Lauren Ziel: When did you first know what funny/comedy/humor was and that you had a knack for it?
Andi Porter: My family always thought I was funny. Everyone in my family is hilarious and I just thought every family nucleus was like that until I'd go to my friends' homes and realize how boring and solemn their family dinners were. Why wasn't anyone else trying to burp as loud as they can to get everyone to belly laugh or quoting Mel Brooks movies to get someone to shoot milk out of their nose? Turns out the Mel Brooks quotes didn't go over well in the 2nd grade cafeteria. Apparently not everyone's parents let them watch Blazing Saddles at 7. Losers.
When I was little I was incredibly shy and introverted around others. That was until we moved into the city and I changed schools in the 7th grade. It was an opportunity to be myself and just get weird with it. So I did! It seemed to work out and my friends and their friends thought I was funny. I realized that was my open door into being the wildly extroverted person I am now and I sprinted through that door and never looked back.
As one of our therapists Monica Green writes in a recent MHT blog post: "[Humor's] fundamental value lies in the way it allows us to approach truth less directly, to come at it sideways but to come at it nonetheless. It’s a way of coping with the things that…need coping with.” How has humor served you at getting at your greater truth?
Humor has allowed me to talk about the way I feel and view the world in a way that's unique to my voice and perspective without it seeming like I'm an informed professional who's psychoanalyzing things. Being raised Catholic taught me to not be an emotional person, so I rarely cry or like to talk about anything serious, but humor allows me to talk about those topics more willingly and freely with my own voice that I ever would have before. And the best part is it's MY voice. It took me a long time to find it, and I realize a lot of people never find theirs so I'm lucky to have it.
How/or do you use humor to cope with hardships in your life?
It's the only way I know how to cope. If someone is upset or sad my gut reaction is to walk funny, do a dance, use a silly voice, burp, fart, do anything to lift the heavy weight in the room. My entire family is this way. For example: about 3 years ago when my grandpa was admitted to the ER in the middle of the night, the hospital called the family to let us know it was the end and we needed to get down there. For hours my extended family was sitting in the waiting room, about a dozen of us, telling the funniest stories we could think of about our grandpa. We were all taking turns saying our goodbyes, and laughing our asses off at the same time. One other person was in the waiting room and came up to us and said, "I wish my family was like this. You're all having such a good time while getting through a tough time." And that really stuck with me. I felt so lucky to have a family that copes this way, and I can't wait to pass it on to my kids who I WILL be watching Blazing Saddles with as soon as they're old enough. So like, 8 years old.
What's your favorite bad/dad joke?
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
How is humor helpful for mental health?
For myself, it's so important to laugh and get that serotonin going in my brain. I struggle with anxiety and depression and I refuse to be on prescribed medication. It makes me feel wonky. If I didn't have comedy as a regular part of my routine, I'd be on so much Xanax -- it'd be a mainline situation. I'd probably be trying to smoke it. Working in the world of comedy and having similar types of people around me has helped my mental health in the biggest way possible.
Comedy can also be viewed as a mental health problem of it's own. There's something to be said about a person who will do ANYTHING for a laugh, and I'm definitely one of those people. It's not about the self-gratification, it's about making everyone in the room happier, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, and sometimes both simultaneously.
Would you rather have a partner who is super hot, really nice and attentive, great in bed, and majorly successful OR one who has the perfect sense of humor?
I would have a sack of potatoes as a partner as long as they had a great sense of humor. That's my only qualification in a partner. Which is probably why I've dated a loooot of men without jobs and cars. But wouldn't it be nice to have all of the above?!
Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.