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From the Publisher: Laughing Matters


Published February 28, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

A mic on stage at the Vermont Comedy Club - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • A mic on stage at the Vermont Comedy Club

I'm a night owl, and my go-to reward after a long day of work is late-night television. I'm overjoyed that Jon Stewart is back on "The Daily Show," if only on Mondays at 11 p.m. And it's the rare weeknight that I don't catch "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" right after the last local newscasts.

Colbert's smart, insightful humor — delivered expertly in his 11-minute opening monologue — calms me down like a stone-faced flight attendant during air turbulence. It gives the illusion that everything, no matter how crazy, is going to be all right because we're all laughing about it. Smarter heads will prevail. Just keep your seat belt fastened.

That's one metaphor for this election year, which kicked off with the Burlington mayor's race. No matter who wins on Tuesday, I'm grateful that four brave souls think they're ready to tackle the city's myriad problems, for which there are scant proven solutions. Leading candidates Joan Shannon and Emma Mulvaney-Stanak have said they'd look to Montpelier for help, but the legislature has been focused elsewhere, trying to head off a 20 percent increase in the statewide property tax.

A few lawmakers must have found comic relief last Friday at the Flynn, where "Saturday Night Live" alum and late-night talk show host Seth Meyers performed two shows. Lt. Gov. Dave Zuckerman reported on his Facebook page that he saw Sen. Thomas Chittenden, House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Rep. Bob Hooper there. "Almost no political jokes just wonderful pure humor," Zuckerman wrote.

Someone commented on his post: "He was so good! My cheeks were hurting from laughing." More like: It hurts so good. Laughter is a short-term stress reliever. Long term, it can reduce pain and improve the body's immune response.

The demand for laughs seems to be growing, likely due to the mounting number of problems we face — from the persistence of the opioid crisis and warming winters to the spread of disinformation — that feel out of our individual control.

That's why, in this week's cover story, the culture team makes a case for comedy in Vermont and explains why it's a bigger draw than it used to be. Hannah Feuer went to six homegrown shows in the course of two weeks — and missed a bunch because she couldn't be in two places at once. Ken Picard profiled several rising comics and quoted jokes representative of their standup style. And Chris Farnsworth looked to New York City, where a number of Vermont comedy expats are trying to make it big.

One of them, Montpelier native Carmen Lagala, scored a spot on Colbert's late-night show in 2018. More recently, in November, Tina Friml of Middlebury landed on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

"More may be coming," Dan Bolles writes of Friml in the introduction to the package. "Last month, her face beamed from a Times Square video billboard announcing her upcoming U.S. tour. Friml might be Vermont's most successful comedic export in recent memory, but her late-night set was also a figurative mic drop, underscoring a phenomenon at least a decade in the making: Vermont comedy has arrived."

Not a moment too soon. It may not save our democracy, but poking fun is proof that we still have one.

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