The 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival (29 March – 22 April) officially kicked off last night. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on the positive benefits of humour.
Humour, a form of play that crosses cultures, is a universal part of being human. Humour can serve many purposes, like reducing stress, defusing tension, revealing the absurdity of human behaviour, and increasing wellbeing (Martin, 2007).
The physiology of laughter is still, thankfully, something of a mystery, but some of it is known. Laughter activates the part of the brain that produces adrenaline, giving us a lovely heady buzz, as well as parts of the brain that control other aspects of emotion. Have you ever found yourself going from a reluctant giggle to a full-throated chuckle until you have tears streaming down your face? How did you feel afterwards, compared to before?
Here at MHFA headquarters in Melbourne we are lucky enough to have recruited a new MHFA Admin Assistant who is also a comedy writer. We introduce Louise Woodruff Sanz … Louise imparts her hot tips for ‘must sees’ at the festival. However, no matter where you are, we encourage you to seek out and support your local comedy scene and explore the benefits of humour firsthand.
Hi – this is me now … Louise.
Comedy, even when not specifically dealing with mental health, explores those little things that affect us each and every day … And they say laughter is the best medicine but I’m pretty sure that, statistically speaking, penicillin may have a stronger argument. But in an attempt to try and gain the upper hand, once a year we are encouraged to get together by way of comedy festivals to have a good old laugh, the most recent being the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
I’ve gone through the guide for our readers and hand-picked some of the best of the fest (a quick disclaimer I follow a lot of these comedians on Twitter so that means we’re tight).
Judith Lucy returns with Nothing Fancy. Its straight stand-up, lots of jokes. Literally it is nothing fancy so let’s move on. Lawrence Mooney in Lawrence of Suburbia explores the minutia of suburbia in his show and if you do not wee yourself when you see this you have no soul. Tim Ferguson has MS and he’s written a show about it. If you haven’t seen him since his ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’ days, now is the time.
Fresh from best show nominations at the Adelaide Fringe is Felicity Ward with a show called The Hedgehog Dilemma. If you’re cool with a metaphor for a title and won’t get caught up in that there are no hedgehogs in the show you’ll really like this. And Sammy J and Randy in The Inheritance. They pretty much win something every year so why not see an award winner before they win an award. Other local acts include Celia Pacquola (LAID), Claire Hooper (Good News Week), Die Rotten Punkte (faux German brother and sister band), Alison Bice and Jason Marion in Child Star and Geraldine Hickey in Turns Out I Do Like Sun Dried Tomatoes.
If you’re budget savvy and want to cram as much into nothing you should get along to Rob Hunter – Late O’Clock with Rob Hunter, or Upfront – a massive line up of ladies telling jokes, go and see it, it’s real. It exists. We exist. And every Tuesday night of the festival you can pay about $12 and see 10 comedians back to back in a club. Everyone wins! Also worth checking out is Deadly Funny which is a line up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander comedians on stage for one night only.
Some overseas acts worth checking out: Simon Amstell (UK TV show ‘Pop World, that’s recommendation enough), Simon Munnery and Francesca Martinez in What the F**k is Normal! Reloaded.
As a comedian, I think that laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts your energy, and helps you to protect against stress. It releases endorphins – your body’s ‘feel-good’ drugs! I asked some of my MHFA colleagues what they thought too:
Betty Kitchener, Director of MHFA Program
“For me, comedy is a form of stress relief.”
Nataly Bovopoulos, MHFA Program Manager
“I often find that laughing at my own mistakes, regrets or sorrows can almost instantly make me feel better. When you think about it, humour, and laughing is probably one of the most pleasant and low risk coping strategies out there! We all ought to try and laugh out loud once a day.”
Dr Claire Kelly, Youth MHFA Coordinator
“Some interesting food for thought – babies laugh about three hundred times a day. Adults laugh about twenty times a day. We become more serious as we age and observe the imperfect world around us. But perhaps as adults we have more need of laughter than ever. Perhaps we should all strive for better balance.”
Katherine Birt, MHFA Admin Assistant
“Someone once said to me that it is difficult to share pain and that no-one can ever really experience others pain, but we can share in laughter … In being something that we can readily share with each other, it allows us to connect.”
What is it about laughter and comedy that makes you feel good? Please share your thoughts by commenting below …