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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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