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stand up comedy for men at risk of suicide
Photo by Michel Grolet on Unsplash

Don't mind me, just healing my trauma up here

Stand up comedy seems easy, but it's not. First, there’s the arduous task of actually creating material–being able to look at life through a certain lens, then having enough skill to translate that perspective into jokes that actually land. Plus there’s the whole bearing-your-soul-to-a-room-full-of-strangers aspect, one of the most common fears known to man.

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These factors combined perhaps don’t seem like a recipe for helping mental health, but as it turns out, stand-up comedy is proving to be a powerfully effective therapy tool. Just ask Angie Belcher, founder of Comedy on Referral.

Belcher has taught comedy for a decade, and over the years students would comment how much “stronger, more resilient and happier they were after exploring their personal histories through stand-up comedy.” It not only helped change their perspective, but sharing it all on stage put them in a “powerful position” to change their narrative of painful memories…possibly inspiring others to do the same.

“As a comedian, you could be the reason why someone in your audience does something differently,” Belcher told The Guardian

Comedy of Referral is a six-week program that allows people to process traumatic experiences by turning them into five minute comedy sets. Similar to the way art therapy helps explore difficult emotions through different mediums, students navigate personal issues through the use of theater games, as well as group and one-on-one work as they channel their “comedic persona." Participants are supported by psychologists in order to avoid triggering any past trauma.

two man laughing at each otherPhoto by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Watching comedy has long been researched and documented as a constructive way to cope with tragedy. Laughter itself produces endorphins that help release stress. It inspires empathy and connection. It can even help reduce stigmas surrounding certain mental health conditions. The Comedy on Referral program is proving that creating comedy can be just as helpful as consuming it. Their website claims that through stand-up coaching, trauma can become “more manageable as the story becomes one of validation and redemption rather than an unpleasant experience.”

The theory appears to be spot on. After a highly successful trial NHS-course for trauma survivors in Bristol, England, London’s NHS (National Health Service) has agreed to fund Comedy on Referral so that private practices throughout the country can prescribe the course to men at risk of suicide. Lourdes Colclough, head of suicide prevention at Rethink Mental Illness, noted that this demographic is an especially “hard-to-reach group.”

“Even though they’ve been diagnosed, [they] don’t think they have an issue and so won’t go to counseling or attend anything signposted [as] ‘suicide prevention’,” she reflected. But this is exactly the kind of challenge that Comedy on Referral is designed for. The unique curriculum uses creativity and humor to help people not only feel comfortable enough to open up, but come out being able to experience their life in a more empowering way.

Humor can be the friend we need when life gets hard. In times of uncertainty, crisis, and despair, it can uplift us from the inside out, and remind us that joy is a basic human need.

“I hope that participants will use what they learn on the course in their practical everyday life, so that they go into future endeavors with joy, hopefulness and playfulness rather than taking out their bully teenager-persona or their depressed 20-something persona or their grieving mother-persona or whatever it is,” said Belcher.

Comedy of Referral has plans to support as many people as possible. In addition, Belcher is also in talks to extend the program to young people with autism and ADHD, the Guardian reported.

Through programs like Comedy on Referral, people can learn to harness humor for themselves, and in the process become resilient, hopeful, and of course, funnier. Not a bad trade-off.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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