Thursday, June 2, 2011

A funny thing about comedy...

...it's not as easy as it looks, but it provides healing in the most stressful of times. There is an oft quoted acting maxim, attributed to several sources: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." Of course, this refers to the art of using comedy in performance. However, it crosses over into real life as well.

When I was waiting for my liver transplant, one of the things I struggled to maintain was my sense of humor. So many people would tell me to "keep my spirits up," without any real suggestions on how to do that. I figured out that all I needed to do was what I have always done, and that was gravitate towards those things I found hilarious. I watched a lot of Robin Williams, George Carlin, TV shows that would make me laugh my ass off all the time, funny movies - you get the gist. What I also found were ways to make myself laugh, along with others.

I made up two lists of "Top Ten Ways Of Knowing You've Been Living With Liver Disease Too Long." While very esoteric, I was able to share with friends that I met through transplant and liver disease support groups, as well as the medical people that were taking care of me.

It made them laugh. It made me laugh.

About two months before my transplant I gave a lecture to a group of EMT students on death and dying. It drove home a lot of what I lectured about, looking as sick as I was and also being funny at the same time. The lecture was more focused on what they will encounter out in the field as EMT's, but certainly had a bigger impact having it delivered by someone that was dying by degrees right before their eyes. The opening part of the lecture was a series of video clips I put together of how Hollywood views death, both seriously and comedy-wise. This is one of the clips I used:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9tAKLTktY0

It had a great impact on those students, and I can only hope they understood what I was trying to get across and use in their daily working lives.

Now to that end, I'm organizing a similar presentation to my transplant support group here in Rochester, with a little twist. The idea is to show how to use comedy as a coping mechanism, and is part lecture, part floor show, with some local improv actors that I'm friends with and have worked with. It's all in the planning stages now, but hopefully we can make this work.

"I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it." - George Carlin.


4 comments:

Hannah said...

Self-deprecation is an art, and a sense of humour a lifeline... When you deliver the presentation, why not get someone to film it so you can upload it online? It sounds like the kind of wholehearted initiative that could provide both comfort and inspiration to many...

Mr. Nighttime said...

Hannah - We're on the same page, my dear. going to try to get local press coverage as well.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I was telling a woman I'd met while waiting for the dentist about the power of laughter to heal. I told her that even the BBC had a news article about it [when you want to impress a Guyanese, tell them you saw it on the BBC news].

I think you've found your calling :-)

Zoe said...

I have never been as ill as you have, but when things go wrong or I feel shite then I find that the only way to get through times such as those are to joke and laugh about them. 'Crapitis' is commonly used over here - by someone who reads my old blog;)

I look forward to seeing your presentation xx