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…

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…

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…

Review: “Sawbones,” Podcasting, and the History of Medicine

“Sawbones is a show about medical history and nothing the hosts say should be taken as medical advice or opinion. It’s for fun. Can’t you just have fun for an hour and not try to diagnose your mystery boil? We think you’ve earned it. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy a moment of distraction from…that…weird…

The Uncertainty of Medicine and Improv Comedy

  James Belarde “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” -William Osler The Big Sick, a 2017 romantic comedy written by husband-and-wife team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, tells the true story of a mysterious illness that strikes Emily early in their relationship. The doctors initially overwhelm her family with medical…

Twin Studies

Back in September, I found myself in a small community just outside of Ithaca, NY, in the company of several colleagues from Cornell. We were there to participate in community’s annual “Fun Run.” I use the term “fun” here with some reservations, defining it provisionally and according to terminology that was current when I ran…

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…