Life Requires Humour
Life is a lot harder than people like to admit. We have a nasty social habit of responding to every “How are you?” with a positive statement regardless of how awful we actually feel inside. Humour and comedy are effective tools for delivering hard truths that we cannot muster up with a straight face. This is especially helpful for those living with physical disabilities. For those afflicted with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, such as yours truly, it is a way to process dark thoughts. More than just softening the blow, comedy provides clarity and highlights the absurdities of hardship better than straight-forward statements ever could.
Life is heavy on presentation. We project a heightened, more idealized version of ourselves on social media. You dress well for work and social occasions even when you feel like garbage. I write articles meant to uplift and inspire after an anxious night of little sleep. Humour lifts off that veneer. It offers a look into the struggles of physical and mental disabilities in a way that allows people to connect on a stronger emotional level. There are different approaches to this. Affiliative humour is the kind we use to build relationships and put people we are with at ease. Self-enhancing humour is used as a coping mechanism, whereas self-defeating humour attempts to amuse others at your own expense. These all have their own pros and cons, but can be used effectively to convey feelings and connect with others.
Life needs more difficult truths out in the open. Comics with disabilities often employ self-defeating humour in a positive way. Ted Shiress is a comedian with cerebral palsy who uses comedy to go beyond simply being “disability inspiration” for abled-bodied people. Self-deprecating humour is his tool to get his way on stage alongside other professional comedians and shatter the perception that people with disabilities are worse at delivering jokes or getting an audience to laugh. He faces a dissonance: an audience ready to enjoy his act, while at the same time contending with the guilt of laughing at a disabled individual. He notes that in comedy, why you are saying what you are saying is more important than the subject matter. He strives to ensure his disability does not define him, but refuses to ignore it, comparing it to a tall comedian joking about being tall. Humour allows people to understand him better.
Life is chaos. We have no say over the condition of the bodies we are born with. Laughter and comedy empower us. Instead of denying, downplaying, or wallowing in misery, we can tackle our life’s predicament head on. Take a moment to think about your saddest emotions, darkest thoughts, and biggest challenges. More often than not, these are things that only surface when no one is around. Yet they are an integral part of our humanity and not a defect you face on your own. Jokes, anecdotes, and humourous musings not only soften the impact of sharing this side of ourselves with others, but also provide insight in how to address these seemingly insurmountable problems.
Life is horrifyingly beautiful. When we strive to show other sides of ourselves on social media, answer a “How are you?” in earnest, and find the style of humour that best suits how we want to express ourselves, we take bold steps against the disabilities and tragedies that life throws our way. We feel empowered, connected, and more self-assured. It is not only a helpful tool. It is a necessity of life.
Counselling Connection. “Humour Makes Life Easier.” https://www.counsellingconnection.com/index.php/2009/08/04/humour-makes-life-easier/
Greengross, Gil. “The Relationship Between Humor and Depression.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/humor-sapiens/201911/the-relationship-between-humor-and-depression
Shiress, Ted. “Disability and comedy: a personal perspective.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/sep/12/disability-comedy-personal-perspective