Have you ever noticed that good comedians — really excellent ones — often had terrible childhoods? Or, at least, some aspect of their background is filled with tragedy and pain. Tragic Childhood by entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jack Branley centers around this premise. The book even begins with a quote from iconic proto-comedian Charlie Chaplin. “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” Chaplin had the air of someone who knew what he was talking about.
At its core, Tragic Childhood is a self-help book. “I have seen dozens of people turn their lives around from unspeakable trauma to a life of which they’ve always dreamed,” writes Branley. “I want you to be able to do the same. You just need the right tools in your arsenal—this book among them. You can find joy in the pain and success from the ashes of trauma.”
Now, clearly, not all of us will — or even aspire to — become successful comics, but on reading the book, the idea of the tragic clown almost becomes a metaphor for anyone who has ever suffered depression. While the successful comic illustrates that the darkness that can hold us back can be used to provide a stepping stone for a successful life.
Tragic Childhood offers advice that works for all of us, comedians and otherwise. “Forgive yourself for any missteps you may have taken while dealing with your struggles,” Branley writes. “Of course, we all have regrets, but it is time to look back at that young person and forgive them for the mistakes they made before they knew any better. It is ultimately the first step to healing and moving forward.”
However you come to Tragic Childhood, it’s an interesting meditation on the connection between humor and life. ◊
You can buy Tragic Childhood here.