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T.D. Jakes: Why Black People Need to Laugh

Bishop T.D. Jakes

When word got out that my latest film, Jumping the Broom, was a romantic comedy, people asked me, “Why this genre of film — why a comedy?”

I understand the question given that my first film, Woman Thou Art Loosed virtually sealed my reputation for dealing with serious matters.

While there’s a modicum of truth in the observation, the Bible does say that “a merry heart does good, like medicine.”

Laughter offers the body a number of physical and emotional benefits: boosted circulation, lowered blood pressure, controlled pain, improved immune system, and mental well being. Laughter is man’s built-in coping mechanism.

As black folks, we tend to reach for an extra measure of laughter because as one Internet writer offered, “We go through so much.”

Our history is so inextricably tied to our ability to walk a fine line between hope and despair, joy and sorrow, anguish and laughter.

We laugh for the same reasons that we might moan awhile at church on Sunday morning or mindlessly mime the words to a somber love song that comes on the radio.

Humor is our private celebration in the midst of our suffering. It marks the timbre of our tribulation, the cries of our condition, and the paradox of our plight.

Laughter is the testament of our self-healing and our grasp at something more substantive than mere survival. Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar calls this duality the “debt we pay to human guile.”

I believe that we are most able to be ourselves in a darkened movie theater where our laughter rises freely like champagne bubbles at its own resonance.

Our laughter lets our imaginations peek beyond our circumstances.

In the larger panorama, our narratives are about the moral dilemma inherent in life’s struggle — good triumphing over evil, right versus wrong, black juxtaposed against white.

Laughter is a trope, a device for telling a much larger story of redemption. We laugh to remind ourselves that the prevailing states of oppression, racism, pain or poverty “came to pass.”

It is out of struggle that we find the strength to carry on. We are like diamonds, born out of highly-pressured, adverse and disruptive conditions. But it is our resistance to the prevailing conditions that makes our spirit “unalterable” and “unbreakable.”

Humor is our down payment on the happy ending that we continually seek.

We laugh to awaken our souls. It is our way of giving honor to the goodness of God who always does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

So when I am asked, “Why a comedy?” I empathize with the sentiments of Toni Morrison, who says that she writes the type of books that she wants to read. I, too, make the kind of films that I want to see I want to be entertained, amused, enlightened and most of all, to laugh. We need to laugh.

About T.D. Jakes

T.D. Jakes is the bestselling author and producer of three major motion pictures including “Jumping the Broom,” a romantic comedy starring Angela Bassett, due in theatres on May 6. Opening Weekend is an opportunity for African American audiences to go to the box office en masse to have a great laugh and to have a profound impact for future of black films. Visit www.tdjakes.com for more information.