Omar Shaukat, The Good Men Project’s editor for the newly founded Humor Section, reveals his deep relationship with comedy.
We all know the adage tragedy plus time equals comedy. For me, nothing rings truer than this proverb. Two months before my sixteenth birthday, my mother unexpectedly passed away. With my senior year of high school approaching and college on the horizon, I was completely lost. Anger, confusion, and helplessness permeated my entire being. Everyone who said to me, “Don’t worry, Omar you’ll get over the loss with time” was and still is wrong. You never get over someone’s absence, but you do learn to live with it.
For me, learning to live with my mother’s absence consisted of holding on to all the good memories. Only now, seven years later at the age of 23, am I starting to realize so many of these memories were rooted in humor. Whether it was staying up late to watch The Tonight Show with her while I was in middle school (Getting to stay up until 11:30 PM when you’re in middle school is like finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar), or constantly listening to Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” in our 1998 Dodge Caravan, humor was often the backdrop for our time together. I remember listening to that Seinfeld recording so frequently with my mom that I can still deliver his bit on cab drivers to this day.
My brother also adopted my mom’s love of humor. I remember stealing his Dave Attell and Mitch Hedberg CDs and listening to them on loop to and from school until my discman ran out of batteries. I actually trace a lot of my perverse humor back to staying up late to catch “Insomniac with Dave Attell” throughout high school.
When I went off to college, comedy took a back seat to music. I was exposed to the world of college radio, where what bands you namedropped while sipping a PBR defined who you were. But this break from comedy was necessary in order to realize what I was missing. It’s like when you first realize who your true love is, because when you’re apart you don’t like who you’re becoming. I realized the more sucked into the music industry I got, the more disingenuous I became.
I eventually discovered that at my lowest moments I did not turn to music as a means of therapy but stand-up comedy. The genuine nature of a man or woman taking the stage with a microphone in order to make people laugh amazes me. I firmly believe that comedy is social work. When I was feeling down and out, I’d look to Steven Wright for a few one-liners to turn my day around, or I’d listen to Dave Chappelle recounting his experiences of being forced to stop in the ghetto while in a limousine.
Humor is always there for me. I am continuously thankful to my mother for blessing me with her sharp sarcastic wit, as well as her appreciation for good humor. Also, to my brother for letting me listen to his Dave Attell CDs without tipping off my parents to the irreversible harm it was causing my brain.
I believe life at the end of the day is funny. Sometimes all we can do is just laugh at the cards we are dealt. Humor not only makes life worth living, but it is an amazing vehicle to tackle social, political, and economic problems in the world. I also believe that anything, if approached correctly, can be humorous. Even though at the age of 15 I suffered a harrowing tragedy, with the right amount of timing I came out of it with an undying passion for comedy.
I hope you can join me in exploring cases of how humor is used to address certain problems in the world. Specifically, but not limited to, humor dealing with men’s issues.
Whether you’re an aspiring stand-up comedian, sketch writer, filmmaker, musician, writer, or any other artist, if you’re using humor as a means to get to something bigger I would love to share your work with our readers. All well-executed works, including those previously published, are welcome. If it is a written work, the only formal instruction is that your piece of 500-1500 words (give or take a few) must adhere to the Good Men Project Style Guidelines.
With all that said, as comics often are stressed to do: Let’s not waste any more time, and let’s get straight to the funny.
 Timing gives a comedian perspective. While I have yet to be able to talk about the loss of my mother on stage, I hope that one day I will have enough control of the craft to do so tastefully and humorously.