4 Comics Who Have Shown How Humor Can Help Us Cope With Tragedy

4 Comics Who Have Shown How Humor Can Help Us Cope With Tragedy

Jul 25
4 Comics Who Have Shown How Humor Can Help Us Cope With Tragedy

One of the underrated benefits of comedy is how it can help us cope with tragedies like death and other traumatic experiences. Many of the most successful comedians have dealt with extremely painful experiences in their lives and have used humor to cope with their mental and emotional pain. For example, Robin Williams dealt with severe depression through much of his life, which was the opposite of what many would expect from his funny and friendly personality.

In recent years, several contemporary comedians have used comedy to deal with their own personal tragedies. Some of these comedians have also integrated these traumatic personal experiences into their stand-up routines. A few of the comedians I think have done this particularly well include:

Jim Gaffigan

Last year, comedian Jim Gaffigan’s wife Jeannie was diagnosed with a large brain tumor. The couple of 15 years says they used humor to cope with this diagnosis. Jeannie underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove the tumor last April. The couple has used their experiences during this difficult time as inspiration for their new joint-comedy special, Noble Ape.

The special touches on how being married to a comedian made these struggles more bearable for Jeannie Gaffigan. Noble Ape is currently playing in select theaters and is also available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and on demand.

Hannah Gadsby

Australian comic Hannah Gadsby has become one of the hottest names in standup comedy this summer after the release of her special entitled Nanette. Ironically enough, the special is actually somewhat of an anti-standup special and Gadsby shocks the audience by announcing her retirement from standup halfway through the performance.

Gadsby’s performance questions the nature of humor and standup comedy, along with showing how trauma, tension, and release are the three main elements of humor.

Nanette is much more than a comedy special. It’s definitely not what most viewers are expecting if they go in without any outside information. But it’s an incredible performance that could change the way we think about comedy and society at large.

Patton Oswalt

In 2016, longtime standup comedian Patton Oswalt’s wife unexpectedly passed away in her sleep at just 46 years old. Oswalt hasn’t been shy about discussing how he’s dealt with this tragedy, along with adjusting to life as a single father of the couple’s 8-year-old daughter. Just 18 months after losing his wife, Oswalt returned to the stage for a new Netflix special called Annihilation.

Oswalt spends much of the special ruminating on the grieving process and somehow manages to bring humor into the discussion of a difficult but universally-relatable topic. He discusses the cycles of anger, frustration, and sadness he’s experienced while trying to move on from this sudden and life-altering tragedy.

Annihilation is a standup special that will appeal to a range of emotions and resonate with just about everyone who has ever lost someone.

Margaret Cho

49-year-old Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho has frankly discussed the traumatic experience of being regularly sexually abused by a family friend during her childhood. According to Cho, humor was the only thing that helped make her feel better about the trauma she went through. She tackles some tough issues related to sexual abuse, including rape culture and the culture of suppression in cases like Bill Cosby’s history as a sexual predator. Like the other comics on this list, Cho’s performances can help others who have endured similar trauma begin to move past it through humor, the same way she did.