Jenn Says Stuff: The Effects of Comedy

I think I have a rant coming up about being offended and offensive but I am going to put that on hold. Tonight, I want to talk about comedy. I am a comedian. I make jokes, crack wise and other suitable phrases for being a standup comic. While I am all about laughter, I am a VERY serious person, especially about my comedy. I don’t just mean in life, but also on stage. I can’t act, I don’t do voice work, I merely tell stories about my life that make other people laugh.

I took an acting class in university. The professor had us “go wild” before each class. An exercise to “burn off energy” and “free you from pretention” (which is a pretentious statement). Other’s in the class would run around, do somersaults, yell, scream and act ridiculous. I would maybe move my feet side to side and say a meek “yeh”. The professor said I had no freedom of expression and movement.  I said, “you should see me in the bedroom.” I am not silly, but I was always a comic.

I worked this past weekend with David Acer, the king of silliness. On stage, he has jokes that are silly, and I mean that as a term of respect. He writes things that are funny, performs them and gets you every time with how adorable and well thought out the jokes are. He is serious about his comedy, but his on stage persona is very silly.

If you read a lot about comedy, you will hear terms like “pushing the boundaries of society” and “the barometer of social issues” or other pretentious statements. This can be true, but I often laugh internally at the thought that a joke about my sex life is contributing anything to society except a good laugh. I think ‘well maybe I’m just not that good”, or “don’t have strong opinions on society”. Both statements are false, I am funny on stage and I am one opinionated lady; it’s just not what I want to make jokes about.

I watched David this week and the middle act Danny Martinello, a very funny theatre graduate whose persona of “bro” can also be silly, though he takes on serious subjects such as what it’s like to be a young white male dating in 2017 and how to give proper fellatio.  I watched them and thought of all three of us and wondered “what does it all mean?” (did I mention earlier I am a very deep and serious person??)

Then on Saturday I got to spend time with one of my oldest friends. We have known each other for 23 years, having met while we were both attending hair dressing school, a career by the way that lasted six months for me. Can’t cut a straight line, and hated talking to people! The night I saw her was two weeks after her partner died of cancer. During the dinner with her, his twin brother, and another close friend of hers, I didn’t think of comedy once. They came to the show after dinner, drank and had fun and we hung out a bit after. I was in awe to see her smile, I mean two weeks! This is when it hit me, that comedy can help heal. No, going to a comedy club will not help you grieve after a spouse has died, but it will take you out of your head for a couple of hours. Whether it is a stressful day, bad news from work or something more serious, for 1.5 hours everyone in that room was transported out of their problems into David, myself, and Danny’s worlds. They laughed alongside stories of my children’s puberty, Danny’s approach to women and David’s absurd style of comedy. They laughed, they released energy in a positive way that had been keeping them down for so long. They laughed and during that time they allowed themselves to forget about anything negative and to be in the present moment.

When they went home of course their grief remained. Of course, they have healing to do and of course going to a comedy club will not cure anyone of all life’s stressors but for that 1.5 hours, you don’t have to think about it. You allow yourself to enjoy yourself, to enjoy the comedy and to be around 200 other people laughing alongside you.

I am not silly nor am I breaking any boundaries in society with my comedy, but for the time I am on stage I am doing something good, and often don’t know the impact because who knows who is in our audiences. Perhaps other people may be grieving, some may be losing their houses due to economic turmoil, some dealing with past trauma’s and some just overwhelmed with life. For all those people, we will never know how we have impacted you, but being this close to it with my friend, I smiled that we were able to do that, and I am happy to be surrounded by so many other comics who do the same thing every night.

We make a difference in our own way. We never know who is watching, listening or who needs to hear what we must say, but we are important, everyone has their roles to play in society, and if this is one way we can help, then I am proud to be a comedian.

If you want to spend some time getting away from your head and enjoying some truly silly moments (I really am trying to break out of my serious mode) then come to The Jenn Hayward Show Live at Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa on April 25th.

Also floss.

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