The Buddha is believed to have taught that the fundamental nature of the human condition is suffused with feelings of existential angst and abiding dissatisfaction. Such realism is not exclusive to Buddhism, however. As any dark comedian knows this already because making jokes about the reality of life usually gets big laughs, or as they say in the business—“kills.” Like the Buddha, the comic can be a powerful medium for communicating the more disquieting and shunned truths in life.
In this lecture I argue that both Buddhism and dark comedy seek to expose unsettling truths about the human condition that we normally choose to deny, namely—old age, sickness, and death. I discuss the work of comedians like Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, and Andy Kaufman. And why I believe they offer a kind of therapy for eliminating the existential anxiety that comes from denying the human condition and clinging to unreal idealizations about oneself and the world.