Suicide has been talked about a lot lately. First there was August Ames’ suicide, then Logan Paul going to the suicide forest in Japan, and before either of those. It’s a serious topic, and it’s one that deserves serious discussion, but there is a different side to it that should be discussed too, and that is jokes about it. I will not be minimizing the topic in this post, but I will be talking more about humor and jokes surrounding suicide.
The reason I’m bringing this up, is Logan Paul. Now, you should understand, that I didn’t watch the Logan Paul video, but I saw clips through many other stories talking about it. I personally don’t want to see a dead body in video, and so I never watch anything like that. That being said, me not wanting to see it, doesn’t mean you can’t show it.
Ok, disclaimers aside, I saw some of the clips of Logan Paul joking, as well as laughing. Now some of the jokes, seemed like they were in poor taste, or insensitive, but some came across as nervousness, and I think that’s a totally natural response. We often laugh at what may not seem the best time, because we don’t know what else to do, it’s natural.
Now, some of what I personally didn’t care for with what I saw of Logan Paul’s video, wasn’t joking about suicide, but joking about someone specific. That may seem weird, but follow me for a second. I personally, have laughed a lot at suicide jokes, but I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed about suicide jokes that involved someone real or specific, as much as the idea of suicide.
But Mike, suicide is never funny!
Suicide isn’t, but suicide jokes can be, and they can be helpful or good. As you may or may not know, I am bi-polar, and have not only struggled with suicidal thoughts, but a couple of attempts. When I was 24, I swallowed a bunch of pills, and was hospitalized for a week, and made to swallow liquid charcoal to neutralize the toxins of the pills. It was a miserable time for myself, and my family (probably worse for them if I’m being honest). When I got out of the hospital, I saw my friend Jimbo, and Jimbo’s first thing he said to me was:
“Hey, next time you try to kill yourself, you should get a whole bunch of chicken wire, make a noose, put it around your neck, duct tape your hands to your head and jump off a bridge in front of traffic. That way, the noose will cut your head off, and it will look like you pulled your own head off with your hands!”
Now, if you’re like my family, you may be reading this thinking that it’s completely insensitive, and disturbing, and you might be mad that it was ever said. I, however, burst into laughter, laughter like I hadn’t laughed since before the whole thing happened.
I had spent all of the time between swallowing the pills and Jimbo saying that joke, in a state of emotional NPR soft talk, and after he said that, I was listening to music again. To this day, it is one of the two best comedic experiences I’ve ever had (the other was after an even worse day).
After Jimbo made that joke, we went around and around coming up with different ways that would have been far more memorable. I like to think no one really meant them, and that the humor was our coping mechanism. Because even though some people don’t get it, humor is largely a way of people making thing palatable that are otherwise unacceptable. Humor is important, and not just humor that comes at no ones expense, because really that shit doesn’t exist (watch Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix special “Thank God For Jokes,” about how every joke is at someone’s expense.)
I imagine, if I had successfully killed myself, that Jimbo would not have told that joke, and if he had told it to him, I don’t think there would have been an audience for it, but telling that suicide joke, because I had a different outcome was great, it was what I needed. So my point is this, suicide isn’t funny, but the jokes can be, and they can be cathartic, and they can shatter our self imposed prisons of ‘sobriety,’ but like anything else, there is a time and a place, and hopefully we can get help for those who need help, and humor for those who need humor.