Comedy is catharsis. When a comedian gets the audience to laugh with them at a difficult topic, all involved can feel understood, and even relieved to know others share their feelings. Comedy also helps people see past double standards, hypocrisy, and all manner of social ills. The best stand-up routines help the audience have a realization about a societal or personal issue by using humor to paint it in a new light. Especially over the last several years, comedians have used their stand-up specials to process weighty topics such as grief, loss, divorce, and profound fears about life — and often, these observations are just as cathartic for the audience as the person standing on stage. Many comedians are able to communicate deep messages and insights alongside their gut-busting jokes, as these 22 quotes from stand-up comedians attest.
There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.
– Hannah Gadsby, “Nanette,” 2018
You’re only given a little spark of madness and if you lose that, you’re nothing.
– Robin Williams, “A Night at the Roxy,” 1978
Every generation is defined by a great struggle or tragedy. And it’s wild that our kids will never know there was a period of time, in this country, where you had to make a choice between being online or being on the phone.
– Hasan Minhaj, “Homecoming King,” 2017
I know very little about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.
– Bo Burnham, “Make Happy,” 2016
It’s a great gift, being alive… And I’m sober and that I’m not doing drugs, that’s a damn good accomplishment… I’m ahead.
– Richard Pryor, “Richard Pryor… Here and Now,” 1983
I cannot express how important it is to believe that taking one tiny — and possibly very uncomfortable — step at a time can ultimately add up to a great distance.
– Tig Notaro, “I’m Just a Person,” 2016
I’ve never really thought of myself as depressed so much as paralyzed by hope.
– Maria Bamford, “The Now Show,” 2006
I finally understand that it’s OK to be a little afraid of things but that obsessing over them does not mean you have any more control over what you fear.
– Jen Kirkman, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids,” 2013
Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
– George Carlin
The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.
– Amy Poehler, “Yes Please,” 2014
I will always try to be happy. I don’t think people really understand the value of happiness until they know what it’s like to be in that very, very dark place. It’s not romantic. Not even a little.
– Sarah Silverman, “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee,” 2010
We should forgive the ones of us that are weaker and support the ones of us that are stronger. And then we can beat the thing.
– Dave Chappelle, “The Bird Revelation,” 2017
I wear my mistakes like badges of honor, and I celebrate them.
– Amy Schumer, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” 2016
Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.
– Tina Fey, “Bossypants,” 2011
The act of creation fascinates me. You can only sit with a blank page and wait. You cannot press a button, cannot program it.
– Joan Rivers, Enter Talking, 1987
Your perceived failure can become the catalyst for profound reinvention.
– Conan O’Brien, “Dartmouth College Commencement Address,” 2011
Beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.
– Ellen DeGeneres, “Seriously… I’m Kidding,” 2011
The best stories in the world to me are the ones that elicit a real emotion, but have humor.
– Jim Carrey, interview in “The Guardian,” 2008
College was like a four-year game show of “Do my friends hate me, or do I just need to go to sleep?”
– John Mulaney, “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City,” 2018
All of us hate ourselves on some level. That’s not weird, just so you know.
– James Acaster, “Reset,” 2018
I just want to feel what it feels like to have male confidence.
– Chelsea Peretti, “Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats,” 2014
Laugh loudly, laugh often, and most important, laugh at yourself.
– Chelsea Handler, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” 2008