Gilda’s LaughFest 2015 kicks off in Grand Rapids this Thursday (March 5).
The 10-day comedic festival will feature stand-up, comedy films, improv, comedy showcases and more all over West Michigan.
The festival was started by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a survivor support group named after the late comic Gilda Radner.
You can see a full list of the events and venues here.
There'll be plenty of comics from the national scene: Kathleen Madigan, Sinbad, Wanda Sykes, George Lopez, Patton Oswalt, and more.
And Michigan-grown comedians will take the stage as well, including Teresa Thome.
Thome is a writer and performer from Grand Rapids. Her act has what is undoubtedly one of the more memorable names of LaughFest.
It's called Warm Cheese. And she says it’s where comedy meets grief.
“I don’t personally know how to deal with much of anything in life without humor,” says Thome. “So it just was inevitable that once I started to deal with my mother’s passing that humor would start to take the stage, if you will, to start to understand what was happening for me.”
Thome thought her story was unique, but found many people had similar experiences with their mother.
She says her mom was chronically ill and depressed, and was chronically angry as a result.
"When she passed away, I didn’t feel grief," she says. "I don’t know that I even felt relief. It was more of a numbness. I woke up one day years after she had passed and said, 'you know, I’m done hating her.'"
Thome said she made a decision to move into a more loving memory of her mother and decided to write about her. Her writing became her comedy.
Thome says the humor in her Mom’s situation comes from her Mom’s “crazy, neurotic tendencies.” Her mom posted “Do Not Resuscitate” orders around the house wherever she thought she might die. Thome’s dad gave her mom a gift certificate to Dr. Jack Kevorkian for Christmas – a gift her mom said was the best gift she ever got.
Thome said when she started to talk about her mom’s neurotic tendencies, people laughed, so it made sense for her to make a comedy show about it.
She feels like her show gives people permission to accept their feelings – that it’s ok to be mad at a dead person.
Thome says, despite all the venting she’s done over her relationship with her mother, her feelings about her continue to be complex.
“Doing the show helps me redefine the relationship, because what I realize is that our dysfunction is meant to serve other people.”
Thome says exploring our feelings about a person after they die can be beneficial.
“If we just put the relationship away, it stays what it was,” says Thome, “and if we dare to kind of dive into it and look at it more deeply, we can learn a lot more about the person, even with limited information.”
Thome’s one-woman show Warm Cheese is part of Gilda’s LaughFest 2015. She performs this Sunday. Find out more here.