Being a comedian and actor since as I can remember, making people laugh has always been a form of delight for me. It always instantly made me feel better to hear or watch someone else laughing. Even as a young kid, when me and my cousins would put on little shows and musicals in our basement and force our parents and aunts and uncles to attend for the cost of a dime for admission, my favorite part was always watching them convulse into laughter. Even though at the time they were probably laughing AT us more than with us, but still – it was always just so amazing seeing my mom or dad or my Uncle Frank laughing so hard. Its almost like a type of freedom, to be able to just laugh yourself silly in that uncontrollable way.
As a kid, I did tons of plays and community theatre in my small town of Groton, MA. One theatre group I was in, us kids wrote all the sketches and songs ourselves, lots of song parodies and sketch comedy that, if I do say so myself, was pretty damn good for a bunch of 12 and 13 year old kids. One sketch I wrote was a parody of “Nightmare on Elm Street” called “Nightmare on Sesame Street” where instead of Freddy Crougar, Freddy Rogers was the killer because he was jealous of the ratings that “Sesame Street” got. I played the part of Super Grover, who flew in toward the end to solve the crime and save the day. Come on now, thats pretty genius, right? I also got to play Edith Bunker in our version of “All in the Family”, “Blah-na White” in our version of “Wheel of Nothing”, and so many other fun roles that I either created, or were parodies of other people. While being onstage, my favorite part was always trying to keep a straight face as I improvised something to make it more hilarious, or trying not to laugh anytime someone in the audience could be hear snorting with laughter. The thing about laughter is this: it’s contagious, and as soon as you hear someone giggling, it makes you feel 100% free to giggle yourself.
I went to college in NYC for Performing Arts, and graduated with a BFA. I directed multiple comedy shows, sketch comedy cabarets, wrote and performed in so many sketches and plays, and then started getting into stand-up comedy and doing shows all over NYC and beyond. I became an Adjunct Professor at Adelphi University after graduating, and taught courses in stand-up comedy, Acting, and Dramatics. I taught improvisation and stand-up at different places throughout NYC. I directed shows with casts of over 40 people, and created scripts and scenes and characters. It always felt so magical, it always made me feel so good.
What I didnt or couldnt comprehend at the time, before my loss, was how healing and life-affirming and validating and freeing laughter could be. I did not understand how laughter could bring someone out of a deep depression, or how it could save them in times of deep pain or unfathomable grief. I could not have imagined widowed people coming up to me after my performances, and saying such profound things as: “that’s the first time Ive laughed since my wife was diagnosed with cancer”, or “I never thought I would laugh again after my husband’s sudden death. Thank you.” Sometimes the laughter is a reminder for people in tremendous grief, that they are in fact, still alive, and that emotions other than horrific pain still exist for them. Other times it is simply a great sense of relief to laugh again, and to feel safe in that laughter, knowing that the audience of fellow widowed people will not be judging you for laughing. I never understood what a lifeline laughter could be, and how vital it is. I never knew Id be doing comedic presentations at a strange but incredible place called “Camp Widow”, and I never could have known how important these presentations, how important these people, my tribe, would become to me. I had no idea how death would change my life forever, nor how much power laughing actually had/has. Im so excited for the next time I get the honor of presenting and making people in pain laugh. Im excited for the next Camp Widow, and Im excited for other opportunities to get people laughing.
Last night I did a free virtual comedy show on the Circles app, and it was open to everyone, all were invited. I did some grief comedy, some holiday comedy, and just some observational stuff. Circles is a virtual platform that offers support groups virtually, and Im one of their Grief facilitators, leading a couple of groups for widowed people. Whats great about it is the platform is audio only, so its totally anonymous, no cameras or anything on anyone in their Voices groups. This made last nights Holiday Comedy Show challenging , to do comedy without seeing or heaaring your audience, VERY WEIRD. However, I saw people typing little hearts in the chat room, and they left comments afterwards, mostly saying thank you One person said this: “during your show, I had this image of families sitting around in the 1940s huddled around their radio on a Saturday night laughing their butts off. Thanks for the laughs!”
There is always something to learn, and new ways to do things you thought you knew everything about. Virtual comedy without being able to see faces or hear the actual laughter – SO WEIRD – but it made me feel amazing, and still left me with that same rush of excitement and feeling of doing some little bit of good in the world, helping to make someone’s evening a little less sad or give them a sense of hope or community or a sense that they CAN feel alive again and that they are capable of that. Laughter always helps. It helps the people who are laughing, and it helps the person who is providing the laughs. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful forms of total and complete human connection. Nobody can ever take that away from us.