BYU’s HumorU stand-up comedy club will have its first fall semester show on Sept. 22, but the show will bring more than just laughs: it will carry an important message about the emotional pains of suicide.
HumorU recently lost club member Zachary Heaton — or, as he was known to the group, Zac — who took his own life in late May of this year. This week, Sept. 10–16, is suicide prevention awareness week, and the group wants everyone to know how they feel about the topic.
“It has been extremely difficult to cope with his loss, but the members of our club just keep moving forward,” said club presidency member Lauren Bade. “Whether they use comedy to remain optimistic or reach out within the club, HumorU has been very important in their recovery.”
HumorU President John Deming also agreed that comedy has been a driving force in helping the group overcome the sorrow of losing a friend.
Deming said laughing and crying aren’t so different, as both are involuntary expressions of emotion that help people release what’s pent up inside them. Just because one is associated with happiness and the other is related to sadness doesn’t mean both emotions can’t help help people cope with what they’re feeling in varying scenarios, he explained.
The camaraderie found within the group has helped them deal with the grieving process, as many modern forms of communication don’t allow people to communicate their feelings properly, Deming said.
Deming said a post on Facebook about how sad he felt didn’t help him feel any better, but a conversation with a friend — even one about comedy — helped to ease the pain in a very real way.
“He had a real knack for comedy, and a way of telling jokes that no one else could pull off,” said Deming, who had known Heaton longer than most of the club members. “I wish he had been in the club longer so we could have seen him really polish his craft.”
HumorU club member Ian Baenziger wasn’t in Utah when the event occurred, but said he’s seen how Heaton’s death has impacted the group.
“There’s more union,” Baenziger said. “John has started ending every phone call by saying, ‘I love you.'”
Bade advised anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide to use BYU’s counseling and psychological services.
“Always ere on the side of overcautious,” Bade said. “Always take any sign seriously.”
HumorU has a long history of comedy at BYU. Those looking for more information on the group can check out their Facebook page. More information on BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services can be found on their website.