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'Chaos' comedy: Miss Shannan Paul helps us laugh through adversity

Miss Shannon Paul

Miss Shannon Paul Provided

Most comics live to kill. Being onstage and getting laughs is usually the greatest accomplishment a standup can experience. But Miss Shannan Paul, who has been doing standup locally for more than 15 years, had reached a point where the laughs weren’t enough.

“I had these moments on the road where it just wasn’t enough to kill it,” she says. “I love comedy and I love audiences—and yeah, people would enjoy my shows and have a good time—but what was more fulfilling to me was when people would come up to me afterward and say things like, ‘Oh, that sounds just like my cousin,’ or ‘You made me feel a lot better about this thing.’ So that got me thinking about how I could figure out a way to do more with my art and actually help people.”

She figured it out, and recently launched a web mini-series, Miss Shannan’s Comedy Through the Chaos. Each week, Paul and a rotating cast of comedians discuss a topic that typically doesn’t seem like something to laugh about.

“It’s a series of performers talking about real-life, genuine things, and how they process them through humor,” she explains.

The first episode, released on Mother’s Day, focused on parents, from the challenges of raising kids during a pandemic to stories of managing a parent struggling with Alzheimer’s. Upcoming episodes will tackle mental health and mental illness, addiction and recovery, and being fired and managing unemployment. It’s heavy content, but it’s presented in a way that helps people find the humor in... chaos.

“I’m really lucky because I know a lot of people who either do material about some of these things or have stories about how they’ve dealt with tough times,” she says. “Everybody that I’ve asked to be a part of this has been very enthusiastic.”

Creating a brand-new web series in the middle of a quarantine hasn’t exactly been easy, but a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and a willing partner in New Hope Cinema Grill have helped make Miss Shannan’s vision come to life.

“I was really fortunate to get the Minnesota State Arts Board grant to fund this,” she says. “It felt really good that while people were being laid off, I was able to pay people and infuse some money back into the community. And the New Hope Cinema Grill is a great partner. I’ve done numerous shows there, and when we realized we wouldn’t be able to do these shows live, they said we could use the theater to shoot since it’s just a dark space right now.”

A new episode will be released online every Sunday night at 7 p.m. from now until Fourth of July weekend. Shows will feature comics including Tiffany Norton, Mike Heraly, and Michael Thorne, along with experts such as mental health coaches and addiction counselors who can provide best practices for managing.

While each episode has plenty of jokes and standup sets, Paul says the most interesting part is getting to know the performers offstage.

“We already know that all of these people are funny,” she says. “This is a chance to get to know people from a slightly different perspective—but it’s still going to be funny.”

Episodes are available on Facebook and on YouTube at ComedyThroughTheChaos.