How To Write Dark Comedy: When Things Aren’t Funny

Braving the end of my sugar addiction, I have put dopamine highs behind and now I am not sure I am funny anymore.

I often get compliments on my ability to write dark comedy.

I frequently hear:  “How are you able to write about such personal things, this is so funny and yet so dark, I really feel like I know you now, I feel like I just lived your nightmare but I liked it…”

People are amazed by my ability to be honest “yet so funny”.

It’s about time I reveal my dark comedy super power

I can tell you about my entire life without feeling a thing thanks to my 20 year sugar addiction.

I have written openly about self-mutilation, eating disorder, bipolar, my mother, my father, abandonment, failure, sexual assault, pain pain harm and pain. 

People thank me, “thank you for opening up. You’re so brave. And I laughed!”

Well, I hope I can keep it up. Because, this week I quit sugar.

I stopped eating sugar two days ago.

I can’t stop crying.

In my effort to write a play about my grandfather, I have dug up material from my past that I was hidden deep in a place I didn’t even know existed.

Remembering him I also remember the emotional abuse and neglect that I suffered and the resulting coping mechanism that, though I no longer partake in, continue to dictate my behaviour.

My grandfather teased me for being fat. He compared me to my Olsen Twin Look-a-like cousin. He taught me that my body was a failure.

At age eleven I began over-exercising, counting my calories using a nutrition manual that my mother used in nursing school and then spending two or three hours on the treadmill burning them off.

The more confidence I gained on the treadmill, the more I calories I binged.

This is the origin story of my sugar addiction and I could go on but I don’t feel like writing a story about How I Was A Victim. Not today.

I’m writing to question my super power and to talk about the doubt I have in my ability to continue conjuring laughs in the name of darkness.

I have been proud for a long  time of my ability to write funny, absurdist pieces, aesthetics that tell a story we would otherwise be uncomfortable hearing. 

Growing up, socially and otherwise isolated, I dreamed of making a room full of people laugh. 

Conan O’Brien has long been my hero.

My morning bulimic workouts were actually fuelled by my laughter as I watched the taped Late Night from the night before.

All I have ever wanted to do was make people laugh and I do it, writing with a brain trained in avoidance.

High from sugar, I discovered the irony of everything. 

Is sugar the entire reason I am funny? I don’t know. Probably not. But, I am fascinated by its participation,

Sugar is a drug.

My recent investigation into my relationship with my grandfather and my Olsen Twin cousin, uncovering my memories of bulimia have drawn me towards listening to the literature on sugar addiction (notably Molly Carmel’s “Breaking Up With Sugar”).

Here’s what I am learning: 

Sugar triggers a dopamine release in the brain.

Dopamine is a hormone that the brain releases when it detects that you are performing a survival-based activity. It trains us to dedicate ourselves to said behaviour (in the supposed name of survival) by signalling for the body to feel pleasure.

For example: sex. 

When we have sex, the body senses we are doing something reproductive and it releases dopamine, we feel pleasure and we crave sex…constantly? Sure. 

Anything that releases dopamine becomes easily crave-able because it’s a source of pleasure. 

Other notable dopamine-releasing agents include: opiates, alcohol and nicotine. Fun!

(I want to say that some people require dopamine therapy or use of pharmaceuticals that intensify dopamine release and that’s beautiful if its appropriate but that’s not what I am referring to when I discuss my personal experience chasing a dopamine high.)

Chasing ongoing access to dopamine is a great way to avoid pain.  Because? Just eat sugar, push the pleasure button, make things easy, you won’t feel a thing.

Every time I feel shitty I eat sugar, dopamine is released and then I feel good. No matter the fact that I’m writing about that time where I sat in the bathroom lock the door and burned my arm over and over again with the hair iron, I won’t cry, won’t remember the event physically. The sugar makes it easy.

That’s dark comedy: NEXT, suicide, the Holocaust, injustices, personal and otherwise, become laughable.

Hearing this information about sugar and dopamine I wondered if I would become a worse writer for abandoning my most reputable collaborator: Sugar.

But actually, clarity is coming. I just have to be patient and wait for it. Escaping addiction is a matter of retraining the brain which I happily will admit to learning from quitting diet pills and cigarettes.

Clarity will come.

Hearing Your Thoughts Momentously

There is so much about thinking that is difficult: Memory, problem solving, worry, hope. 

Right now, I am sitting here, struggling to form a sentence.

Day three of withdrawal is as unfunny as day two which was as unfunny as the thought of even braving the world without sugar.

And so, for the next few days, while I hide in my head and wait for the fog to clear, I want to propose that we all do the same exercise.

In the interest of dark comedy, let’s try a writing experiment that is sad but funny:

First of all, start sober. Write where you feel like you’re in safe bubble.

Take five minutes to remember someone who hurt you. 

Describe them.

Describe how you met them.

Describe why they left or why you left them.

Describe what you think they are doing now.

Get that out.

Now, Throw that page away and set another five minute timer.

Write “It’s funny because”

Just start the line that way, “It’s funny because”

And write until the end of the line, start again “It’s funny because”

Don’t try to be funny, in fact, don’t think at all. Don’t try to see your thoughts or clarify write your thinking. Be an idiot and criticize or maybe even laugh at something that doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t have happened. You will at least get out anger. But maybe you’ll find the irony and it WON’T BE because you’re numb.

If you need an example or a way to get started, I’ve included my example below. It really did help me re-think a grudge and it made me laugh, loudly so, I recommend taking the ten minutes and giving it a shot. I look forward to repeating the exercise over the next few days.

Otherwise, get to it and get real.

If the exercise helps you, share it on social media and MENTION MY BLOG, love you. Goodnight!

Anna made me her friend but I don’t remember how.

She was Persian, dark haired, used to being gorgeous. We sat beside each other in a high school classroom where I was the new person and she was personally of the opinion that everyone should like her very much or at least that her sophistication should inspire enough friendships to fuel her ego.

She will never let me forget that I was wearing a polka dot skirt and a yellow tie-dye shirt and she thought that I was “crazy”.

I remember having some interaction with her in high school, being included in her small friend group, being assigned a friendship with had. I had a crush on someone who she later heard bullying me behind my back and apparently, she tells me, she punched him in the face. 

From then on she was my self-proclaimed hero.

I never could decide if I liked her or not but because I had no other friends, I did what she said.

Actually most of our relationship was just me doing what she said.

When I failed at my dream of attending an American University, becoming an actor and moving to New York city, failed because I was a depressed mess and couldn’t figure out how to live, she adopted me and I became her best friend.

I don’t remember how. Came home and that’s what she called me. What the fuck.

Her mom hated me because she hated Jews and she would tell me that her mom hated me because she hates Jews.

Still, I followed her. 

She was attending U of T while I was working for my dad and she would make cracks about how I had so much free time while she had to attend school and do school work.

She was mean.

I pointed out to her that I am not in school and that’s why I don’t have school work.

And I don’t remember how she responded but that’s when I stopped liking her.

I was still her friend for four more years.

She was such a wreck. Such a failure.

She was pissed off about something, I’m not sure what, and was always there to listen to her, agreeing with how stupid other people are while not really being sure that I like her.

I think I might have been afraid of her

I know I Was afraid of her

But what did I think would happen if I stood up for myself.

I wish I hated her earlier.

I wish I knew I was worth more than being pushed around earlier.

She’s a bitch.

It’s funny because her mom was a bitch and so was she

It’s funny because I didn’t need to be her friend but I was anyways

It’s funny because I was not prepared to make fun of this friendship

Its funny because I Remember hating her but also being afraid to hate her and so I hated myself and it’s all her fault

It’s funny because this is basically how abuse happens

It’s funny because she is not good at anything

It’s funny because she was originally just the first person I sat down beside

If’t funny because I didn’t see the red flags early enough but how then even when I started seeing the red flags, they were on fire and I was afraid to touch them

It’s funny because I can’t remember how she made me her friend

It’s funny because I was only her friend because she took advantage of me when I was depressed

It’s funny because that effectively means that she would rather be friends with a dead person than a real person

It’s funny because I don’t think she had any right to know me at all

It’s funny because I was home most of our friendship, without her, and those were my favourite moments of our friendship

It’s funny because I was less of a person when I knew her 

It’s funny because she was very controlling but not very likeable so it only worked because I hated myself

It’s funny because instead of killing myself I agreed to be her friend and that was worse than killing myself

It’s funny because she was the torture I was looking for 

It’s funny because my eating disorder ended when I could finally trust that someone else would damage more than I could

It’s funny because now when I hear her name I secretly thank her for teaching me how terrible people are

It’s funny because I’m fine now

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