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July 21, 2021

Did you hear the one about the recession?

It's an axiom of troubled economic times: If you don't laugh, you'll cry.

That explains why popular political satirists like Jon Stewart or Lewis Black have so much fun with their takes on corporate greed, executive bonuses and over-generous federal bailouts. And why just about every comic out there has a ‘no-jobs-no-money bit’ ready for the right type of audience.

And we need to hear it.

Studies show that a good belly laugh produces pain-killing hormones, relaxes muscles, and even triggers creativity. Science also says that laughter helps us overcome our fears and approach problems with a more positive attitude.

The Christian Science Monitor highlights the return of recession humour in a visit to Mottley's Comedy Club, a popular Boston spot that runs a regular ‘Bailout Show’ not only lets patrons in for free if they can show they’ve been recently laid off, but a companion gets in for free as well.

"A lot of people lost their jobs and need a good laugh," says owner Jon Lincoln, who hosts the weekly show. "Comedy offers an escape for people, but at the same time shows them they aren't alone. Oftentimes comics talk about what is going on in the world and they spin it to be funny. No matter how bad things get there is always time to have fun."

Though the recession has closed some venues, new ones keep popping up. In Las Vegas, which is undergoing its worst slowdown in decades, two clubs opened within a week of each other this summer. And Phoenix is undergoing a similar resurgence, CSM reports.

The uptick in audiences comes as the confidence of consumers to go out and spend continues to slide. Canadian consumers are their least confident in almost two years, according to the latest survey from TNS Canadian Facts, and, with unemployment continuing to be an issue, economists expect outlooks to remain depressed.

A great time for struggling hotels and bars to host a comedy night, suggests comic Mark Doyle who runs a booking agency on the side.

What’s the comedy scene like where you live? Are clubs papering the house to attract the unemployed? Or is it business as usual?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...