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    Laughing Matters

    Although I wear many hats in the entertainment industry, my true pride comes from the title Comedian. Looking back at the long line of performers to have held that title, I consider it an honor to be in this craft. Humor has been a sustaining force in the very survival of African Americans dating back as far as slavery and beyond. Where would we be in the world were it not for laughter?

    Not only does laughter lift our spirits emotionally, there is also a physiological response that releases endorphins. A good laugh can last a long time past the initial response to a joke: weeks, months, or even years later, the memory of a joke can strike and brighten the moment. Jokes can also be shared with others to further spread joy.

    Humor has often been a source of stress relief. Just imagine how many jobs have been saved by someone laughing it off instead of having a confrontation at work. Like the great George Wallace says, “Laugh it off.” (A book he wrote bears that title).

    For me, humor feels like a superpower. To have the ability to bring a group, crowd, stadium, or media audience (radio, TV, and social) to simultaneous laughter based on my thoughts is incredible.

    I feel laughter is more important than ever during these uncertain, perilous times. COVID-19 gave us all more time to think about and appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Comedy provided an escape and a refuge as we locked down for safety.

    Gag-free gags
    Standup had to pivot from in-person performances to virtual and media platforms. This was not easy or natural for comedians: we truly appreciate a live audience response. Thankfully, we’re easing back into the clubs and venues and that’s been interesting to see. Believe it or not, we can get rusty and lose our timing after long layoffs; I certainly had to study my old work to regain my rhythm.

    Currently, comedy is under attack in this more sensitive era of “cancel culture.” Comedians have to use more tact and have a deeper appreciation for audience sensibility, which has pros and cons. I believe a comedian should be unrestrained to cater to audiences that enjoy their brand of humor.

    Fortunately, the current climate also continues to provide a continuous source of material from personal experiences like mask-wearing, quarantined relationships, and, of course, politics. What this era has proven is that comedy is much needed and definitely here to stay.

    Comedian and actor Damon Williams’ 25-year career highlights include his own one-hour TV specials and hosting the legendary Showtime at the Apollo. Co-owner of Riddles Comedy Club on Chicago’s South Side, he is also a regular on The Tom Joyner Morning Show.

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