Laughter as Cure

When I took improv classes at the Brody Theatre in Portland it didn’t make me funnier but it did make me smarter.

I learned there are 2 types of improv performers: those who keep a pocketful of jokes, hoping for the right cue, and those who pay close attention to the story and respond in the moment.

The trick is to pay attention.

Believe it or not, most folks float through life without paying attention. Cell phones and headsets enfold us, limiting interaction with others. And that’s just fine if you want to keep to yourself.

Comedian Maria Bamford re-interprets interactions: massaging and kneading the declarations and incantations of friends and family members while giving voice to her inner demons.

Her performance August 25 at Portland’s Helium Club channeled the voices of dating and despair, and she masterfully assumes the personae of the needy and the bewildered.

Bamford is a true loon whose roller coaster delivery shifts from sanity to crackerjacks in one flawless arc. My guts still ache from her musings about relationships.

For a taste of what she shared in Portland you can see a short clip from Craig Ferguson’s show at


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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