Next to pharmaceuticals, laughter’s the best medicine

Like many of you, I’ve been helped through the pandemic by regular walking. Hikes, walk-and-talks, neighbourhood strolls: anything that gets me out in the world and moving around has been helpful.

Another thing that’s helped me get through a time of fear, uncertainty and enforced idleness, which preceded the pandemic, has been comedy. Just before Christmas 2019 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and put on the list for surgery. Almost immediately, I began working on stand-up material, most of it mining my cancer experience. Before pandemic shutdowns began, I did one set in January 2020 before my surgery and another in early March once I’d recovered enough from surgery to go out in the evening.

Since December, I’ve been doing monthly comedy sets on Facebook Live, gradually moving beyond the cancer material. (Sure, I’ve played the cancer card. Look at me. It’s the only card I’ve got.)

This wasn’t a huge departure for me. All of my plays were comedies or hybrid comedies (thriller comedy, philosophical comedy, comedy drama). And in my upcoming novel, Prodigies, one of the characters is a wise-cracking gang member whose dream is to tell jokes for a living in saloons and dance halls. Coming up with intentionally anachronistic Borscht Belt-style jokes for this character was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing Prodigies.

I’ve recently had a creative non-fiction piece, entitled The Cancer Joke, about my cancer and comedy experience accepted for publication. I’ll follow with more details on this one shortly.

I’ve also pulled together my feelings about the pandemic year in a magical realist comedic short story called The Going and the Gone, which will be published shortly in FreeFall Magazine, an Alberta-based literary magazine. I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up.