If I’m being totally honest, in my 34 years, I don’t know that I have figured out how to properly grieve. I lost the most important person in my life almost a decade ago, and I still find myself putting “get over that” on my to-do list. Accepting the loss of someone forever still seems pretty impossible to me. That being said, my parents are still alive and I can’t even image what that’ll look like — and don’t even get me started on finding peace with the idea of my own death.
Turns out, maybe my problem is that I don’t have comedy as an outlet.
“Of the Kubler-Ross five stages, I’ve been through three— denial, anger, Twitter. This might be four, the stand up special,” quips Laurie Kilmartin on her newest album, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad. Undeniably a great joke writer, Kilmartin’s career includes a stint on Last Comic Standing, an Emmy nomination as a writer for Conan, and spots on nearly every fest across the country. What folks might not know is that she is one of the hardest working stand-up comics out there, and in this new endeavor she’s she’s taken on even more work: a whole lot of emotional lifting.
At first listen, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad seems a bit unseemly, a little insensitive, like someone telling thoughtless jokes at a funeral to fill the silence. At first, I wasn’t sold. It wasn’t until I did some research into what led up to the album — how Kilmartin faced what one might argue is the worst experience we all have coming, the death of a parent — that I became more interested. When Kilmartin lost her father, shedid what any 21st century comic would do in the face of heartache and suffering — she took it to Twitter, joking her way through her dad’s terminal illness. Those Tweets then evolved into a special, and ultimately a new album.
And while the material might seem inappropriate — maybe too flippant, too personal, too real — Kilmartin’s brand of subversive comedy is exactly what we need in our current economic climate. What someone might need to hear while trudging through the next unfortunate event that pops up in their feed, or struggling through the death of a loved one. The jokes are rough, at times uncouth, but the undercurrent of the album — her unspoken angle — is that she can do whatever she wants to get to the other side. Basically, if the content rubs you the wrong way, chances are it isn’t meant for you. And congrats on things going so well for you.
The 11-track album is laconic in its approach, considering that it’s covering something as big and expansive as death. Kicked off with a knock-knock joke –“That’s the first joke guys, 44 left to go” — Kilmartin often goes for the obvious, what you’d expect when addressing something both taboo and universal. But when talking about grief, for those in the throws of personal trauma, they’re the jokes that need to be made. Through cancer, hospice, and the realization that she might be raising a serial killer when her son doesn’t understand why she’s sad at the funeral: “Oh my god, I’m Ted Bundy’s mother,” Kilmartin makes light where it is desperately needed.
I actually didn’t count the jokes, but from what I heard she is spot on, even when relying on an occasional tired dick joke, because that is what she needed, and I guarantee someone else will need these jokes too. For those of us struggling, those who might laugh at a funeral, who understand that sometimes the only choice we have is laughter, this one’s for you.
The audio album 45 Jokes About My Dead Dadis out now on Aspecialthing Records, and you can also watch the special on Seeso.