The Relationship Between Comedy and Mental Health

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” - Erma Bombeck

As we come up on year 3 of the Covid-19 pandemic, comedy has become even more of a source of comfort and hope for many as uncertainty and darkness ravaged the world.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported that 4 out of 10 American adults have suffered from anxiety or depression during the pandemic. 12% of those suffering from chronic conditions found their conditions worsen. 36% of adults reported issues sleeping, 32% issues eating, and 12% noted increased use of alcohol or substances (Panchal et al. 2021).

So what is it that makes laughing, or comedy in general, such an antidote to these conditions?

According to Web MD, just as negative thoughts cause chemical reactions that increase stress levels, having a laugh can release chemicals that fight stress and illness. It can even reduce physical pain, building natural painkillers. Laughing increases your intake of oxygen-rich air that stimulates vital organs (“Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke”, 2021).

Maybe this is the reason that as the pandemic hit in 2020, nostalgic TV viewing increased. Classic television programs like Friends, Roseanne and The Andy Griffith Show each amounted to billions of minutes watched in 2020 (“Nostalgic Comedy Viewing Boomed During The Pandemic”, 2021)

For comedians in Chicago, performing themselves can great for those dealing with their own mental health. Just ask Sara Holcomb, a comedian in the city who can speak to the positive benefits of performing on general mental wellness in an industry that has suffered.

“What’s really funny about comedians is that it’s their goal to make people laugh, but they are the most depressed people I’ve ever met,” Holcomb says. So no wonder so many gravitate towards a field filled with laughter—a proven mental and physical pain reliever.

“Comedians make jokes out of talking about their trauma. That is therapeutic in and of itself. A lot of us can’t afford psychiatrists or therapists. It is a form of therapy,” Sara says.

It’s been shown that a sense of community is important for mental health (Gilbert, 2019).

“A lot of people will come up to you after the show and say ‘Oh my god, that happened to me!’. It helps other people too,” Sara adds.

All these benefits of performing and watching comedy might be enough reason to try out that improv class you have been skeptical about signing up for or rewatching your favorite comfort sitcom or movie. Maybe going to one of the many open mic comedy nights across the city is the extra boost your mental health needs during this pandemic.

For comedians like Sara, who previously worked as a reporter in D.C, the career shift to comedy has been worth it.

“Comedy has given me permission to be myself,” she says.

You can check out Sara’s Instagram here, and her Youtube channel here.


Conquer Life is a media company and online community established in 2019 with an app that features resources, daily affirmations, talks on mental health, documentaries and much more.

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Gilbert, S. (2019, November 18). The importance of community and Mental Health. NAMI. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from

Kamal, R., Cox, C., Panchal, N., & Garfield, R. (2021, July 20). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. KFF. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from substance-use/

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, July 29). Stress relief from laughter? it's no joke. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from

Richter, F. (2021, April 8). Infographic: Nostalgic comedy viewing boomed during the pandemic. Statista Infographics. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from


Chicago, IL· Updated Wed, August 17, 2022 Conquer Life Company

Tagged with: blogs Chicago comics community

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