Just as the clown paints on a smile to hide what lies beneath, so often, the funniest people among us are often the saddest. Robin Williams shocked and stunned us all by taking his own life. We never imagined that this comedic genius with a brain that worked at lightening speed was so heartbreakingly sad.
We all do it to some extent. Maybe we feel isolated and alone and making others laugh is a way of relating and connecting so we’re not so alone anymore. Maybe we feel it’s somewhat shameful to be depressed or others won’t want to be around us if we reveal that we’re feeling low, empty or sad so we crack jokes to mask it.
I find myself consistently drawn to witty people. Two of my closest friends are doing stand-up comedy. I don’t know if their humor is camouflaging pain, but I know I do it all the time.
My friends and co-workers howl with laughter at my riffs about online dating and first dates that will NEVER see a second due to (insert various ridiculously outrageous behavior here). I’m the one who laughs uncontrollably at funerals, who cracks jokes about the hot doctor examining my mother in the hospital and later leaves a note on the whiteboard in her room reminding her NOT to go toward the light! I feel compelled to work at least one “that’s what she said” into each 24-hour period and my daughters have threatened to share the title they’ve given me: “queen of the penis jokes” in my eulogy. But I’m here to tell you that once the night is over, the grease paint comes off and it’s a very different story.
Beware a cover-up of any kind. What lies beneath is never good. Have you ever gone to the market and seen all those heavily pre-seasoned meats and fish? Why do you think they do that? It may not be in all cases, but many times those are the proteins that are past their prime. They’re starting to go and it’s a last ditch effort to camouflage the fact that they’re starting to look or smell a little funny so they can be sold instead of ending up in the dumpster.
The same can often be said for the “special” of blackened whatever at your favorite restaurant. With the right presentation, they may be able to avoid having to throw all of it away and sell at least some of it, but make no mistake; very often, something sinister lurks beneath the heavy handed spices and when you’re praying to the porcelain gods later, you’ll be sorry.
Beware of the cover-up. Things (and people) are not always what they seem. A little discernment can go a long way. It just may save you from a night of retching you won’t soon forget. And for those friends who bring smiles and laughter to everyone around them, look deeper. Listen harder. They just might need a shoulder when the curtain closes at the end of their set.