Last week, I did my first stand up comedy performance at the D-Note in Arvada, CO. Both nervous and excited, I stepped up to the mic and entered a world previously unknown where I got to be exposed, vulnerable, confident, uncertain, and most of all, present. What I love about comedy is its healing aspect. The way comedians help us see disowned parts of ourselves and, through laughter, come to own and accept who we are and how we feel.
Great comedians each have their own unique style, yet they all have one thing in common―they never fear their own shadow. In fact, the best comedians put their shadow side into the spotlight, holding it out for all to see.
“You know the hardest thing about having cerebral palsy and being a woman― it’s plucking your eyebrows. That’s how I originally got pierced ears.”
~ Short and funny quote by Geri Jewell.
We all have aspects of ourselves that we feel the need to hide, things that have us feel ashamed, embarrassed, victimized, “less than”: a failed relationship, a physical handicap, an addiction, or a host of “mean” thoughts that, if known, would make us a “bad” person.
When we reject these aspects, we feel more safe but less alive. With parts of ourselves relegated to the shadow realm, we feel like imposters in our own life―half our true selves cast aside, unexpressed, and numb.
Comedians have made friends with their shadow, and the best comedians are in a full-blown love affair with the devil on their shoulder. They see their “dark side” and lovingly show it to us, laughing all the while, and then we see our own shadow and laugh too.
“Never play peekaboo with a child on a long plane trip. There’s no end to the game. Finally I grabbed him by the bib and said, “Look, it’s always gonna be me!”
~ Short Funny Quote by Rita Rudner.
This is the gift of humor. Laughter is a release, and not just a physical one. It is a release for the psyche. We are, at least temporarily, “off the hook.”
The comedian invites us to join him in a level of vulnerability and acceptance we rarely afford ourselves. Inside the vulnerability of showing off her “ugly” side, the comedian reminds us that we are not alone. And the saying, “one day, you’ll laugh at this” reminds us that nothing is funny without acceptance.
When we are caught up in the drama, the tragedy, the “wrongness” of the world, we take everything seriously. Sometimes, humor actually moves us into acceptance.
Humor allows us to let go of all our “shoulds” about the way the world should be, the way WE should be, and for that moment, we get to just BE. We can be in our messiness, our imperfection, our humanness, and not only enjoy it― we get to revel in it!
Exposing the shadow requires courage, exposing it with humor requires courage and love, which, perhaps, is why it is so healing and so valuable.