Middle Ground Comedy Festival aims to boost attendees’ mental health

The festival is highlighting how laughter can help mental health.
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Posted at 8:26 PM, Apr 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-25 11:09:05-04

Indianapolis — Gwen Sunkel is not only a comedian, she is also a nurse. She says comedy has helped her and her patients cope with difficult situations.

"There are times you have to have difficult conversations with folks,” Sunkel, Executive Producer of the Middle Ground Comedy Festival, said. “Sometimes injecting a little humor into that is a great way to break the ice and get into challenging conversations."

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That's why she says she and other comics in Indianapolis created the middle ground comedy festival. The goal of the event is to help those struggling with their mental health to use laughter as medicine.

"There is a lot of sad stuff going on in the world and we all need an extra reason to laugh or smile now and then,” Sunkel said.

According to the National Library of Medicine, laughter can reduce cortisol levels by almost 32%. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It also states laughter increases the uptake of dopamine and serotonin, which are hormones that boost your mood.

"Jokes about dark stuff is like a way to cope with the darkness of life and mental illness,” Lucas Waterfill, a local comedian, said.

You might know Waterfill. He has over 60,000 followers onInstagram.

Waterfill lives with cerebral palsy and alcoholism. He says comedy has helped him better cope with his addiction.

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Sunkel hopes hearing relatable stories from comics like Waterfill and others will help those that attend know they aren't alone.

"Knowing that we really have a lot more in common than different and the tools to help boost your mood. Laughter is accessible to you all the time,” Sunkel said.

Middle Ground has a goal of becoming a non-profit in the future so they can further help people living with mental health issues.

The festival starts Thursday, April 25 and runs through Sunday, April 28. Tickets range in price from $10-$25.

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The organization wanted to make the tickets affordable, so money wasn't a barrier for people looking to get a good laugh.

The festival will host 40 comedians — some from here in Indiana and from other parts of the country.

To get tickets and learn more about the event, click here.