Comedy As Therapy: Five Notable Examples

Comedy as therapy is a widely supported approach. See the selected examples below.

I. Stand Up for Mental Health

Counselor and humorist David Granirer created a program called Stand Up For Mental Health in which people with mental health issues can learn how to do stand-up comedy as therapy. In the video below called “Cracking Up,” participants introduce us to it.

You’ll need over six minutes to watch this—but it’s worth it.

If this whets your comedy appreciation appetite, clips of individual routines that have emerged from this program are available on their website.

Below Granirer himself riffs to an audience on the topic of mental health stigma:

II. Comedy Warriors

Another program, Comedy Warriors, was designed to aid soldiers who are injured physically and mentally.

Five veterans who were hurt in combat—four men and one woman—are featured in a documentary about their experiences of learning stand-up comedy from some well-known comedians, including Bob Saget and Brad Garrett.

As stated on their website, “As any comedian will tell you, the most poignant comedy comes from pain. And no one knows this better than a service member with a life-changing injury.”

Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor was released in 2013.

III. Taylor Glenn: Reverse Psycomedy

The show of comedic performer Taylor Glenn titled “Reverse Psycomedy”—about her former life as a therapist—has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

Glenn spoke with Mark Smith about her therapist humor (click here for the article):

…’I learned to yawn through my nose, for example, which is the kind of thing they never taught you at university,’ she says. ‘They don’t tell you if you have to yawn don’t let your patients see that because they’ll be devastated so you learn to yawn and look really interested.’

Being honest about therapy in this way has been hard for Glenn because she was a conscientious psychotherapist; she took it very seriously. ‘I would never break my ethical code or anything like that but I have to be honest about what it was like on the other side of that chair. And I think it’s refreshing for an audience to see that therapists are just normal people who swear and have weird thoughts and have a sense of humour.’

Below Glenn offers bits of help and advice—“Fringe Therapy”— to fellow comedians:

IV. Dr. Lisa Levy: Faux Therapy Sessions

Dr. Lisa Levy is “a Bebe Neuwirth type with Ashleigh Banfield glasses—combined common sense, dry humor, and a winning feeling that anyone can be an analyst if they want to, as long as they never actually studied being one,” Michael Musto once said.

In one article/interview, Levy noted that she traces her interest in therapy back to high school when her father experienced severe depression and was hospitalized. Later, when she was in college, she went to therapy herself to deal with her own depression.

Below is one of her live faux sessions with comedian Eugene Mirman:

V. Tig Notaro: As Funny As Cancer

Maybe at some point you’ve heard or said something along the lines of, “That’s (you’re) as funny as cancer.” Obvious meaning: “Cancer funny? Not so much.”

But, maybe you can be funny about cancer? And maybe it’s therapeutic? Not only for others but also to the comic who actually has cancer.

The dryness of Notaro’s style and delivery is a comedic tone that works well. Here’s a brief snippet of her routine:

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