Friday 4 September 2015

The Power of Comedy

Comedy is a very powerful thing with an extraordinary ability to tear down barriers and make all topics open to discussion and ridicule. I think in our excessively politically correct world where everyone is reluctant to speak for fear of offending someone, this is a very important thing. So with the end of August also seeing the end of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I wanted to discuss this 
aspect of comedy that really made a few shows stand out to me this Summer.

I was lucky enough to see a lot of excellent shows this year addressing a multitude of important, relevant issues in society. When these issues, that are usually somewhat uncomfortable or even taboo to talk about, are approached so openly, frankly and veiled in humour, it appears that anything goes. There is nothing off limits, which I love! Comedy can a very engaging medium of communication and these shows quite clearly show that is possible to educate the masses if you can just make them laugh!

Possibly the best example of this that I experienced in the Fringe was a very funny man indeed, Dave Chawner, who was suffering with mental health issues; a subject that I feel extremely strongly about. Everyone knows about mental health level on a superficial level at the very least but not everyone understands just what it is actually like to live with a mental health illness because  people don't talk about it. Let's be honest, it's just awkward sometimes. But this man gave a very honest account of his experiences with anorexia and depression in his show "Normally Abnormal" and it was hilarious. (Not a sentence you normally hear, and that's entirely my point!). The audience didn't stop laughing and, as he himself said: "if they're laughing, they're listening". I couldn't help but feel that he was single handedly teaching people about an important topic in a way that they are surely going to remember. Noone likes being lecured. (I'm a Uni student so I know a lot about being lectured!). The man sitting next to me had tears streaming down his face through the whole set and it was moving and quite refreshing to see how much Chawner's words were effecting him.

A different comedian with a similar effect was Aatif Nawaz in his show "Muslims Do it Five Times a Day" which is now one of my all time favourite shows. You're bound to have noticed the islamophobia in today's media - some more than others but I'm not naming any names... - and a lot of people are hateful, confused or even scared but this is mostly the result of ignorance. Nawaz made the whole audience, one of whom admitted to having no "brown friends", realise that "Muslims are just like you". He wanted people to laugh at Islam and feel comfortable doing so, not tiptoeing around this subject that scares you. He made a list of the stupidest Islamic Fatwas, like women are forbidden from eating bananas (whaaaat??), that had the audience absolutely rocking with laughter,  I definitely feel like I learned more about what it's like living as a British Muslim and I truly hope that more Muslim comedians can do the same and be as funny as Nawaz!

There were so many other shows that I didn't get to see, some touching on sexual taboos and gender inequality amongst other things. There clearly doesn't seem to be a shortage of artists using comedy as their weapon of mass-education and I hope this continues. Who doesn't love to laugh and learn at the same time?! 

T. xxx

Q. Have you seen any shows that address serious issues?
Q. What subject would you like to see addressed in this way? 

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