Why I Love Comedy

Author(s): Brandy Perkl, Ph.D.

Originally posted: April 15, 2015

Comedy is finally being studied seriously by academics, which means maybe I'll be able to justify my obsession with it one day in a respectable way.

If you're a comedy fanatic like me, skip the exposition and jump to the listen, you already know why I love this stuff. If you're not though, and you're like the person who asked me recently why I love comedy which prompted me to want to write this... maybe this will help you understand why comedy fanatics exist.

Reason 1: It helps me process things

I've always found humor (and books) to be essential in helping me to process things. I don't like saying my life has often been difficult because it's all relative and others had it 'worse', but that is the best way to describe it. Reading (getting to be someone else and go through some serious stuff, but in a safe way where they show you how they got through it) and comedians (listening to others share their perspective and how they think about some serious stuff) helped me figure out how to deal with my own circumstances.

Reason 2: Adult life is so serious

Adult life is very serious most of the time, so it seems like the older I get the more I prefer comedy and satire, to help me balance it all out. Taking in the news through a satirical lens helps me keep it from taking me to a darker and very unproductive place emotionally. It helps me keep it in perspective. Basically it's my method of self-medication to avoid depression.

This week I was delighted by two separate listens:

Cameron Esposito re: having a lazy eye

Me as a bebé.

Cameron is a Force with a capital F. For the last couple of months or so she's been talking about her experiences with having a lazy eye and having to wear an eyepatch for years as a kid. (If you want to hear it check out the Put Your Hands Together podcast, she was doing it in the interludes between comics in Feb/March of this year). Since I was born cross-eyed, have had 8 eye surgeries to correct my eyes (but it turns out nothing could fix the fact that I have permanent strabismus and 2D vision), and also had to wear a hideous flesh-colored patch with weird stickers on it for years as a child, I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe when listening to her talk about it. It was awesome to know SOMEONE out there shared that experience. I'm very lucky I don't have the double vision issues she did, but my 2D vision comes with it's own share of issues (in a nutshell - bowling is the only 'sport' I can really play).

Sean White re: processing death

I've dealt with death pretty regularly in my life. I've found I am never really 100% done dealing with someone's loss - I just keep re-processing it in different ways as I grow and change and time passes. So when Sean came on the PYHT podcast with this material I almost had to pull over and stop the car (from laughter and so I could give it my full attention). I highly encourage a listen! (He's also hilarious on Twitter.)

It was brilliantly raw and funny (like Tig Notaro's Live album). It made me want to tell my own story about a certain blanket I was given after a funeral (I mean, seriously, it's such an odd choice to make. If you ever think of doing that for someone, I suggest you reconsider).

“… an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them.” –Louis C.K. re: Tig Notaro's Live set

Reason 3: I'm an idealist

Bits like these really remind me of things like the Harvard Alcohol Project, which basically used mass communication to facilitate a shift in alcohol-related social norms...the connection probably feels like a stretch to most people but for me comedy feels like that. It helps me change my mind, shift my norms, open my eyes, internalize the experiences of someone else, etc. without feeling guilt and shame over not doing more or not caring more or not understanding more (two emotions I am prone towards that are very unproductive).

Reason 4: I'm boring (& love to learn)

It's such a gift that I can invite people in through my eyes and ears to change up my mind a bit and keep me from being bored with myself.

If you have never heard of Ms. Pat, she is the ultimate example of this in action. Her life is so very different from mine, yet I can relate. So when I listen to her I am laughing while learning every second about what the life of others is like. That's so amazing.

TL;DR version: Comedy + reading help me cope + maintain optimism and idealism + keep my mind open and learn about others. This method may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

If you've got a brilliant bit or book I should know about, please share!

Portrait of the now Mrs. Dr. Perkl (then Dr. Brown) with Tig Notaro taken by Mr. Dr. Perkl in Tucson after an amazing show.