Thoughts About Comedy in the Wake of a Tragedy

Orlando For once in my life, I’m going to be serious.

In his stand-up special, Funcomfortable, Chris Hardwick talks about the death of his father. His girlfriend at the time was with him and asks, "Is there anything you need?"

"Well," Hardwick says through tears, "My dad always wanted us to have [censored]."

Tragedy is odd. Whether it's personal or a worldwide thing, it puts everyone into a state of solemnity. It inspires sadness, anger, confusion…

And then there's comedy.

As I write this, it has been a little more than 24 hours since the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It's still really hard to figure out what just happened. I have a feeling many of us are still in a state of denial over it.

On Sunday night, at around 6:30 p.m., I wrote a short Facebook post about my feelings on the whole ordeal. Well, not so much feelings as writing, "I'm speechless," adding a link that connected to Equality Florida for anyone who wanted to assist in financial aid or share the link with those who could.

Then at 7 p.m., I turned on the Tony Awards and I felt like my appendix would burst because I was laughing for 10 minutes over a joke about how many times actor Danny Burstein appeared on Law and Order as a half dozen different characters. And during commercial breaks I’m laughing harder because friends I’ve made through classes and troupes at the Dallas Comedy House are writing hilarious, raw jokes in their statuses.

What is it about that?

No matter how dark or low things can be, either for the world or myself alone, I can always find a joke, a bit of sarcasm, a sense of the ridiculous. I have used humor in the past as a defense mechanism from the usual teeny gripes: bullies, upset parents, my own feelings. Then again in personal tragedy, most involving mental health issues to current physical health issues from wonky gene. And now I’m seeing comedians do their jobs in yet another dire national crisis—they are here to provide support, but also to make sure you smile at least once today.

Humor is more than just a defense against trouble, and it's more than just an escape. It is how we process terrible things. It puts everything in perspective.

It feels hard to find any sign of joy in the face of a national or personal tragedy. At the same time, I can't imagine getting through something without laughter.

That's all there is to say, really.

If you feel the need to give, consider donating to Equality Florida as they assist Orlando victims and their families. They have also created a GoFundMe account to create a support fund for victims.

KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.