An LA comedy club is offering free therapy to stand-up comedians — at first we thought this was a joke, but it's actually a pretty good idea.
According to Fox News, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada decided to start the program after one of his friends, comic Greg Giraldo (pictured), died of a prescription drug overdose. Says Masada, ""Night after night, comedians can perform and get huge laughs, but they still have a little demon inside of them, with pain and tragedy on one side. Most of the comedians also come from some kind of tragedy." Now clinical psychologists will be available twice a week to help them deal with that tragedy — for free.
The cynical response to this (or I guess the second cynical response, after assuming it's all a gag) is that if comedians got therapy they would stop being funny. That great comedy comes from being fucked up and if you are no longer fucked up you will just tell jokes about kitties and bunnies and stuff. Or, worse, once you get therapy you will tell jokes about therapy things, like "I statements." And healing.
One response to that response is to say that it would be fine, that it would be better for comics to lose the ability to be funny than to OD on prescription drugs like Greg Giraldo. This is probably true. But it's more interesting to consider whether you have to be completely fucked up be really hilarious — or rather, whether you have to always be slightly-less-than-completely-fucked-up, so you can still be darkly, truly funny but also put off killing yourself long enough to do your show. There are obvious reasons to hope the answer is no — like, for instance, if you are someone who does any kind of art and you are kind of tired of the idea that you can either be happy or interesting but not both. And there are reasons to fear the answer is yes — like that unless you are super-successful, doing comedy or really any creative thing is super-hard and makes you no money and is pretty depressing in and of itself. It's hard to tell whether the hope or the fear is truer here, but here's Masada's perspective, unexpectedly heart-warming for a media statement:
Comics are doctors of the soul who help everybody relax, calm down, and take people away for a few hours, but nobody is there for them at this point. At Laugh Factory, we have to try as a family. We have to do something.
The truth is that feeling better about things that suck is actually a major reason we tell jokes (I hear it also helps people get laid). And it seems unfair for comedians to be only purveyors of and never partakers in the feeling-better. It's true that comics (sometimes) get attention in this trade, but anyone who has ever relied on the attention of strangers for his or her sense of well-being knows it is the worst idea ever. One psychologist tells Fox that "this therapy will help the comedians be better able to separate their stage personalities with their self worth," which seems like a solid idea. But telling jokes can be a way of replenishing your soul, not depleting it, and it would be nice if that were true on stage as often as it is in life.