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interview

Interview With Nadine Menashe of Varsity Grief Squad

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Today my guest is Nadine Menashe, the creator behind the Varsity Grief Squad, one of my favorite accounts on Instagram and also where Nadine makes memes and merch about her dead mom.

In this episode:

Nadine’s mom Svetlana was diagnosed with stage 4 breast, bone, and lung cancer in September 2019. That’s when the grief process started. When she passed away in October 2020, the humor came naturally. It was the only way she was able to communicate what she was feeling

  • Processing grief and loss with funny memes
  • Humor wasn’t always something Nadine used to cope with the hard stuff in life
  • The moment that Nadine started really leaning into humor was at her mom’s funeral
  • A lot of rabbis seem to have a great sense of humor around death
  • The backlash that comes with using dark humor to cope
  • Appreciating the view of death in Judaism
  • Meeting a grieving person where they are

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com.

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interview

Interview with author Kathy Benjamin

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Today my guest is Kathy Benjamin, author of the upcoming book, “It’s Your Funeral,” which aims to help demystify death, decrease your anxiety, and put the fun back in funeral. Every stage of the legacy planning process is considered, from a burial outfit to a funeral theme.  Kathy’s writing has  has received more than 100 million hits across some of the most popular humor and trivia websites in the world, including Mental Floss, Cracked, Grunge, The Smoking Jacket, and Uproxx. Kathy is also the author of Funerals to Die For.

In this episode:

  • What how panic attacks led Kathy to start writing comically about death
  • Using humor and learning everything about death gave her the ability to demystify dying
  • Why death positivity eases anxiety around the topic and gives you more control
  • Why we’re avoidant when it comes to death and dying
  • Getting kids comfortable with death and seeing bodies
  • How Victorians screwed us up when it comes to our relationship with death
  • The many different ways we grieve and mourn our loved ones

For more information about Death Is Hilarious, visit deathishilarious.com To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. You can support the podcast by subscribing, becoming a patron at patreon.com/deathishilarious, or by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media.

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interview

Interview with Mitzi Weiland (LMFT) creator of the podcast Dead Funny Dead Serious

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Today my guest is Mitzi Weiland, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and creator of the podcast Dead Funny Dead Serious.

In this episode:

  • Mitzi was a bartender and artist before her mother was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer (her father and grandfather also passed away when she was 7). Then she started looking into volunteering at hospices and senior centers (bingo is ruthless) and started to school to be a geriatric mental health specialist.
  • She then took a grief class and learned why she uses humor to deal with her grief (it was very eye opening).
  • Mitzi was raised by a grieving mother and it was never addressed. She was using humor to deflect.
  • Humor is absolutely a healthy coping mechanism- if it’s ONE of your tools.
  • Every tool should be used in moderation. Netflix is great until you start watching it for 24 hours a day and stop going to work. Wine is a great tool until it’s not.
  • Using humor to deflect vs to cope is a fine and personal line
  • Going to local comedy clubs and listening to comedians using the platform to process and cope with loss.
  • Why we have so much death anxiety in American culture (we’re living longer so palliative and deathcare is actually a new concept)
  • The new movement surrounding death positivity and how that’s not the space grieving people are in
  • Grievers are shunned for sharing their feelings
  • We hashtag and label everything so we put everything and everyone in a box. You can be happy, grieving, and angry all at the same time
  • Grief groups are often filled with laughter
  • Turning her mom’s ashes into a lawn gnome
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interview

Interview With Author Leslie Gray Streeter

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Today my guest is Leslie Gray Streeter, pop culture columnist, journalist, and author of Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title

We talked about:

  • Leslie’s book Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title
  • Making jokes about having to deal with the absurdities that come with your husband dying on your watch
  • The performative “sad-face-head-tilt-sigh” some people give widows
  • How some widows were able to take on 2020 in a very prepared way- isolation and having to do stuff we don’t want to do? Oh we got this. We go with the flow and have a sense of humor about it.
  • Why we feel kind of smug as widows
  • Do we have gallows humor or a desperate coping mechanism?
  • Patton Oswalt’s bit about the Polish Woman of Doom (he’s a widower!)
  • What has happened to us is absurd and absurdism is the foundation of comedy
  • How widowers are often portrayed as hot and widows are portrayed as hags in media and other double standards (this is seen on the show The Bachelor)
  • How widows are often accused of killing their husbands
  • Being an authentic sarcastic and messy widow who eats french fries out of her purse.
  • People who are defensive of our husbands… who didn’t know them
  • The pushback we receive when we don’t react how people want us to react
  • Sex and dating after being widowed
  • People project their own fears of being forgotten onto widows who find love again
  • How having deep relationships with our husbands primes us for wanting a deep connection again. Just because we want to love again passionately doesn’t mean we don’t love our husbands.
  • Our husbands told us they wanted us to find love again if they passed away before we did
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interview

Interview with “Sealion” Bryan Martin

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Today my guest is Bryan Martin, aka Sea Lion Bryan, who is an animal care and training specialist, widower, and fantastic dancer who can be found on TikTok and Instagram @sealionbryan

We talked about:

  • Being with his partner Clayton for four years. After Bryan’s dad passed away, four months later Clayton got a fungal infection and he had an adverse response to the medication that cause acute liver failure. He became Clayton’s caregiver for the following 8 months until he passed away.
  • It wasn’t until 2020 when Bryan noticed how many people were grieving that he felt it was time to share with more people online.
  • Clayton’s wild sense of humor, how it still informs Bryan’s own humor, and why dead husband jokes are funny
  • Why Deadpool is the patron saint of widows
  • Being ghosted on a date after being literally ghosted by your partner
  • Widows laugh because the world is ridiculous
  • The weird connotation widow/er has (it make it sound like we did it)
  • If you’ve used comedy to cope in other areas of your life, you’ll probably use it to cope with grief too
  • Using reverse psychology on the universe to get what you want
  • The difference between positivity and toxic positivity (something Bryan has been accused of)
  • The beauty of authenticity
  • We don’t talk about preparing for death enough because of shame and fear

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. You can support the podcast by subscribing, becoming a patron at patreon.com/deathishilarious, or by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media.

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interview

Interview with Mandy Benoualid from TalkDeath and Keeper Memorial

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Today my guest is Mandy Benoualid, the co-founder and editor of the death positive media site and resource TalkDeath, and co-host of the #TalkDeath video series. She is also the founder and President of the online memorial platform and virtual funeral service provider, Keeper, and works with the US Department of Veterans Affairs on the Veterans Legacy Memorial project, memorializing nearly 4 Million American Veterans. Mandy’s work has appeared in national and international publications, she has been a featured presenter at professional funeral and cemetery conferences and was recently featured as an industry innovator by American Funeral Director Magazine.

We talked about:

  • Visiting grandma’s grave, it occurred to her how every person has a story in a cemetery that can’t be communicated on a headstone.
  • How modern deathcare is changing the discussion around death (death positive)
  • TalkDeath is a lot of 20-45 year olds who are gawky nerd girls who want to talk about death
  • Green burial and how the demand for it has been skyrocketing
  • Why sex and death are both taboo topics in western countries
  • A funny story about sitting shiva when Mandy’s grandpa died
  • Impromptu dancing and roasting grandpa (not literally) during the shiva
  • The phrase “celebration of life” and why not everyone appreciates the phrase
  • Using humor to shine a light as opposed to deflect
  • How grieving becomes a part of your identity when you’ve experienced a traumatic loss

TalkDeath

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talkdeathdaily
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/talkdeathdaily/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkdeathdaily

Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/u/talkdeath

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Qeepr

Keeper Memorials

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KeeperMemorials

Instagram: https://www.facebook.com/KeeperMemorials

Twitter: https://twitter.com/keepermemorials

Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/u/keepermemorials

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. You can support the podcast by subscribing, becoming a patron at patreon.com/deathishilarious, or by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media.

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interview

Interview with comedian Ben Wasserman

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Today my guest is Ben Wasserman, an alternative standup comedian based in New York who has performed in the Brooklyn Comedy Festival, Laughing Devil Festival, and the New York, Philly, and Burlington Fringe Festivals. His work has also appeared in Vice and Vulture but you may recognize him best from when he painted with his butt on MTV.

We chat about:

Ben’s dad passed away from stage 5 lung cancer about 12 hours before inauguration day in 2017

  • Hosting a comedy show weeks after losing his dad while wearing a shirt that said “My dad died the day T*ump took office”
  • How we can’t help but incorporate our grief into our performance
  • Why loss is unfathomable until you experience it first hand
  • The tendency people have to compare losses (spoiler-they aren’t comparable)
  • Using comedy to cope and how it shouldn’t be a replacement for therapy
  • Using humor to deflect vs cope with your problems
  • Identifying the body (funny story)
  • Being surprised at having the capacity to incorporate grief into comedy
  • How h*rny grief makes people

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. You can support the podcast by subscribing, becoming a patron at patreon.com/deathishilarious, or by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media.

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interview

Interview with Maria & Ammo from Philotimo Life

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Today my guests are Maria and Ammo from the podcast Philotimo Life, a podcast that aims to open up the conversation around death in order better come to terms with our own mortality, help us support those grieving, and to live a happier life.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How we as grievers shelter other people from the reality of our feelings
  • People think grief is contagious
  • What it’s like studying thanatology
  • Ammo gives insight into death in Punjabi culture
  • Generational trauma
  • Maria gives insight into her Greek-Canadian upbringing and how that influenced her views on death
  • Not being able to get life insurance as a terminally ill person
  • Being saddled with over $50k in debt as a widow
  • Why dark humor is so taboo in North America
  • Toxic positivity doesn’t allow us to feel anything but happiness
  • The monetization and exploitation of Pride Month
  • Just because something is “better” doesn’t mean it’s “good”

More on Philotimo Life:

Maria’s mom died when she was two. From an early age, she realized that talking about death was a huge no-no because people got really weird about it. As a way to avoid uncomfortable situations, she hardly spoke about her mom– let alone the way the loss impacted her. As she got older, she began to ask herself, “Why aren’t I talking about this? Why aren’t we talking about it?” This is what led to Philotimo Life– a place that breathes life into the conversation around death.

As she was explaining it to Ammo, his response was one of the firsts that wasn’t “that’s kind of morbid.” This led to him joining the project. His approach to the conversation around death was refreshing and helped shape Philotimo into what it is today.

Together, they want you to share your experiences around death with family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers, with the goal that we change our policies around bereavement, and how we educate people about life, death, dying, and grief. By opening up this dialogue, they help others embrace the reality that everybody dies, and that’s ok!

https://www.philotimolife.com/about

@philotimolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. The best way you can support the podcast is by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media and by subscribing on your favorite app. And of course we’d also love it if you joined us at Patreon.com/deathishilarious.

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interview

Interview with Comedian Shohana Sharmin

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Today my guest is Shohana Sharmin, a Bangladeshi-Canadian comedian, writer, theatre artist, and host of the podcast, “Finders Grievers.” Shohana is also the creator and a cast member of the critically acclaimed award-winning dark sketch comedy revue “Dead Parents Society.”

  • Shohana lost her mom four years ago when she was just in her 20s and stopped by to talk with me about feeling like other comedians who had lost their parents in their 20s were the ones who understood her (as opposed to peers her own age)
  • toxic positivity and being conditioned to be only happy
  • accepting sadness in order to avoid isolation
  • how weird it is needing to go to the mall right after someone dies (can relate)
  • the process behind writing sketches about death and grieving
  • needing to be in an ok place so your audience isn’t concerned for you
  • how comedy is not a replacement for therapy
  • how we laugh the hardest at things we relate to
  • why therapists always schedule sessions for Tuesday
  • why we’re self-deprecating as comedians (it’s not because we’re confident)
  • recognizing being lucky on the spectrum of support during loss, and how universal death is (at some point, someone you love will die).

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. The best way you can support the podcast is by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media and by subscribing on your favorite app. And of course we’d also love it if you joined us at Patreon.com/deathishilarious.

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Interview With Lori Zaspel (MSW,LSW, Death Doula + Content Creator)

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In this episode, I spoke with Lori Zaspel, a licensed social worker and co-founder of the Philly Death Doula Collective, which provides emotional, spiritual, and physical support at the end of life. Lori also works as a geriatric social worker, is studying EMDR, and creates really funny videos surrounding grief on TikTok under the handle @phillydeathdoula.

We talked about what drew Lori to taking an academic approach to grief, how she happily talks about:

  • the three societal taboos (death, sex, and money) with humor
  • why shaming and stigmatizing grievers is harmful
  • how grieving people are going to be shamed regardless of how they choose to cope and the only way to really win is to keep existing
  • how people judgements because of their own death anxiety
  • ghosting grievers
  • why we’re told that it’s culturally inappropriate to talk about death and grief (partially because of the lack of control we have as humans)
  • terror management theory (the higher your death anxiety the more likely you are to be conservative)
  • being able to mark one’s grief process by the type of jokes one is making
  • funny grief stories about having a funeral for a kitten
  • and having the forethought to make a cast of your partner’s member before they die.

To get in touch, email deathishilarious@gmail.com. The best way you can support the podcast is by simply sharing the show with your friends and on social media and by subscribing on your favorite app. And of course we’d also love it if you joined us at Patreon.com/deathishilarious.