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Laughter Changes Lives

Oscar Nuñez of The Office, Felipe Esparza of Last Comic Standing and Monique Marvez tell how

Get Serious

Standup comic Monique Marvez used to sell malpractice insurance. Good joke fodder? Perhaps. But she prefers to probe relationships — mainly her own.

“I’ve had the good fortune of being married and divorced three times. I say ‘good fortune’ because I’d rather be divorced than be unhappy,” says Marvez.

She gets serious — for about 30 seconds — when she talks about risa. “Laughter saved my life,” she says. “Comedy gave me a purpose and a vision and a drive and a goal and a focus.”

So much focus that she can tell you the date she first stepped onstage: May 31, 1990, at the Coconuts Comedy Club in Coconut Grove, Florida, walking distance from her childhood home.“I started comedy because I was bored and broke and divorced and people told me I should be a comedian because I’ve always been funny,” she says.

When she started in comedy, she recalls, “it was pretty much the good ol' boy system: overweight, middle-aged white men talking about the same crap.” Nowadays, she says, “Funny is funny; it doesn’t matter what sex you are. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what’s your sexual orientation. All that matters is, can you bring it? The audience is much more demanding.”

And the jokes that comics hurl at audiences are changing too. “I used to see a much bigger cultural gap,” she says. “The comedy is different depending on what people can identify with. What’s changing now as a nation isn’t so much our culture or ethnicity but our socioeconomics.”

But the benefits of laughter transcend culture, socioeconomics — and age, she says.

As we age, we start feeling we’re running out of time, Marvez says. “We put horrible expectations on ourselves. It’s awfully hard to laugh when you put all that pressure on yourself that you have to do something by some imaginary deadline.

“Laughter is living,” says Marvez. “People should laugh because it’s an option, it’s free and it’s available to you. Why shouldn’t you take it?”

Next: A matter of taste. >>

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