Comedy Conflicted: The Dual Nature of Humor in “The House of God”

James Belarde // “Comedy is a tool of togetherness. It’s a way of putting your arm around someone, pointing at something, and saying, ‘Isn’t it funny that we do that?’ It’s a way of reaching out.” -Kate McKinnon In 1978, Samuel Shem published The House of God, a scandalous novel centered around the lives of…

Laughing at Death – Part 2: When the Dying Tell Jokes

James Belarde “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.” -Oscar Wilde, shortly before succumbing to illness In Mumbai, India, a kind-looking elderly woman sits on a stool behind a microphone and calmly quips “Life is like that TV journalist Arnab Goswami. Never take it…

Laughing at Death: Gallows Humor and the Physician’s Psyche

James Belarde “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” -George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma If you’re reading this article, you’re going to die. That’s not to say, hopefully, that this piece is so bad it will kill you. Nor is…

The Depressing World of Comedy and Medicine

James Belarde “Just like Pagliacci did / I try to keep my sadness hid / Smiling in the public eye / But in my lonely room I cry” –The Miracles, in “Tears of a Clown” “Is depression funny?” This deceptively simple question opens every episode of John Moe’s podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression. Well-connected…

Crying Until You Laugh: Finding Humor in Personal Tragedy

James Belarde “The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic.” -Søren Kierkegaard In June of 1980, comedy star Richard Pryor covered himself in rum and lit himself on fire after days of cocaine freebasing in what he would later admit was a suicide attempt. During a four-month span…

Robin Williams and the Ability to Console with Humor

James Belarde “Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma.” -Robin Williams August 11, 2014 is a date I remember vividly for two reasons. For one, it was the day my medical class at Columbia University observed its White Coat Ceremony, officially marking our matriculation. It was also the day comedian Robin…