John Mulaney helped save my life. Okay, it wasn’t just John Mulaney. It was Tom Segura, Nick Swardson, Chad Daniels, Dan Cummins, Mark Normand and a whole lot of other comedians I had never heard of before. But John Mulaney was the first.
You may think that sounds like the punchline to a good joke. And if you hear it in the voice Mulaney uses sometimes, “John Mulaney saved my life” sounds even funnier. But I didn’t really know who he was until he helped to save my life.
Not to get too gloomy here, but I got SERIOUSLY depressed when my husband, the love of my life, died. I just couldn’t get out of that feeling of despair and for years, it just dragged me farther and farther down, affecting both my mental and physical health. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get better again. And I was so despondent, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to.
At one of the worst times of my depression and physical health problems, I learned about John Mulaney. A young guy came to my house to do some work and when he noticed how depressed I was, he started trying to make me laugh. I was surprised that he was able to do it so easily, because I hadn’t really felt like laughing for a LONG time. I mean, we have all heard those trite sayings like “Laughter is the best medicine”, but like medicine, only certain kinds of laughter work for certain people. And this young guy was giving me just the right dose of the medicinal laughter that worked for me. I’m not your typical, knock-knock joke enthusiast. My humor is quite a bit raunchier and more risque. And since my husband had died, I didn’t have anyone to share it with and I was SUFFERING. Did I mention that I was close to 30 years older than this guy and he probably never would have kept up the humor if he hadn’t heard that first full, belly laugh. Like any good comedian, he was playing to his audience and adjusting his comedy to suit the crowd. And that day, it was an audience of one depressed older broad dying for some good laughs.
So this guy and I, let’s call him RC for the sake of this post, talked for a few hours when he was here, and the witty banter between us was spot on. Everything I said, he had the perfect come back. It was improv at its best.
Anyway, after his visit to my home, RC and I decided to remain friends. He would text me and call me on a regular basis and one of the first things he did was tell me about some of his favorite comedians and even shared specific routines. He started with John Mulaney’s “Salt and Pepper Diner“, maybe because it was pretty tame compared to some of the other routines and comedians that I grew to know and love. But that first Mulaney skit that I listened to had me howling with laughter. So he started working up to more obscene skits and comedians. I mean, even Mulaney’s skit about how he ‘accidentally’ got a prostate exam is a higher dose of raunchy humor. Even more so because Mulaney seems almost embarrassed when he is telling it. But it definitely produced more laughs. And because I was a dinosaur when it came to all things electronic, RC taught me about Pandora and how to listen to these comedians all the time. And later, taught me about the Podcasts that some of them have.
The change to my health was remarkable. All of my friends noticed right away, but so did my doctors. These were the same doctors who had put me through every health test they could think of to try to determine why I wasn’t feeling well. When they asked me what I was doing differently, I told them I met someone who taught me how to laugh again.
If you want to read the science behind how humor can help your health, there are plenty of articles online about it, including this one from Mayo Clinic entitled “Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s No Joke.” It’s not just that laughter releases endorphins, the brains “feel good” chemicals. But laughter also stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and can relieve pain by causing your body to produce its own natural painkillers.
For 6 months or so, RC and I remained close friends and the humor really kept me going. When he got a serious girlfriend and we quit talking as much, I was really afraid I was going to relapse back into my depression. I SERIOUSLY started thinking that there needed to be an app or service for comedians to provide witty banter to people, for a price. I mean, can you imagine being sick, in the hospital or sitting someplace getting chemo and being able to text a comedian that would provide JUST the dose of humor that YOU needed to feel better? Maybe there could be a call service that hired would-be comedians to answer phones and provide laughter instead of technical help. Hell, I’d pay for that.
I’m still on a constant quest to find people who have JUST the right humor to keep me feeling happy and healthy all of the time, and it is SOOOO weird to me that most people in the world don’t seem to have a sense of humor at all. I mean, sharing a funny meme just doesn’t do it. Although some of the people who add comments on those memes ARE hilarious in their own right. Visiting twitter the day after the Four Seasons Total Landscaping “event” provided the first HUGE belly laughs I had since the election.
A few years after I met RC, I ended up going to a Tom Segura show here in Melbourne and the show was sold-out. I don’t really know anyone else who appreciates the kind of humor I do, so I went alone. I’m pretty sure I was one of the oldest people there. Segura is a pretty high dose of raunchy humor, but since laughter is the best medicine, he certainly did his job. I laughed during the whole show and was laughing for weeks after.
I hate taking medicine. And I didn’t really feel that a counselor telling me to “visualize a happy place” was going to work either. But I’ve learned that some of the great comedians in the world have just the right kind of humor to help keep me in a happy place.
I’m not trying to downplay serious depression at all. I understand it all too well and I still struggle with it. Clinical depression is a serious problem and anyone having very depressive thoughts or having even fleeting thoughts of suicide should talk to their doctor about the right solution for them. There are many organizations out there available to help you out of depression. And a good place to start to look is the government website mentalhealth.gov . But for me, comedy in the right doses, does a fantastic job in keeping my low moods under control.
Some of the comedians who worked for me are listed below. I’ve grown so accustomed to listening to them that, much like Pavlov’s dog, even the sound of their voices probably gets the endorphins flowing. Your results may vary. Side effects of using humor as medicine can include uncontrollable fits of laughter, looking like a maniac while driving down the road listening to comedians, and for me, trying to gauge my audience so I know which jokes I can share in mixed company. And by mixed, I mean funny people and not so funny people. As for the not-so funny people, I don’t know how you got through 2020 without some comedy. Thank God none of us who listen to these comedians, and others, had to.