When I give my talks, people often ask, “What is it about comedians that separates them from everyone else?” My answer is simple: It’s the way we look at life. A comedian views life and all of its obstacles, tragedies, mistakes and embarrassing moments from an absurd or humorous perspective. In doing so, we are not negating the seriousness of the subject matter, but rather looking at it from a different perspective—the humor perspective.
Let me share with you one of the key factors that motivated me to leave stand-up comedy and move to the speaking forum. Following a comedy performance, I felt a huge surge of positive energy that made me feel like I could accomplish anything. Sometimes after the show, I would go back to my hotel room to write in my journal or put together material for a new routine. I felt this surge of power and creativity flow through me, into the pen and onto the paper. Other times I would go out with a group of people to party, laugh and have fun. The point is that no matter what I did after the show, all negative thoughts were banished, and whatever problems I had at the time seemed manageable. I was living in the moment and enjoying it to the fullest.
Initially, I thought these power surges were a function of my ego, stimulated by the rush of standing ovations, signing autographs and people wanting to be around me. Although all of these things definitely made me feel good, I knew there was something more to it. Then one night at a show, it hit me. My life was at an all-time low. I was either experiencing full-blown depression or on the brink of it. All of the old fears and limiting beliefs I thought I had conquered came rushing back to haunt me.
That night, it took everything I had to muster up enough energy and courage to step onto the stage. I remember thinking how ironic life is. I mean, there I was, waiting to perform before a sold-out crowd of more than 500 people who wanted nothing more than to laugh and have a good time—and all I wanted to do was cry. That night I was honest and spent two hours on stage ranting about how my life sucked. The crowd loved it. In spite of how I felt, or maybe because of how I felt, it was one of the most spectacular performances of my career.
Afterward, the euphoria hit me with more intensity than ever. This is way beyond comedy, I thought. I felt the invincible power of confidence and hope. It was then I understood what this power surge of positive energy was all about. When I was onstage, I shifted into a different state of mind. There were times when I actually felt myself shift to a higher level of consciousness, a place where the big mouth inside my head had no power.
That night I did more than my usual act. I let my Humor Being (a part of my higher self that worked to expose my fears for what they were: nothing more than toxic data from my past) loose and allowed my higher self to take control. I talked about some painful experiences from my past. I laughed off my frustrations, pain, negative labels and innermost fears. I constructively vented my anger and the crowd loved it. It was like therapy, but better because it was fun and I didn’t have to pay for it.
A few days later, I began to reflect on what happened that night. Without my knowledge, the club owner had recorded my entire performance. It felt strange hearing myself rant and rave about my personal problems and history in such an intimate way. Although I’m not one to avoid speaking my mind, I knew that what went on that night was something bigger. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that someone had slipped me some kind of truth serum that made me reveal parts of myself that I had never shown before.
I know now that it was my Humor Being pushing me forward. Through humor, I was able to shift into a higher state of consciousness. At that moment, I experienced a profound, secure feeling that my negative labels and the fears belonging to them would no longer influence me nor define my reality.
I also came to understand that the reason the audience enjoyed themselves so much was because they were also laughing at a part of themselves. My stories, and the humor behind them, helped the audience view their own personal problems from a healthier perspective. I guess you could say our Humor Beings were communing.
Humor makes us realize that, in the grand scheme of things, we are all made of the same stuff. We all have fears, pain, heartaches and personal problems to deal with. We just have different stories to tell. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or how much money you make. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, male or female, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, gay or straight. We all make mistakes. We all have our successes and failures. And we all have good times and bad. Humor simply helps us embrace who we really are and gives us the peace to live with it.
This article was published in May 2016 and has been updated. Photo by Dean Drobot/Shutterstock