How it all began...

by Helen Reicher, Founder & Executive Director

My brain never stops thinking. I cannot conceive of how a brain can work any other way. How anyone is telling the truth when they say they are thinking nothing. Nothing!?! How is that possible? Overthinking was a curse until I figured out how to channel it into a positive force, comedy. People in the comedy business hear that and think, the comedy business is like a Shakespearean play where most of the characters are antagonists.

 

Except that is the business of comedy, I am talking about the art of comedy. I am talking about the thing that drives people to the stage night after night, even though they know they will never "make it" in any mainstream sense of the word. I am talking about using words as paint, the audience as canvas, and the microphone as a paintbrush. Now that logo makes sense, right?


Through the nonprofit's podcast called, you guessed it, The Art of Comedy, I have had the privilege to discuss in-depth with comedians who have completed the comedy classes at Rise Comedy in Denver. How comedy has improved their lives. Even just taking the comedy classes alone made a significant difference. We all share similar yet personally unique stories. This is mine...

Comedy found me. I never saw it coming. It found me at my darkest time. The journey into darkness could be an entire novel, that I may write someday. For now, know it was by far one of the lowest points of my life. That is where comedy found me in March of 2016.

I was just looking to do something that would make me feel again. I was stuck on autopilot. My brother has always been a comedy fanatic and had gotten into performing six months prior. Around 2010 some crazy kids had started a comedy scene in Wichita I was unaware of until he invited me to an open mic at the local comedy club. Sitting in that audience I had the first thought of “I think I can do that”.


I typed up some stories I had told people outside bars hundreds of times while smoking. Twelve-point font. Single spaced. One page worth. I took the mic in my hand, put the mic stand behind me, turned around to face the crowd, and only saw blinding white light. Then a full crowd laugh hit at just the right time on my joke and boom, as the laughter washed over me, I felt a change on a cellular level. Immediately more confident, I ran the light. I didn't want it to end. I wanted to stay up there and get more. That was it. I was hooked.


I did that. I made those people laugh. I made them forget all the problems of this world for one second, but more importantly, I forgot all my problems, even if it is only for 10-30 minutes at a time. All these negative things my brain had been overthinking for so long were gone. All replaced by comedy. Various mechanisms have been employed to distract me from my mental illness and need for healing. Toxic relationships, food, drugs of all kinds, legal and illegal, nine different prescription mental health medications, and yes, even Jesus. None of it worked, not with outside effects I could not live with.
 

Six months later, at 38, I got my first tattoo, "At least I got some good material." That is the most significant change the art of comedy has brought to my life, the way my brain processes trauma, past, present, and future.  Now I can look at situations, even the darkest ones, even those that take me to my knees, and find the funny. It is a skill that will always be mine to keep, even if I never set foot on a stage again. Over five years in and my entire life has changed because of comedy. I know the art of comedy can bring a passion for life to others struggling to heal. I want to help them to complete their journey to overcome trauma, one microphone at a time. Won’t you join me?