Kambri Crews: Comedy As Coping in “Burn Down the Ground”

A recent blog post caught my eye: “Comedic Therapy: How Laughter Helped Me Through My Grief.” The writer? Kambri Crews, a new name to me. Turns out she’s involved in comedy—both in the business end of it and performance; she’s also married to a comedian, Christian Finnegan. She’s surrounded by comedy.

Her new book? Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir. Extremely well-reviewed, by the way. And not exactly about a life filled with the funny.

This review by author Annabelle Gurwitz capsulizes Crews’s childhood: “Imagine living in a tin shed, growing up as the hearing child of deaf parents, seeing your father attack your mother, or sneaking gum into prison. Those are just half of the challenges Kambri Crews faced growing up. Burn Down the Ground is a story of triumph in the face of poverty, alcoholism, violence, and, worst of all, heartbreakingly powerful love.”

Apparently, in the midst of severe challenges Crews has always been drawn to laughter. She points out in her blog post that as a kid, she liked to watch TV sitcoms. “Those shows affirmed to me that life did in fact suck, but it was also worth turning into a sitcom. Hardships existed solely to set up a punch line.”

But writing her memoir was difficult nonetheless. In an interview, Crews spoke about the process: “Opening the old wounds and extracting their poison was both cathartic and painful, like self-imposed therapy sessions without a psychiatrist.”

Although humor is her mainstay, she apparently believes that because the truth of her background is not funny, the book is not funny. That’s not, however, how many reviewers see it—her wit and humor are in fact frequently cited. Author Julie Klausner: “Addictive and heartbreaking, Kambri’s memoir demonstrates both true grit and a sense of humor that exists only among the very sharpest of those who have survived extraordinary childhoods.”

Crews knows that she’s not the only one who survives with the help of humor, of course. In the closing words of her blog post: “There is a reason comedians gravitate to the stage and why audiences continue to support live comedy and storytelling shows: Because life is tough, we all just want to laugh more.”

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