What do Hannah Gadsby, Daniel Sloss, and Gina Brillon have in common as stand-up comedians? On the face of it, you would be hard-pressed to name something this trio shares other than their penchant for performing in front of a room full of strangers. They’re natives of three different countries, have unique life experiences, and their comedic styles share nothing except audience laughter.
They’re each funny in their own right, discussing everything from dating to family to personal philosophies, but what groups them in their own category together is that each of them uses their platform to talk about serious subjects amidst the chuckles and giggles. The last few years, it seems, have allowed us to begin talking about issues once deemed taboo by society – in Hannah’s case, autism, bullying, and LGBTQIA+; in Daniel’s case, disability and death; and Gina tackles something that continues to pervade and plague humanity: classism, sexism, and racism.
I appreciate these comedians who take their time with the audience, sharing life stories through a humorous lens, and then pulling the rug out from under our feet to tell us what really matters to them. It struck me while watching Gina Brillon that we need more comedians who are bold enough to make a statement that won’t get laughs. There’s something to be said about the courage it takes to speak the truth even when you know it’s unpopular, or that it will make people uncomfortable.
Brillon grew up poor in New York City. She got laughed at because she dreamed of becoming a stand-up comedian. She didn’t have the opportunities for private education, business connections, and job offerings that a lot of other people (mostly white males) seem to enjoy. She didn’t get a lot of what people expect out of life. But, in her words, she had one thing that no one else had: she never gave up on her dream.
That, to me, was the entire point of her show. She never gave up. She never quit. Despite the odds stacked against her, she persevered. There are thousands of people who don’t share that story, who stopped pursuing their passion for one reason or another. While there are valid reasons for doing so (some even necessary), it occurs to me that perhaps those who have the ability to keep going do have an advantage, because when they finally reach the pinnacle, when their dream is realized, they know how precious it is, and they wring everything they can out of it.
It’s one thing to joke about your life and your experience, your relationships, and your family, without having much of anything to say about what affects us all. Being able to relate to people, to understand where the majority of us are coming from (specifically with poverty and lack of quality education), and to give us hope that we too can continue to better ourselves and our family’s quality of life by pursuing our passions and our dreams, is special.
If you, like me, enjoy a side of seriousness with your comedy, you can watch Gina Brillon’s new special, “The Floor Is Lava”, on Amazon’s Prime Video . You may also enjoy Daniel Sloss’s “Live Shows” and Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” and “Douglas”.