Why Everyone Should Watch Stand-Up Comedy at Least Once

So tonight, I watched Aamer Rahman do a stand-up show at Evergreen State College. It was part of the Day of Absence and Day of Presence event that was occurring this week, which addresses race-related issues by raising the question: What would happen if we had a day in which no students of color were present? The event helps people to realize that we need each other in this wide and vast world; diversity is a very good thing indeed. Day of Absence had many students of color go to an off-campus site to engage in a retreat that addressed diversity and race issues, while the rest of the student body stayed on campus to attend talks and seminars related to race issues. Today, Day of Presence further acknowledged the importance of diversity by having both white students and students of color come together on campus. The day culminated in a stand-up comedy act given by Australian comedian Aamer Rahman, who was absolutely superb and did a fantastic job of addressing racial and ethnic issues in a raw, honest way that made me nod in agreement more than a few times.

Part of what made it worthwhile to attend a stand-up comedy act like Aamer Rahman is because of the issues that are addressed in humorous ways. I often have found that stand-up comedians–really, really good ones, at least–find ways to address real-life, political, socioeconomic, racial, national, and all-around difficult issues to talk about. They acknowledge a lot of the hard stuff that is going on in the world, and rather than turn a blind eye to it, many of them spin it off in ways that can really make individuals think about these issues, and sometimes how ridiculous they are while simultaneously serious. I call it being seriously funny.

Yet this isn’t my main reason as to why I think people should watch stand-up comedy at least once in their lives. No, my reason goes much, much deeper than that, and yet it is also the most simple reason of all.

Basically, there is a lot of @#$% that goes on in the real world, and life sucks sometimes.

I know that this is the least funny statement I could make, because it is dangerously real. However, think about it: I will have to deal with taxes, injustice, unfairness, jobs that might make me want to vomit, family members that might incite the same reaction, responsibilities, the list goes on and on and on. If I stopped to think about the many itsy bitsy, teensy weensy things that make my life hard, unsatisfying, or sad, I would become a very depressed person, indeed. Granted, my problems are not as bad when compared to other people who are dealing with genocide, sex trafficking, war, kidnappings, and so many other awful, unthinkable things that I cannot even begin to imagine. And yet, I find people who are in privileged situations, who have enough money for food and drink, who have family, who have loving significant others, who have well-paying jobs–I find such people who are still unhappy with their lives. It is absolutely crazy for me to think that people who have so much could be so miserable. It also makes sense that to pick out the little things that go wrong in life will, in time, accumulate themselves into a dark, depressing, gigantic snowball. I cannot make sweeping judgments about every individual, but I do know for a fact that there are people out there who do that kind of stuff, often without meaning to.

I myself have a lot of negative stuff going on in my life, but rather than mention all of it right now, I would like to focus on something else that was going on tonight: seeing Aamer Rahman at Evergreen State College. I found him to be so incredibly funny that he made me cry from laughing. Three times. And my face froze in a smile the entire hour he was on stage. That has not happened to me in quite a long time, and I shook my head and smiled later when I realized that I was going through so much stress in my life that it has really been a while since I have had a good, long laugh. That good cry was a long time coming, and I am glad it did come.

The night is over, but the memory of the amazing time I had still lingers. I found that after the show, people smiled more. They laughed and joked more frequently with one another, and even the Q&A with the comedian was such a funny affair that people would make themselves and each other laugh just by asking a question. It felt really, really good to laugh, and although we were discussing serious issues of race, we were doing so in a way that acknowledged the social justice work there was still left to do, but also in a way that saw a side of humor to it as well.

I do not want to forget this night quite so easily. i want to hold on to it as long as I can, and especially to the memory of laughing so hard. A lot of negative stuff may be going on in my life, but a night like this made me realize that it was not all bad. For two golden hours, I was happy. For two hours, I was laughing so hard that I felt my stress melt off and slide out of my eyes and down my face. For those two glorious hours, the negativity and struggle of living in this world was background noise; I just lived in the moment and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Everyone should see a good stand-up comedian if it means that they could find a golden spot in the midst of a sea of darkness and despair. Even if one’s life is not darkness and despair, it is still a good thing to hold on to a happy memory when the going will get tough later on. It may be a small, two-hour speck of light, but I want to fix my eyes on it for as long as it burns brightly–and realize that more of those specks will come in their own time.

Preventing Sexual Abuse

Lately the Catholic Church has come under a lot of pressure from the United States government with regards to sexual abuse cases. Many people have publicly defiled the Church, a lot have drifted away, and some parishes have even closed down or changed completely when one of its parishioners or clergymen was found guilty of sexual abuse. This problem has existed for a very long time, and the Church and organizations are working to obliterate the prevalence of sexual abuse wherever they can. 

One of the programs that the Church has implemented lately–at least in California–is Virtus, a three-hour training session which teaches prospective religious educators and volunteers the importance of not only protecting children, but just as importantly REPORTING people who may be at risk of abusing children. The program has only been around for the past 15 years or so, and I wish that it had been around for much, much longer than that.

I know that many people accuse the Church of a lot of wrongdoing because of the scandals, but quite honestly, a LOT more sexual assault cases that are reported, occur outside of the Church environment. Even sadder, not every single case is reported. Many children–and even adults–feel they cannot come forward because no one would believe them, or because they would be making a “mountain out of a molehill,” or even because their lives and reputation could be at stake. It could be embarrassing, and possibly people even could deny what has happened to them. And, because the majority of abusers are people that the victim already know, this is especially why it is important that other people help to report when cases like these happen, and make them more aware of what signs to look for.

I haven’t told many people this, but when I was in Edinburgh I volunteered for an organization called British Heart Foundation, in a charity shop where people would donate clothes and other items, and the proceeds went to heart research. I signed up because I had a lot of free time and wanted to use that time to help other people. There were many other adults who worked there, but in particular on my first day I remember this one other adult who seemed very interested in talking to me. Naturally I thought he was being friendly and welcoming because I was new, and after work he came with me to the grocery store. But then his behaviors got more suspicious when he came with me to a second grocery store, and after that offered to walk me home, even though I actually tried saying good bye to him. I was a little disturbed, but I just thought to myself that he was only escorting me home.

After that, I noticed that there was something about him that seemed a bit…off. He would normally be extremely quiet around the shop and not really talk to anyone, and he always stayed downstairs and ironed clothes by himself. People usually start out working downstairs and then get promoted to working the cash register after a few weeks or so. Not once was he ever promoted to working at the register, and I found that to be a bit odd.

I started not showing up to volunteer. I’d make up excuses saying that I was busy or had graduate work to complete. I’d make sure to come in after I was sure he’d gone, because I didn’t want to confront him. I would be very jumpy and not at all check the downstairs area where the clothes are ironed, unless someone sent me down there. 

After a few weeks of this, I decided I wanted to do something about it in case he ever came forward with advances. I saw a Jenna Marbles Youtube video teaching people to make really weird faces and noises to freak people out in case you don’t want to talk to them (although I’m sure she was just joking). I practiced these faces in front of friends to see what they’d think. And then I’d go to my volunteering job mentally preparing myself with a plan in case he wanted to talk to me.

Eventually my best friend watched me practice my faces on her, and she knew that sometimes I’d come home voicing my concerns to her over Skype. I told her about him escorting me home and how I found that odd, and she believed with good reason that he followed me home. I even told her that after that, I was semi-afraid of him coming upstairs and trying to find me. 

She told me to tell my supervisor. Surprising as it may sound to you, I actually protested, saying that I didn’t want to turn this into a big deal, it was just a minor thing, he hadn’t actually DONE anything physically to me, I could handle it myself, etc. And then she told me that I didn’t have to report him having done anything wrong; I just simply could ask my supervisor if he knew of anything odd with this guy, or what he thought of him. That, to me, seemed fair enough without being all-out accusatory.

I don’t exactly remember what I told my supervisor, but I did ask him what he thought of the worker, and in my body language the supervisor could tell how apprehensive I seemed to discuss this. He said that he would keep an eye out and would have a private chat with the guy, asking if everything was ok. After that day, I did not return to work for over a week, in case that guy would do something even worse to me for “turning him in”. I went to Yorkshire for the weekend and prayed that no one would call me in.

When I returned the following Wednesday, word spread among the workers that the guy did something wrong to me, but NOBODY teased me or anything for it. What I heard from another worker that day was that some people saw me speaking to my supervisor in private, and then the following day they saw the supervisor speaking to that guy in private, so I guess they put two and two together. After that, lots of women came forward to the same supervisor, saying that the guy actually HARASSED some of them, including another boss by asking repeatedly for her phone number even when she said no! I could not believe that all these things were happening, and no one ever said anything!

To make it worse, one of the workers had his suspicions about the guy and started teasing him at work, and then the guy went upstairs and came back down with a hammer to bash his coworker’s head in! The supervisor had to pull them apart and both of them were fired, each for provoking the other into violence. 

If I hadn’t come forward with my suspicions, something worse could’ve happened at the volunteering place. It was a place where good people came with the hopes of raising money for heart research, and good people worked to see these goals realized. Abuse and harassment could happen ANYWHERE, regardless of what good intentions the organization has. But, remember that it isn’t the organization who supports the abuse, it is INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE who carry it out, and it is up to coworkers, employers, and the receivers of these services to notify someone when something doesn’t feel right. 

If you want to do something to prevent abuse from happening elsewhere, look for these key warning signs:

1) If an adult seems overly interested with interacting only with children, or a particular person in a strange way,

2) Always wants to be alone with children,

3) More excited to be with children than adults,

4) Goes overboard touching,

5) Gives gifts to children without permission (this may or may not apply to adults, depending on the situation),

6) Thinks the rules do not apply to them,

7) Uses bad language or tells dirty jokes to children,

8) Shows children pornography,

9) If the victim has a sudden change in behavior or temperament,

10) If the victim seems suddenly withdrawn,

11) If when they talk to you, they seem unusually nervous, have their eyes more downcast, fidget with their hands, or their body language indicates a lack of openness.

If you observe these signs and have suspicions, raise your suspicions to someone in authority who has the power to do something. It doesn’t have to be an all-out accusation; as long as you let someone know that a certain individual doesn’t seem quite “right” to you, or that you don’t like how someone behaves in a strange way, it is important that people are AWARE of the situation, so as to prevent something bigger or more dangerous from happening in the future.

Above all, take courage and know that your intentions are to help others who may need it, or who cannot help themselves. And if you have questions or need help, it’s always best to discuss these things with someone you trust.