people laughing

Laughter as medicine: A look at the lighter side of cancer

Cancer’s no joke, but you can’t feel bad about it all the time. Sometimes you just need to laugh in its big dumb face. Laugh till you cry and then laugh again.

They say “laughter is the best medicine” — okay, maybe it’s not the best medicine, but from stress relief to improved immune response, a good giggle has been proven to have numerous health benefits.

Here are a few examples of how some have tried to make light of the heaviest of topics:


Not all cancer movies have to be weepy and dramatic, as demonstrated by the 2011 film 50/50, about a 27-year-old man with spinal cancer and his best friend who helps him through the experience in unusual and hilarious ways. The story is true. Screenwriter Will Reiser modeled it on his own experience with cancer, and his best friend Kyle is played by Seth Rogen, Reiser’s real-life best friend throughout his illness.

Cancer Vixen

The graphic memoir Cancer Vixen: a True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto tells another true story, this one in bold color, comic-book style. It’s the story of what happens when a fashion-obsessed big city girl with a fiancé and a perfect life finds that terrible lump in her breast. And it’s both funny and inspiring.Cancer Vixen's The Cancer Card

Jim Gaffigan

Next, here’s a clip of comedian Jim Gaffigan, who can make light of just about anything, including cancer. And by the way, he’s a little disappointed with his zodiac sign.

Tig Notaro

Comedian Tig Notaro changed comedy forever when she made her cancer the centerpiece of a brave, raw, and very funny stand-up show in 2012. You can hear the whole thing on her album Live (rhymes with “give”). The show is perhaps best known for the moment she took off her shirt on stage, revealing her double mastectomy scars, and bravely normalizing the valid choice of skipping reconstructive surgery. Here’s a clip of her talking about how it happened.  

Cancer Jokes

Finally, here’s some genuine gallows humor. Be warned, terrible puns ahead.

I’ve heard eight cancer jokes today. If I hear another, it’s gonna benign!

Have a fun resource that tickled your cancer funny bone? Share it in the comments section below.

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