I’m hilarious. This is neither a brag, nor an understatement—it just is. My entire life I have been the bubbly, perky, theatrical friend. If you flipped through my childhood photo albums, you’d see a recurring theme: me making funny faces or doing funny poses. It’s no wonder that I was voted Funniest Girl my freshman year of high school and was in the running for it again my senior year (at a completely different school).
Because of it, I’ve always been surrounded by people. People love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh. I’ll tell jokes at my own expense, if it will make you feel comfortable. In tense situations, humor is a great diffuser. If I can get you to laugh, I’ve already won you over. It’s just my way. Even during the storm that is Hurricane Harvey, I took to Facebook to provide comic relief in spite of my own anxieties. If laughter is the best medicine, then I am most certainly a drug dealer.
So, I can tell you this from experience: Your funny friend is dying inside, and you may not even know it.
For about three years, I struggled with anxiety and depression and hardly anyone knew it. I remember hoping that one day someone would see through the mask, but how could they? They were too busy laughing with me at my misery, marveling at how strong I was to make light of such dark situations. My friends and I would hang together, and through comedic love, I would spend most of my time consoling and uplifting them, only to go home alone and cry alone.
I’m not the only one who has been overlooked. Robin Williams’s death by suicide in 2014 left the world wondering how such a funny man could have been suffering enough to take his own life. I understood. We funny friends are often the least likely to be asked if we are okay, and we are even less likely to tell you that we need help.
Why Your Funny Friend Isn’t Telling You
We don’t want to burden you.
It’s quite possible that your funny friend found their gift in the middle of unsettling circumstances. Humor is a wonderful way to ease tension and make others happy. It’s our superpower. We don’t want to bring you down, so we become so stuck in the role of people-pleaser.
We care about you, sometimes to our own exclusion. We may not mean to be so private, it’s just that we have become so caught up in helping you to heal, that we forget our own wounds. We know you’re going through it in your own life. We don’t want to add any unnecessary pain or trouble to you.
We’re scared of what would happen if we stopped laughing.
We love performing for you and comedy is the way that we control the environment around us. It allows us an escape from the panic and sadness that may be lingering underneath. There is this constant fear of what would happen if we stopped laughing, even just for a second. Would the pain overwhelm us? If we started to cry, would it last forever? We laugh because we may not feel strong enough to handle what is underneath our levity. The jokes are meant to distract and convince you (and ourselves) that we are okay.
We don’t want to be rejected.
Humor is our way of gaining loyalty, allies, friendship. Everyone loves a good show! In this way, we always have value and we’ll always have friends. However, being the resident jester has a stark downside: the day we stop being funny is the day we lose our identity. Allowing you to see our full selves puts us in a vulnerable position because we have no way of knowing if you’re around for us, or just around for the show. Like everyone, we’re afraid of rejection. Laughing at ourselves is a mask by which we attempt to control your perception of us. If you stopped laughing, perhaps you will see how vulnerable we feel, leave the show and never look back.
What You Can Do To Help
1. Ask us how we really are. Read between the punchlines. Don’t let us bullshit you. Hold us accountable by requiring authenticity from us.
2. Become better at coping with your own issues. Spare us the emotional work. We’re empaths and turn into people pleasers trying to help you. If you spend time working on your issues, that frees us from the need to constantly save you.
3. Be consistent. Reciprocal relationships are important. Spend as much time emotionally taking as well as giving. Understand that humor is our gift, but provide us the consistent acceptance of the full spectrum of our emotions.
4. Listen often and create a safe space for us to share.
Humor is the best known anti-depressant known to humankind. On behalf of your funny friends (or on your behalf if you are the humorist or quipster of your group), please remember that there exists a complex, emotional ecosystem beneath our jokes and smiles. We care for you with our jokes, but may in fact be in much pain behind the scenes. Check on us—and let us know you’re there for when the jokes stop.