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.