Shanna Doupe – Laughing Matters

Shanna Doupe is a fresh face in Red Deer’s comedy circuit. This August, she passed the milestone of a full year performing stand-up comedy. Shanna got her inspiration to perform when she watched a peer from RDC’s theatre program headline at Heritage Lanes. Her friend told her, “You are someone that needs to be doing comedy.” Not naturally one that does well with compliments, Shanna decided to take it at face value and try it out.

Bitterness was a theme in her earliest material. She found people engaged with it, but if bitterness is a cycle that laughter reinforces, what’s the funny part? She wants to avoid mean-spirited energy in her set. If there’s a joke that she knows she wouldn’t tell a certain audience, she questions the what that means as both a human and a performer. Part of the uncertainty and uncomfortableness in the delivery draws from a deep well of social anxiety, but Shanna is aware of how humour can be cutting. To find a more constructive and universal humour, Shanna developed a wealth of material addressing her mental health and social anxiety.

By the age of 40, half of all Canadians will have experienced a mental illness in their life. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at a young age, Shanna’s been in that segment of the population for most of her life. She’s walked the long road to recovery through therapy, self-regulation, and finding an outlet for creative expression. The introduction of mental illness jokes into her routine started as simply a need to explain how she felt on a day to day basis.

Her aim is to connect with people who feel alienated and overwhelmed by their mental distress. Through comedy, Shanna communicates that the experience of discomfort in the world is normal, manageable, and never too serious to be laughed about. Managing anxiety, awkwardness, and her inability to interact with others in a comfortable – plus the difficulty of being hyper-aware of it all – is surprisingly relatable.

Each laugh is a victory, slowly chipping away at the stigma surrounding mental health.  The parts of her story that she is able to joke about have been thoroughly hashed out and resolved in her mind. These are safe waters to swim in. She doesn’t want to get too real and alienate her audience by making a spectacle of mental illness. She says that, if she has a message, it’s “GO TO THERAPY!” It’s a cause worth exposing her own struggle for, though I understand why she doesn’t want to think too hard about the secrets she’s told strangers.

SCENE NEXT – On Wednesday September 5th, Shanna will host the uncensored comedy open-mic at Meeting Waters. Following this, she plans on making the rounds through Red Deer’s other open-mics to write and workshop new material. The addition of venues that support live comedy has given her access to new audiences and different atmospheres. Each performance is an opportunity to explore and understand the nuanced dynamic between comic, audience, material, and environment. Here’s hoping she can mine humour from the deeper and darker aspects of her mind, we’ll all be better off laughing about it together.

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