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Cannabis and creativity are often associated with one another. Many people in the arts have claimed that using the plant helps open their mind and can be beneficial to divergent ways of thinking. We decided to explore the relationship between cannabis and comedy with comedian, writer, journalist, and dog mom Lauren Vino. Nature’s Grace and Wellness Coordinator and Field Market Associate Alia Reichert Sparked the Conversation with Vino to learn more about how the pandemic has impacted the intersections between mental health, cannabis, and comedy over the past few years.

AR: Lauren, being a stand-up comedian and writer during the last few years must have been stressful. How has the pandemic impacted the comedy scene, your funny bone, and your mental health?

LV: I think at first there was a sense of relief from not having to “hustle,” and do two or three sets after a full day of writing at my day job. I have always identified as a writer and performer, so there was something nice about being able to focus on writing. But after a few months of that, I really missed having the creative outlet of getting on stage, and interacting with crowds and people in general.

AR: What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian?

LV: I never really made a conscious decision to become a comedian. It was very non-linear. It was just something I always wanted to try and never really had a reason to stop doing. I have taken breaks to focus on different writing projects, and I ebb and flow in terms of my creative focuses.

AR: Is comedy your go-to strategy or tool that helps you maintain your mental health?

LV: In my experience, performing in the comedy space has not been a way to maintain my mental health. I’ve seen how stand-up has a way of reinforcing unhealthy behaviors and justifying it as art, as in other creative communities as well. But that doesn’t mean comedy and mental health can’t co-exist. There is a huge link between creativity and mental health.

I often recommend that comedians work on their mental health as much as they can offstage. So that when you craft jokes about certain topics, like depression, you don’t destabilize yourself further. Otherwise, crowds can usually tell and are not comfortable. Bombing [a set] can destabilize a person further.

AR: Do you feel using cannabis helps you to be more creative when you are writing your jokes or articles, or is it helpful for you in other ways?

LV: I think using cannabis changes your perspectives. At least for me, writing jokes is mostly trying to come at ideas from surprising angles, so thinking of as many angles as possible is super helpful. I’ve heard the saying “write high, edit sober” but I don’t believe that should be the case every time. It’s definitely more balance and situation dependent. For myself and many other people, cannabis can help with getting in the zone, reaching a flow state, or the ideal mindset for creativity. It’s probably because it helps you write without judging yourself. However, if someone isn’t an experienced cannabis user they might have a different experience and be unable to focus on the writing. I think there is something grounding and mindful about smoking in general, but a lot of that can be achieved through breathing exercises, like 5-7-8 breathing. I’ve found it helpful to combine smoking or vaping with breathwork, yoga, or other low-impact exercise. The goal is to write and edit from different perspectives while achieving some sense of flow.

AR: What do you think needs to be changed or improved to help people with their mental health?

LV: From a peer perspective, I think the best any of us can do on an individual level is to try to take care of ourselves with the basics—sleep, eat, treat the people you love well, and do something with your life that matters in some way. I try my best to communicate helpful information on a peer-to-peer level. However, I understand that the greater issues with mental-health systems are something I’m unable to fix individually. It takes constant advocacy and bigger changes. I tend not to dwell on it because that’s a healthy boundary I’ve set for myself. But I know it’s a field that brings other people a great sense of purpose and happiness. It’s all dependent on the individual.

AR: Laughter has been said to be one of the best medicines. Where can we catch your upcoming performances?

LV: I’ll be at the Laugh Factory June 10th at 7:30 and 9:30 pm, and The Beat Kitchen on June 14th at 9:00 pm.

 AR: Thanks for your time, Lauren. Lastly, do you have a Mindful Message you’d like to share that helps you Spark your day? A Mindful Message is a quote, mantra, saying, or affirmation that helps you.

LV: In the movie Meatballs, Bill Murray’s character gives a pump-up speech to boost morale, but the thing is his team [of summer campers] sucks and is definitely going to lose. He ends up getting the kids pumped up and chanting, “It just doesn’t matter!” It sounds negative, but it can be really helpful because we sometimes get really worked up over stuff that doesn’t matter. Being able to acknowledge that and make fun of it is very liberating.

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