Laughter and vulnerability

How laughter reveals who we are as human beings.

What a joke life is — and if we can’t laugh at it, it laughs at us instead.

We’re shoved into existence, never having a choice as to whether consciousness is the kind of torture we’re willing to suffer; never apologized to for being thrown out of the comfort zone that was the abyss of our non-existence.

Still, there are times where one forgives one’s parents for their poor judgment. This life, with all of its suffering, confusion, pain, imperfection and malice, still contains many wondrous reasons which justify its unceasing perpetuation.

Art comes to mind, along with love (of others and from others, but especially of the self), self-exploration, physical and sensory pleasures, and, of course, laughter: our coping mechanism and the source (as well as the result) of so many psychological and philosophical insights.

If we don’t learn to laugh — not at others but at life, its absurdity and ourselves — we cannot evolve, forgive, or even love.

Without laughter, we cannot truly tap into what makes us human; we cannot fully understand both the beautiful (and often idealized) parts of it, as well as the oft-condemned, much misinterpreted remnants of our wild and ancient nature.

Laughter, among its many positives, is also a gateway towards acceptance and empathy. In a society where, unfortunately to this very day, therapy is something shameful and criminally underutilized, good stand-up comedians seem to be our version of the tribal sage: the one who helps us see the wisdom of everyday life and to relate to those around us — be they strangers or loved ones.

If we think about the core of what makes for great stand-up comedy, it (perhaps unsurprisingly) shares a crucial common element with good journaling and fiction writing: vulnerability. It’s when the comedian admits something horrible, humiliating or strange about themselves that we find ourselves laughing (and hopefully thinking) the hardest.

Whether it’s because we empathize with, sympathize with or pity them, we love the way a stand-up comedian makes us feel, because underneath it all is the message that it’s OK to be human — as long as you can laugh about it.

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