Why using comedy to cope with the horrors of the world is nothing to laugh at.

On the surface, "My Favorite Murder" is just another true-crime podcast, a way for people to listen to the highlights of some of the darkest moments in human history.

It attracts listeners — dubbed "murderinos" by co-hosts Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff — who know things like which serial killer built a "murder castle" (H. H. Holmes) and which one dressed up as Pogo the Clown (John Wayne Gacy).

Image via iStock.


But there’s clearly more to the story when your fans start cross-stitching memorable quotes and making baked goods with Ted Bundy's face on them. The podcast attracts a certain kind of listener because it offers them the chance to do something they rarely get to do: have a good laugh about murder.

That’s right. "My Favorite Murder" is a comedy podcast.

Kilgariff (left) and Hardstark. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

Blending horror and comedy may seem like an unlikely formula for success, but less than a year after it launched, Entertainment Weekly named it one of the 10 best podcasts of the year.

The desire to talk about true crime is rooted in more than fascination. It’s born from a need to use humor to cope with the horrors of the world.

"Look, I’m scared of dying so … all of this makes me feel better," Kilgariff admitted early on in the podcast. "It’s as if we could ward it off with just our positive verbal energies."

Image via iStock.

As the creator and executive producer of MTV’s "Sweet/Vicious," Jennifer Kaytin Robinson knows a little something about finding the humor in hard topics. Her show, which follows two female vigilantes who seek justice for victims of sexual assault and other crimes, is also a comedy (albeit a dark one).

"I don’t know what the world looks like anymore if people stop finding humor in what’s happening," Robinson says. "That’s not to say that you should normalize what’s happening, and that’s not to say it’s not serious and I’m not taking it seriously. I just think nothing can ever be sad all the time. It just can’t."

Although we can turn a blind eye to the injustices around us, there's a case to be made for acknowledging them and laughing when we can.  

Because the reality is horrible things will happen whether or not we’re paying attention.

And these things do happen. If the premise of "Sweet/Vicious" seems absurd to you, ask yourself why two college students — even fictional ones — would have to take this kind of action in the first place. It's not a stretch to believe two girls would get fed up and take matters into their own hands when we live in a country where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college and a time in which advocates are concerned about the future of Title IX protections under the current administration.

Image via "Sweet/Vicious"/MTV.

Grounding storylines in real issues is what makes shows like "Sweet/Vicious" so powerful. Doing so offers victims comfort because they get to see versions of their stories played out on screen. It gives them something to point to and say, "That happens. I know because it happened to me."

"One woman reached out to me on Twitter and told me she was assaulted (and I would never say this if it was a private message; this was a public message) and could never really talk to her dad about it," Robinson says. "And her father and her watch the show every week together ... she told him what happened, but she doesn’t have to get specific because they can just watch. He just understands. He knows."

By leaning into discomfort and finding humor in those experiences, we learn that feeling vulnerable doesn’t mean living in fear.

The creators of "My Favorite Murder" and "Sweet/Vicious" have seen how audience members have been able to regain control of their narratives and better understand their place in the world.

"The most amazing thing about the show is the amount of people who have reached out and said, 'Because of this show, I have gotten help, and I have felt worthy of getting help and deserving of a life, and I have been able to see that this doesn’t define me and isn’t my fault,'" Robinson says.

At the end of the day (or episode), humor offers us one way to take some power back in a world where many of us feel powerless.

And that’s nothing to laugh at.

Most Shared
terimakasih0/Pixabay

When Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School principal Janet Behrens observed her students in the cafeteria, she was dismayed to see that they spent more time looking down at their phones than they did looking at and interacting with each other. So last year, she implemented a new policy that's having a big impact.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular