedy to “correct men by amusing them”. T.J. Miller simply says that comedy can “provide a distraction from the disaster of…living”.
Whether you laugh as a coping mechanism, enjoy the distraction, or find deep meaning in it, there is no doubting comedy’s incredible power. Use it wisely, but often.