They say laughter is the best medicine. According to The Tragedy Show, it can be the best therapy, too.
Helmed by Vancouver comedians Amber Harper-Young and Alex Sparling, the show has comics performing sets centered around the worst things that have ever happened to them. Death, disfigurement, childhood trauma: it’s all fair game.
The idea was initially born as a way for Sparling and Harper-Young to work through their individual experiences in the best way they know how: on stage.
“Amber’s mum had just recently passed away. We’re good friends, but even still there was a vibe that she didn’t want to talk about it,” Sparling told Vancity Buzz. “We were having lunch one day and I kind of reached out to her, and we talked about it for a little bit, then I pitched the idea of this Tragedy Show.”
The show was a way for Sparling to work through his own experiences, as well. Having lost his right eye in an accident five years ago, he hadn’t ever talked at length about it on stage before.
“She was having trouble getting over it, and honestly I felt like there was some healing I needed to do, too,” he says. “I have a one-eye joke I’ve been telling for years, but it had never been about the whole experience before.”
Following their first show in November, the response was immediate.
“We got an outrageous response, to the point that we’re still getting emails from bigger comics that say they have something to talk about,” he says. “That’s the best thing about these shows. The lineup is always unreal.”
Now in its seventh iteration, Sparling says part of its success is the position it puts both the audience and the performer in.
“When a comedian is vulnerable on stage, the audience puts their trust in them,” he says.
Using humour to cope to tragedy is an age old idea, and something Sparling himself is very familiar with. After losing his eye, he immediately began making jokes as a way to make the experience easier for himself.
“My mum and I would be pulling up to the grocery store, and she wouldn’t be able to find parking. I would just pull my eye out and put it on the dashboard like ‘let’s just park in the handicapped spot. We’re good. Let’s go,'” he says, laughing. “She would be like ‘That’s not funny, I’m still very damaged about you losing an eye.’ It’s so funny. I put my eye on the dashboard because I’m handicapped.”
While talking about the hard parts of their lives might be difficult, Sparling says it’s been cathartic in a way that couldn’t be predicted.
“It’s that classic ‘comedy is tragedy plus time,'” he says. “But why does there need to be time? I’m upset now.”
When: Tonight, September 10; 8 p.m.
Where: Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club – 2837 Cambie Street, Vancouver