Heard the one about comedy helping people to recover from trauma?


Comic Angie Belcher has developed a prescription comedy course to assist folks recuperate from trauma. It’s been so properly obtained, that it’s going to now be provided to folks prone to suicide

You’re on stage. Mic in hand. The viewers is watching, ready. You’re the principle act, however your thoughts has gone clean. The heckling begins. Fast, a joke, any joke. “Knock, knock…” 

Public talking rivals spiders and heights as certainly one of society’s most prevalent fears, however for standup comedy no yardstick exist: it’s just too terrifying. 

But, not for Will Reynolds. A resident of Tub, Reynolds is already a veteran of the south-west comedy circuit, eschewing his pure shyness to take to the stage and – hopefully – increase amusing or two. 

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“When folks say: ‘I’m not humorous’, it’s simply not true,” insists Reynolds, who was born with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus (fluid on the mind). “Everybody has a good 10 minutes in them, no matter whether or not they need to do standup or not.” 

His unshakeable perception in everybody’s “internal comic” comes from an opportunity encounter with fellow south-west comedic expertise and pioneer in artwork remedy, Angie Belcher. 

Having seen Reynolds carry out, Belcher invited him on a course she was working for folks beginning out in comedy or simply trying to give it a attempt. Describing her classes as “a bit like artistic writing programs”, Belcher walked Reynolds and his fellow college students by way of the fundamentals of observational comedy: all the pieces from how one can discover humour in on a regular basis life, to recommendations on studying a room of strangers. 

Mental health

Angie Belcher desires to assist contributors see pleasure in darkish moments. Picture: Damien Hockey

Nominally, her programs are geared in the direction of making ready college students for a brief set, however Belcher is essentially detached to whether or not they do or not. What issues to her is the inner adjustments that comedy can result in. 

“It’s not about turning into a professional performer,” she says. “It’s nearly having fun with the thought of being on the stage and going: ‘Hey, I need to speak about my being bipolar or having dyslexia’.” 

With a background in psychology, Belcher is aware of the advantages of airing experiences or emotions that we’d typically moderately preserve hidden. Discover humour in them and people advantages develop. What’s Mickey Mouse’s line? “To chortle at your self is to like your self.” 

I’m hoping this might be a approach for folks to be taught a brand new solution to speak about themselves

Therefore, the examples she offers of bipolar dysfunction and dyslexia. However there’s additionally a motive why the situations are high of thoughts. Along with the NHS-backed Wellspring Settlement Social Prescribing unit in Bristol, Belcher kicked off a pilot course aimed toward serving to trauma survivors. It was deemed successful and has now received NHS funding to assist males prone to suicide in London.

“Utilizing comedy as remedy isn’t totally new, however that is the primary time, that I do know of, of a social prescribing group making use of it particularly to trauma,” she explains. 

The ‘comedy on referral’ class employs group work, video games and one-to-one teaching with Belcher. The thought? To “discover blocks” and deal with emotional points in contributors’ lives by way of the artwork of standup. 

‘I hope this might be a approach for folks to be taught a brand new solution to speak about themselves,’ Belcher says. Picture: Damien Hockey

Widespread emotional issues for which the course is designed embrace postnatal melancholy, post-traumatic stress dysfunction, and anxiousness issues. 

One in all Belcher’s most important aspirations is to assist contributors see pleasure in darkish moments. Ask any comic and they’re going to inform you that the very best jokes stem from when issues go incorrect. An idyllic seashore vacation isn’t humorous; an idyllic seashore vacation spoiled by a blaring all-night disco could possibly be. 

Clearly, trauma is to not be taken flippantly, and Belcher is at pains to not push folks to go additional or sooner than they really feel comfy with. That stated, as soon as a relationship of belief is in place, she’s regularly shocked how keen persons are to open up. 

In each horrible scenario, there’s invariably one factor that makes you giggle

“In each horrible scenario, there’s invariably one factor that makes you giggle and suppose: ‘Gosh, that is actually terrible, nevertheless it’s additionally form of humorous’. That’s the one factor that folks at all times need to discuss to me about,” she laughs. 

In addition to the advantages to the person, Belcher believes the social prescription of comedy might have optimistic knock-on results, for instance serving to take away the taboo round discussing psychological well being situations and different sources of trauma. To go, briefly, from sharing to caring. “I’m hoping this might be a approach for folks to be taught a brand new solution to speak about themselves,” Belcher says. 

She gives the instance of US comedian Tig Notaro, who famously advised a stay viewers in Los Angeles about having breast most cancers only a day after her analysis. Notaro opened her present with the road: “Whats up. Good night. I’ve most cancers. How’s everyone doing?”

Having a mic in hand and a few jokes in your head could be empowering. Picture: Fun4all

Dubbed “immediately legendary” by Rolling Stone, recordings of the set have since been heard by hundreds of thousands. “I suppose that’s what we do as comedians,” displays Belcher. “We professionally share our lives and report again on all of the terrible issues which have occurred to us – and that approach, we create a brand new dialogue.” 

Again in Tub, Will Reynolds couldn’t agree extra. The comedy course, he attests, has given him the instruments to additional his personal reason behind bringing extra visibility to incapacity points. 

He additionally simply loves the thrill of constructing folks chortle. “I’ve had morphine,” says Reynolds, who has simply returned house after a protracted stint in hospital, “and it’s approach higher than that!

Major picture: Damien Hockey



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