THIS might sound absurd to some people, but for a long time I was actually somewhat resistant to things that are comedic. I mean, sure, we all need to laugh – that is an essential part of life, and there are a great number of comedic films, cartoons, and TV shows that I have enjoyed throughout my life. However, do I gravitate towards comedy when I have to choose between other genres? Absolutely not.
I think the reason why I prefer more dramatic/tragic works of art might have to do with the idea that comedy does not present a realist version of the world, in that comedies are often too good, too happy, too pure and devoid of real-world tragedy and sorrow, but maybe that is the point. Comedy exists to remove one from the daily toil and burdens of everyday life. I realised this only quite recently, when, bogged down with weeks of self-isolation, I, surprisingly, found myself looking for something to watch that would actually make me feel better. I was beyond fed-up of the pandemic, like everyone else, and I was tired of making myself even more morose by reading literature that focused on class struggles, watching films that fell into the psychological thriller genre, and listening to sad songs from the 50s and 60s (see Paul Anka, Nat King Cole, and others). So one day, I literally found myself googling “shows to make me feel good” and one of the first recommendations to pop up was a comedy titled ‘Feel Good,’ a series starring Canadian stand-up comedian and actress, Mae Martin.
‘Feel Good’ turned out to be really good. It is filled with dry humour and lots of laugh-out-loud moments too and I ended up watching the whole thing over the course of two days, and I have zero regrets about it because it was a comedy series that actually tackled real-world, serious, issues, such as drug addiction, lesbian relationships, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, and dating (Remember going on dates before the pandemic swooped in?), and I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who needs a pick-me-up or something to make them feel better on a really bad day.
I think a part of the appeal of the show is that it offers a protagonist who is easy to empathise with, despite her flaws. Sure, Mae is an ex-drug addict and she is very close to slipping back to drugs, but at least she is trying really hard to stay clean so she can repair her relationship with her parents and maintain her connection with her new girlfriend, George. We like and support Mae because we see her struggles and her perseverance. She suffers through the hilarious Narcotics Anonymous meetings where a host of strange characters (all of whom have forgone their drug addictions and replaced them with new addictions, such as lying or cooking), and she is constantly put down by her parents who seem reluctant to repair their damaged relationship with her, and, additionally, George, the woman she loves, is the kind of girlfriend who prefers to keep her sexuality, and, by extension, Mae herself, a secret from her straight friends. Yet, despite all of these conflicts, Mae remains constant and true to George, and the way this relationship is depicted in the show, starting out as a small bud of cuteness before blossoming into something that might be too powerful for both women to handle, is the cornerstone of the show, the thing that keeps the whole thing afloat, the thing that keeps Mae sane and the audience invested. It is one of the best depictions of a relationship that I have seen in a TV show this year. It is tenderly developed, and remains one of the few bright spots in Mae’s life, and, therefore, the audience wants it for Mae as much as Mae wants it for herself. Whether that is a good thing, or whether George has become Mae’s new addiction, is one of the main focal points of the series.
‘Feel Good’ can definitely make the audience feel a range of emotions, mostly sadness and joy, but the third dominant feeling is the one that we get when we experience something funny (I am not sure about what exactly is the emotion we feel when we laugh. Is it happiness? Sometimes, embarrassment and pain can be funny too. I’m not sure. Scientists should look into this). Whatever the emotion is that we experience when we are confronted with something funny, that emotion is a constant throughout the show. I found myself continually laughing, whether at George’s coming out scene when she is in the hospital and high on morphine, or whether it is the strange presence and monotone of George’s odd housemate, Phil, who tries to cheer her up by offering her a bucket of earthworms to take care of, of whether it’s Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s high-strung mother who is constantly, and somewhat obliviously, berating and pointing out the flaws in her daughter, there is enough humour in this show to make one feel completely revitalised.
Looking back on my two-day binge, I think that I now have a better understanding and appreciation of comedy. Additionally, the old adage of ‘laughter is the best medicine’ finally makes sense to me. It might be strange to hear me talk about how my gloominess was cured (at least for now) by a TV show, and, obviously, that is not going to work for everyone, but in my case, in this one instance, it actually worked, and I honestly came out of watching ‘Feel Good’ while also feeling pretty good myself. I now realise that, sometimes, a little bit of light and laughter is all one really needs, and, sometimes, a series about a former drug addict and her relationship with a closeted schoolteacher named George is exactly where you need to go to find that light and laughter.