There hasn't been much to laugh about in the past week, two weeks, two years. But being able to smile even in the darkest times can help us to cope, to take control, to have hope.
People who work in the emergency services lead the way in this, of course, with the much documented 'gallows humour'.
I've always relied on satirical news programmes to bring a touch of sanity, insight and humour to increasingly baffling world affairs. When 'ordinary' people express what we 'all' seem to be thinking, highlighting the often ridiculous nature of politics and government, our collective laughter suggests that perhaps the problems aren't so great, so everything will be alright, it will all come good.
Recent times have proved particularly challenging for these commentators and comedians, though. When issues are a matter of life and death, how do they find the right tone for jokes and comments? How might there be anything funny to say about the situation in Ukraine? Is it possible to laugh about trivial concerns if we push these terrible events to the back of our minds?
There was a time when I used to dip into 'The Mash Report' on television to see its often quirky take on the wrongs in society. I particularly enjoyed the pseudo-analysis provided by Rachel Parris. She is a comedian, a musician and a co-founder of an improv group called Austentatious who perform each unique stage show in the style of a Jane Austen novel.
When the lockdowns prevented live performances on television and in person, some comedians like Parris and her husband Marcus Brigstocke worked with a team called Always Be Comedy to provide comedy nights on Zoom. It was strangely comforting. They would speak from their spare room about what had happened to them that week, what they thought of the news, and then some silly games or songs. It felt like spending the evening with friends.
Rachel Parris has now written a book in the same tone as her performances, mixing sensible observation and commentary with her own wry and humorous take on life. It's similarly quite a comforting and enjoyable read, while at the same time encouraging the reader to share in a passion for change and justice.
Thank you for reading.
PS The heading this week is a quote from Mother Theresa.