It’s often been said that the truth hurts. It hurts so much that oftentimes, we don’t even want to hear it. But how do comedians get away with jokes that hit us where it hurts? That may be tied to how comedy tells the truth with humor and grace.
I love stand-up comedy. If I were smart and talented enough, I would have loved to be a stand-up comic. Comedians go up the stage, tell stories, and put smiles on people’s faces. People fill large stadiums to see Jo Koy talk about his Filipino mom, and how she would make him get an extra handful of utensils, napkins, and peanuts from the store. While that story in itself could make someone feel embarrassed about their own family members acting and thinking like Jo Koy’s mom, the delivery of the joke lets you realize that’s just how it is.
When I talk to clients, my role isn’t to make them laugh or smile, but I think a large part of what I have to do is help them realize their own truths with the same grace that a comedian can. It’s hard to accept things when you’ve believed the exact opposite your whole life. The challenge for me is to help them understand what they’re working on while not discouraging them from what may be a painful process.
So what can we learn from comedy? First, I find good comedians always use irony in the truth as the punchline. Whenever I hear deadpan jokes, it’s amazing how telling the story as it is, without even changing the tone of your voice, makes the whole situation sound absurd. That means being witty and observant is important in helping someone. We don’t need to explain a lot – people are smart enough to learn things on their own. What people may need is a springboard to realize lessons they’ll eventually learn.
More importantly, comedy teaches us that no matter how bad the situation may seem, it isn’t exactly the end of the world. We’ve heard jokes on war, death, racism, and all sorts of uncomfortable subjects, but comedy teaches us that these realities of the world still have solutions. It’s important to put things in perspective. Keeping a clear view of the situation, without getting too tied up on extreme emotions, helps us get out of tough situations a little easier.
Just remember to get some extra spoons before you leave.