When asked about why her characters responded to tragedy with humor during a talk at The New Yorker Festival, Toni Morrison answered, “Laughter isn't a weakness; laughter is a muscle, it's agency.” When we laugh in the face of tragedy, we're not making light of the situation; we're bearing the weight of tragedy's burden. “Laughter isn't silly,” Morrison said, “it's serious.”
As much laughter as Samantha Irby’s essay collection, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (Vintage Books) brought, they also possessed a clear-eyed sense of the serious. Irby’s humor doesn’t obscure trauma, but brings it into clear view that allows us, as readers, to see things for what they are. We also talked about how Irby’s use of humor was reminiscent of Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special, Nanette. The way Gadsby used comedy as a way to not only critique the limitations of the form, but to also challenge the audiences, who laugh, to reckon with the actual experiences that informs the jokes comedians make.
Since starting this club, it’s been a goal of mine to challenge people to think more about our collective complicity with cultural behaviors that we may not be fully aware that we engage in—and decide if we individually want to move differently in our lives. This club has been proof that honest conversations like the ones that go on here can be a source of joy. If you have yet to attend a meeting this year, we sincerely hope you make it your business to pull up to one in 2019.
If you’d like to watch the conversation from our meeting, click here.