In this episode, Tawny sat down to chat with Mimi Hayes, comedian, podcaster, brain hemorrhage survivor and author of “I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head (A Memoir On Heartbreak and Head Trauma).”
Mimi talks about dumping her trauma on other humans during stand-up, a nurse with the most abrupt bedside manner in the world, having a field day with a bleeding brain, using humor to avoid reality, fighting for her life, and how friends and family change during trauma.
“I have grown up with a permanent smile on my face. And then I had a brain hemorrhage. And I smiled some more. I smiled more because smiling makes you laugh. And when you laugh, you forget for a second that your brain is actually bleeding which makes absolutely no sense. Humor has always been and will always be my defense mechanism. I don’t claim to know much, but I do know this: If you can survive a brain surgery with your sense of humor intact, it’s a job well done.” – Mimi Hayes
Learn more about Mimi by visiting MimiHayes.com
To get in touch email email@example.com Support the podcast by sharing the show with your friends or on Patreon.com/DeathIsHilarious
Coco – Pixar once again delivers on both the emotional terrorism and comedy front.
Moonlight Mile – All of the weirdness and inevitable laughter that surround tragic loss.
Hamilton – Phillipa Soo gives an incredibly accurate portrayal of grief and loss in this musical with plenty of comedic moments.
TV & Series
Dead To Me – Christina Applegate is a suburban widow who headbangs to screamo in her car and curses loudly, further reminding us there’s no wrong way to grieve.
Jane The Virgin – MILD SPOILERS – The representation of young widows and the laughable absurdity that comes along with trying to navigate a new life is spot on. It’s a telenovela so it’s silly, sweet, sad, and super self-aware. I watched this season right after my husband passed away.
George and I loved telling the story of how we got engaged and married. We talked about it once on our podcast (when it was The Dirty Bits) during an AMA:
On August 22, 2016, I found a white-ish $16 dress at Target and George put on a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. We listened to Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” on repeat as we drove to the Eugene, Oregon courthouse. We were married by a judge and we snagged a couple of employees to serve as witnesses and photographers.
It felt like we were the only two people in the world as we stared into each other’s eyes in between our peals of laughter and streams of joyful tears. Afterwards, we bought a cake from a little bakery near our house and went back to celebrate with Babbs. We cuddled and watched our favorite movies and shows. It was the most magical day of my life and one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had.
I highly recommend eloping if you have the opportunity.
But why am I writing about this here? Where’s the funny part?
I’m not entirely sure.
It’s been a struggle to find the humor in things lately… which is a problem because it’s one of the few coping mechanisms that’s proven to be effective for me.
It was a different story before. You know, when it was just my world that was ending. But between covid-19, civil unrest, and a facist coup, now it feels like the actual world is ending.
I knew that I would get over my personal tragedy… but could I make it through a global one?
Last night, as I was drowning my sorrows in Hulu and baked goods, I realized that a dystopian existence is something we have to endure together as a society. And for many of us, endurance is made a lot easier with dark humor that both acknowledges and lightens our reality.
I call it The Deadpool Effect.
Our experiences shape us, they’re a part of us, but they don’t dictate who we become. Like how Wade Wilson could have let his trauma, pain, and loss defeat him but instead, he chose to deconstruct everything around him with sarcastic cynicism and no fucks given. He doesn’t fear death or consequences. He just keeps surviving- and making jokes.
There’s something in DBT called “opposite action.” It’s when you do the opposite of what your emotional instinct is telling you to do. For example, when I feel overwhelming sadness, my natural response (particularly as an introvert) is to isolate. So instead of isolating, I have to force myself to reach out to friends. When I’m anxious, instead of avoiding my fear, I have to repeatedly expose myself to the offending stimulus in order to achieve a level of desensitivity (I’m still trying to visit my husband’s grave without having to manage a panic attack).
I can’t help but wonder if Deadpool’s entire personality is based on taking the opposite action in response to a life surrounded by trauma. He doesn’t run from his reality. He accepts it, takes action, and improves his health with laughter.
So while I fully anticipated closing the blinds, diving under the covers, and crying over the aching loss of my best friend and soulmate, I instead have been doing the opposite. I’ve been hanging out with our little fur-baby, Babbs, and doing what George and I would have likely done to celebrate. Babbs and I went for a scenic drive, listened to one of our favorite playlists, stopped for breakfast, and went for a walk before it got too hot (George and I were a very simple couple, to say the least… we just liked hanging out together).
As it’s 90 degrees today, I know we would have likely spent the rest of the day inside with the a/c, watching Bob’s Burgers. It was our favorite show, our happy place. Consequently, we watched it a lot when he was sick. We used to say that I was the Bob to his Linda, and it was easy to imagine having a child together that resembled their hellion daughter, Louise Belcher.
I haven’t been able to watch the series since George passed away but today, I think I’ll take a lesson from Deadpool and just dive right in.
Note: This was recorded a few days before Tawny was admitted to the hospital with what she thought was a kidney issue. She’s home now, doing well, and will give a happy update on next week’s episode! Thank you so much for your kind understanding.
In this episode:
“I laid out the whole being independent thing and how I’m not resistant if I hit it off with someone in my life but I’m also not looking. And I shit you not, my therapist, this little Russian woman, goes, “Ah, you stopped thinking with your dick. Good. ” – Tawny
“Look, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but my mom doesn’t suck. And I get that most moms suck because their moms suck. And my grandma doesn’t suck either. I don’t know who was the last matriarch in my family to suck, but somewhere down the line, someone broke the cycle.” – Sam
“I’m not here for the small talk, folks. I’m here to discuss life’s big, nihilistic-leaning questions.” – Tawny
“A wise person on tiktok once told me, “Anxiety is just conspiracy theories about yourself.” – Sam
“Like… do you know there’s a name for what I did after my husband died? It’s called Wid-hoe’d.” – Tawny
“A few of my friends were in on the alien thing too, and we had secret hand signs and a whole shared mythology and magical rituals and oh my god I was a cult leader.” – Sam
I married George – my soulmate, best friend, and the love of my life – in August 2016. We then started an audio production and entertainment company together. He was the editor and I was the voice-over talent.
We released the Dirty BitsPodcast in 2017 and were transitioning into producing the show full-time by the following year.
But George was terminally ill. He was born with a congenital heart condition (he had a single ventricle anatomy similar to hypoplastic left heart syndrome). This came with multiple comorbid conditions, one of which eventually led George to contract a respiratory disease similar to tuberculosis (mycobacterium avium complex) when he was just 29. He passed away due to related complications on November 8, 2019.
In the six months leading up to his death, George was mostly homebound, on 5 liters of oxygen, and I was practicing social distancing. But we were together. It didn’t matter that I only left the house to do the grocery shopping and walk our little dog. I was with George and we were in comedy together. If he had been healthy, it would have been a pretty perfect life.
When he abruptly died in our home, I was overwhelmed by the grief and the isolation that comes with mourning the loss of your soulmate.
The only thing that’s been able to give me any relief has been comedy.
George and I shared a dark sense of humor. It’s what we used to cope with our often dark reality. Because if you can laugh at death, trauma, and tragedy you can take away much of its power.
So I started using our comedy podcast in order to cope. I began interviewing other podcasters and creatives on how they were using dark humor to get through their grief, loss, and trauma. These episodes were the beginning of what is now Death Is Hilarious.
I wasn’t able to take the time to plan out the transition of this podcast from the Dirty Bits to Death is Hilarious like I wanted to. It’s been largely experimental and my listeners have been witness to what seems like a behind the scenes look into how I navigate my grief using various art forms like writing, stand-up comedy, podcasting, and performing.
It’s taken a few months and a few different formats to find my footing. And while I’ve had many different creative partners on this journey with me, one of the most consistent partners has been my dear friend, Sam.
We went to high school together and have worked on many artistic projects together since around 2007. Sam was also the mutual friend who set up George and me!
George’s death has been really hard for Sam too and we began coping by channeling our grief into comedy… specifically by writing each other funny letters about how we’re dealing with not only death and loss, but other traumas in our lives. Those letters are something I’d like to share with you on this show, Death is Hilarious, in addition to interviews with our special guests from your favorite podcasts, YouTube channels, and more.
I hope you too can find some healing and relief in our version of radical acceptance – with stories, friendship, and lots of jokes.