“Want big, pouty lips that stop them in their tracks?” the actress acts, pursing her lips ludicrously at the audience. “Then try new Lip Venom!” she squeals, miming the application of lipstick. “The only lip gloss to come with a tiny cobra in each bottle!” The audience’s laughter surged as she graphically and hilariously demonstrated the deadly effects of the high price of beauty. That scene performed by the Toronto-based female sketch comedy troupe, The Ladies of Sketchersons, was one in a massive line-up of comedy shows featured at the Fourth Annual Women in Comedy Festival in Boston. Women performers from all over the country, some from noted television shows such as Last Comic Standing, 30 Rock, and Seinfeld, converged to take part in shows, workshops, and informative panels. Comedy remains a male dominated arena, but women are making consistent and persistent inroads to alter this landscape. For a humor junky, like myself, the festival is comedy crack. It delivers the best of what laughter provides in a tsunami-sized portion: stress release, escape, fun, physical exertion, and rush of feel-good endorphins. One of our Four Ingredients for Harmony is Make Time for Play. Check. Dosage, maybe over-dosage, of fun/play received. But in between the giggles, chortles, and embarrassing snorts, I noticed another byproduct of comedy: wisdom, particularly as it pertains to life. Here are a few of nuggets of comic wisdom I gleaned from these funny women:
- Just Be Yourself: Who amongst us does not need this reminder on a daily or wait, HOURLY basis? A pregnant comic, a comic using a wheelchair, and a Scottish comic with a brogue as thick as concrete mined their cultural and physical experiences for humor, proving they were not only comfortable in their skin, they could use it to challenge assumptions and encourage dialogue about difference.
- Own Your Wins: Hard work and persistence propelled all of these women in the comedic industry, whether that journey included a spot on national television or a spot in the festival. At one of the panels of headlining comics, the women proudly took credit for their efforts and encouraged others to do the same. How often do we all down-play our successes because we feel they are small or do not really “count?”
- Do What You Love: From the hilarious sketch comedy troupes quick changing through wigs and props, to improvisers spinning outlandish scenes on the spot, to the most novice and nervous first time stand-up comedienne, sheer joy was the constant running through all performances. These women clearly love their work. Notice I said “work,” because the comedic arts is an industry/business and those who take it seriously work their tails off constantly. Find those activities that you love to do and do them as much and as often as you can.
There is wisdom in the wit; useful guideposts to help us navigate complicated and sometimes difficult lives. Humor has a clever way of spooning us simple, but important truths doused with comedy sugar. Maybe that’s why they call it the best medicine.