Laurie Kilmartin met her comedy hero and cried tears of joy
Using humor to help ease the pain of a loved one’s death is not new, but perhaps it is underused.
How’s that for a smiley-happy beginning to a comedy column, folks!
Honestly though, finding a reason to smile during and shortly after losing someone can be instrumental in getting through the grieving process. When somebody you care about passes, of course you’re sad. Maybe you’re traumatized. Chances are laughing, or making others laugh, isn’t high on your priority list.
Here’s where you — all of us really — could take a page out of Laurie Kilmartin’s playbook. Kilmartin, a stand-up comic and Emmy-nominated writer for “Conan,” live-tweeted her father’s final days in late February-early March and, as a person who tries to use amazing only when I’m truly amazed by something, let me tell you, it was amazing.
As crass as tweeting during a parent’s death might seem on the surface, remember that Kilmartin oozes funny, and understand that she balanced hilarity and hurt in a brilliant way. We shouldn’t all aspire to do what Kilmartin did because the majority of us aren’t professional comedians. However, the spirit that fueled her form of mourning is admirable.
In this week’s interview, Kilmartin, who co-authored the subtly-titled parenting guide “Sh*tty Mom,” found time to answer my questions about the healing power of jokes, her preference for slightly boozy stand-up audiences and much more.
TC: I laughed and cried while reading the tweets you sent out as your dad was dying. Sometimes Twitter is a vile place, but did you get mostly positive feedback from that?
LK: Thank you! The feedback I got was almost 100 percent positive. The two exceptions were, oddly enough, a cousin of mine in the Tea Party and Al-Jazeera America. A couple of their reporters made snarky, shitty Twitter replies.
TC: I’ve always wanted to ask a comic this question: How is your “45 Jokes About My Dead Dad” tour going?
LK: Tony, cross it off your bucket list.
It’s going well. I have about five weeks to get it in shape. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve done since I started stand-up. The audience tends to freeze up when I start doing dead dad jokes, so I’m figuring out — slowly and by bombing — how to prevent that. It actually infuriates me because I do worse jokes about my live 7-year-old child, and no one seems to care. He’s the one the audience should be worried about, not my dead dad.
TC: In your experience, what percentage of hecklers or rowdy audience members are drunk?
LK: Ninety percent. But still, I prefer booze to no booze. A slightly buzzed audience is the best audience.
TC: Is stand-up more or less fun now than when you started?
LK: There are ups and downs. At the moment, I have tons of jokes to work out, so it’s as exciting and thrilling as the day I started. But after I shoot this special, I’ll probably be bored. Waiting for my mom to die, I guess.
TC: Have you ever been starstruck by a “Conan” guest, or anybody else?
LK: CAROL BURNETT. (Kilmartin’s all caps) She’s the only guest that I’ve ever asked to meet.
The segment producer asked; she said yes. I was waved into her dressing room and I broke down in tears at the sight of her. She ended up consoling me. Carol Burnett means so much to me. No matter how much she’s appreciated, she’s still underappreciated.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes:
It’s good they wrote “Randy is not an actor” at the top of this Chantix commercial because Randy’s raw magnetism tells a different story
— Karen Kilgariff (@KarenKilgariff) September 11, 2014