Good Grief



After shows I enjoy watching people file out of the club.

“Call me when you get home, you know how I worry!”

“Come back anytime we’re open, otherwise it’s burglary.”

When they suggest I have a good rest of the night, I always respond “don’t tell me what to do!”

One night at the Comic Strip, I was standing in the bar/lobby as a show was letting out. Many comics like to hang out after their set, unless they have to get to another spot or they didn‘t have a great performance.  This allows patrons to tell them how funny they were. It’s usually a quick nod or hand shake or picture request.  A young man in his late 20’s or early thirties asked if he could have a word with me.  I wouldn’t have picked him out for a conversation, but OK. He quickly went from friendly to very emotional as he told me his story. His brother had recently passed away- within days and it was sudden. He said he came to the show because what he really needed was a good laugh.  He wanted to thank me for helping him get through the most difficult time of his life. He’s choking back tears now and I’m in one of those situations you can’t prepare for.  I told him I was glad I didn’t do any dead brother jokes.  I could tell he had a deep love for his brother and was having trouble believing he was gone.

I told him my father passed away suddenly when I was 17. At the time, I felt like I was the target of a massive prank. Are you kidding me? Compounding my grief was the fact that my father and I had butt heads a week before. Being on the cusp of manhood and losing your dad stings more than a little. I got through the most difficult part of my life with the help of family and good friends.

You don’t really know what strangers are going through or how they cope with the realities of life and death. People come to comedy clubs to celebrate and get lifted from the dumps. Or forget for a moment, the troubles working hard on their nerves. While it’s true you can’t make everybody laugh all the time, if you can make one person laugh really hard, it’s worth anything. You can pass on to them a tool to bolster their spirit, making them better able to deal with anything that comes their way.  As a comedian, these are the moments that mean the most to me. Living proof that what I do makes people feel better.  My theory is laughter does many good things for the human body, and causes you to think clearer and make better decisions.  I’m sure this reads like some corny cliché, but it’s something I fervently believe. My religion, if you will. I can’t be sure which God runs this show called life, but it’s not without a sense of humor.

William Stephenson

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