Chris is a Northern comedian with working man’s club style of humour. A few years ago his father was murdered. In this comedy show, Chris recounts stories about his father; good and bad. Events from his life, events from his death and court trial, and the impact all this had on his own life after; harrowing material for a comedian.
Two of the biggest lessons Chris learnt from his dad are:
Chris grapples with both of these in this show.
Chris believes laughter is important; it is like a valve that lets out the pressure to stop it all building up inside. He talks about making fun of everyone and making fun of yourself with a smile and a glint in your eye.
As he talks humorously about: his dad smoking 40 a day, family arguments, friendship, parental expectations and disappointments, drugs, theft, love and murder, Chris invites us to tread a thin line between respectful and macabre.
Humour and laughter are sometimes a defence mechanism – a way to push others away and deflect from how we are feeling. I do not believe that is how Chris used the humour; I believe at times it allowed him to create enough distance to reflect on what was a very painful time, but I also believe it allowed him a way to really focus on some of the feelings and important parts of the relationship. Sometimes when someone is dead people feel they can only say nice things; but the dead are not all saints. With irreverent humour Chris connects with part of his dad’s legacy; say it like it is.
Chris talks about watching his dad forgive people in life and knowing that is what he must now do for his father’s killer. He recounts the moments when he knew he had to do this, moments when that resolve was tested and why it felt so important.
It is sometimes said that forgiveness is when you stop hoping for a better past; in forgiving his dad’s murderer, Chris is also having to let go of any hope that his father might one day be different; to do this he also needs to forgive his father.
Chris’s father was not perfect – no one is. Listening to Chris speak about his father, it is clear that there is a lot of deep respect and love. Some of the stories also portray a different side to the relationship which can sometimes be emotionally distant or judgemental.
Finally, Chris needs to forgive himself. Between the jokes and the stories this is also a tale with heart. A touching poem towards the end is delivered with tears and a break in his voice; a rare moment of personal sadness before being sent up with a funny one liner after delivery.
This is not your standard comedy show but I would recommend it, particularly for anyone struggling with grief. I know some people can get stuck in the grieving process – working so hard trying to hold things together that they may start to numb their emotions and shut away from relationships. Perhaps Chris’s method of forgiveness and laughter could be a medicine which others could take, in small doses too, as a first way to allow ourselves to explore grief in a different way.
I am reminded of a poem I read in a dramatherapy book:
Risks, poem by Anon(Grimshaw, (1996) Dramatherapy with children in an Educational Unit: the more you look, the more you see: page 50)
‘To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.’
I think Chris does all of the above in this show. To laugh about death, particularly sudden and violent death, is quite a risky topic for a stand up comedian. But some of the best comedy springs from life; and what Chris focuses on is the life he lived with his dad and the life he has resolved to live now. Inspired by, motivated by and sometimes even despite of that relationship he had with his dad.