Key Peninsula residents Lori Colbo and D’Arcy Figuracion make their debut as a comedy team at the Red Barn SPLASH event on Aug. 9.
Earlier this year, both women took a 12-week course in stand up comedy through Stand Up for Mental Health (SMH) funded by Optum Health Pierce Regional Support Network.
SMH founder David Grenirer directed the class via Skype each week from Vancouver, B.C. as the class of 10 women gathered at Tacoma Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities (TACID).
“He taught us how to write jokes, how to set them up, tell them –– the timing, the physicality of it,” said Colbo.
The requirement for participating in the class is a mental health diagnosis. Colbo’s was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), Figuracion’s was depression.
The women said SMH is ground-breaking therapy for people struggling with mental illness.
Colbo and Figuracion met at the class and became friends.
“D’Arcy is my favorite amateur comic and I’m hers,” said Colbo. So it was natural for them to want to work together.
Colbo has done three solo performances and Figuracion one since finishing the course.
The culmination of the classes was a public performance at Tacoma Community College in March. For 90 minutes, the women and their mentor did their comic routines to a standing room only crowd, with almost constant laughter, culminating in a standing ovation.
That afternoon they had a “dress rehearsal” for about 100 patients and staff at Western State Hospital.
Seeing the patients laughing and enjoying the show was a moving experience for the women.
“Doing comedy is a kind of therapy, but it’s also a process of breaking the stigma (of mental illness) and it’s positive health,” said Colbo.
She noted people would be amazed at the number of professional comics who have mental health issues, including schizophrenia.
Colbo did an internship and has been certified as a mental health peer counselor and Figuracion is a social worker in Tacoma.
“Doing comedy makes people laugh,” said Figuracion. “It’s about the silliness we get so wrapped around the axle about. You learn to not take yourself so seriously.”
Colbo says it’s fun too. “I can’t change some things, but I can laugh about others,” she said.
She seeks out funny things if she’s feeling bad.