In these difficult times, we live in, the old adage “laughter is the best medicine” seems to ring powerfully true now more than ever. Laughter is indeed one of the best remedies to life’s challenges especially when we feel isolated, misunderstood, or when everything just feels like falling apart.
Fortunately, in recent years, stand-up comedy specials have spread like wildfire by virtue of Netflix’s massive investment in providing comedians the opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider and international audience on their streaming platform.
This opportune moment couldn’t have come at a better time, especially now that we are still trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of the past two years in a pandemic as well as the horrifying violence and social issues that our society faces on a daily basis. Let’s examine how laughter affects our well-being as well as how stand-up comedies can be an effective tool in inducing positive change in our personal lives and in our society.
For the longest time, the norm would be getting all glammed up and going all the way to a comedy bar to experience a stand-up comedian’s performance. Nowadays, streaming platforms particularly Netflix, have made it easier for us to get our comedy fix in the comfort of our own home – making laughter and entertainment an accessible and affordable pastime and companion. Even in the middle of the pandemic, comedians have found a way to utilize virtual platforms such as Zoom, YouTube, or Facebook to perform and cater to the needs of their loyal audiences.
Stand-up comedy is simply a live performance that involves a comedian telling funny jokes or stories in front of an audience. Its roots date back to the 1800 Minstrel shows, which is a form of racist and discriminatory entertainment that includes comic acts, music, and theatre performances to scoff at racial stereotypes of African Americans. In the 1950s, the popularity of TV shows such as The Tonight Show and Th Ed Sullivan Show paved the way for comics and influenced the way comedy shows were structured from that point onwards. It has only grown bigger since the 2000s and has become a staple in mainstream media up to this day.
Some of the best comedians from its early days include George Carlin, Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Jerry Seinfeld. Stand-up comedy used to be a male-dominated industry, in fact, the hit show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, has brilliantly shed light on the struggles of a woman trying to forge a career as a stand-up comedienne in New York City in the 1950s. Today, we have a diverse lineup of comedians who have had successful careers in comedy such as Amy Schumer, Ali Wong, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chapelle, Jokoy, Kevin Hart, and John Mulaney among others.
Laughs for a Cause
Stand-up comedies serve a bigger purpose than simply entertaining us. Comedians have a remarkable talent for using humor to bring to light complex social issues and taboos in today’s society. They actually hold the power to inform and influence a wide audience to ponder and take action towards a particular cause or issue. By combining facts and humor, the impact of the message is amplified and increases its chances of being seen and grasped by the public.
“You can change a powerless situation to one of strength, but it’s all in how you look at it. Onstage, comedians turn their oppressors, agitations, and abusers into the butt of the joke. Not only can you do that but in doing so you disempower that negativity,” via Backstage.
Not to mention, laughter has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to our overall health and well-being. It is an effective coping mechanism that naturally releases chemicals in our bodies that instantly relieves the stress from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Having a sense of humor allows us to look beyond the negativity by focusing on finding the good in every situation.
Comedians have a remarkable talent for using humor to bring to light complex social issues and taboos in today’s society
“Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.”
There’s no doubt that laughter is a universal language that connects and unites us all despite our differences. It is a natural remedy to the distress and desolation we feel when the weight of the world gets too heavy. Fortunately, outlets such as stand-up comedy shows have become increasingly accessible for us to get our much-needed daily dose of laughter anytime, anywhere. No matter what the circumstances, comedy will always play an important role in our lives not just for entertainment but also for learning and understanding important affairs that are happening in our society.
The hope for the future is to give more opportunities or recognition to underrepresented comedians so we can get more exposed to diverse voices and perspectives on the world, cultures, or social issues that we should be paying attention to. Also, the next time you feel overwhelmed or melancholic, you should consider tuning into stand-up comedy specials to keep you company and help boost your morale.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.