Live After Death with Ben Wasserman

When we heard about Ben Wasserman’s irreverent solo show Live after Death–which looks at grief up close and personal–we knew we wanted to meet him. When we found out he performs his show at funeral homes and cemeteries in addition to comedy clubs–we knew we had to meet him. After all, a huge part of our mission is to get people talking about grief, and Ben is doing just that with comedy and major crowd participation. His work has been featured by The New York Times, VICE, Paste Magazine, Vulture, Time Out NY, and Buzzfeed…and now the Experience Camps blog.

You experienced the death of your dad, granddad, uncle, and four friends in just three years. How did you come up with the idea of channeling some of your grief into your show?

To be honest, there wasn’t much thought about channeling the grief into my comedy…it sort of just happened! When I started losing people, all I wanted to do, all that I could do, all that really helped me work through it and process was to talk about my grief. It was the biggest (and seemingly most constant) thing going on in my life and it felt insincere to not talk about it, whether that was with family, friends, or through my comedy.

What do you know now about grief that you didn’t before creating this show?

One thing that sticks out for me is how there’s no one right way to grieve and to heal. Not that I didn’t know that before, but it’s been beautiful to hear about all the different ways audience members remember their people and how they cope with their grief. That there are so many unique ways to honor our loved ones after they’ve passed, to me, is a testament to the special nature of our relationships with them while they were living.

For Ben, the material in his show is deeply connected to his personal grief and all the loss he experienced recently.

What is the most common reaction you get from your audience when they tell you about their own grief?

I’ve had a bunch of audience members thank me for creating a space where they can share and feel less alone in their grief. That’s been cool, cause I wasn’t really trying to create a show that also allowed others to process and be vulnerable. I didn’t anticipate that people would actually be as open as they have been – but it’s certainly changed the show from how I first envisioned it.

Why did it feel important to you to create this show – what was the intention? 

Oh I wish I could give a really good, deep, meaningful answer but the truth is I never really had any grand intentions for the show beyond putting on a really good show, one that hopefully would stick with people. That said, the material in the show is deeply connected to my grief, and when I first started doing these bits years ago, it was importantly a way for me to keep my friends and family in my heart and mind. I don’t think I’m alone in this, but when the grief was fresh, I had big fears of forgetting, not being affected enough, not making sure everyone knew these people mattered to me. And so I guess, coming up with this material was initially a way of putting those fears to bed, and giving myself an outlet for catharsis.

What is your response to people who say we should not laugh about death/grief?

I say shut up! No, um, I don’t know, I try not to engage with people who say we shouldn’t laugh about specific stuff, I just think that’s a boring position to take. I mean, I don’t think it’s funny that people die; in fact I personally believe that sucks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t parts of dying, living, grieving, and remembering that aren’t funny?

Tell us about your choice to perform your show in funeral homes (and soon, cemeteries!).

What better place to do a show about death than at funeral homes or cemeteries?! Both funeral homes and cemeteries are places we only associate with bad vibes, so I figured why not try to bring some good vibes into these spaces? Also, the challenge of doing it has made the whole project more exciting to me. Can I get these places to agree to me doing the show there, and…can I get people to laugh in a funeral home? And so far the answer has been yes, and that feels affirming.

What do you wish more people knew about grief?

It’s dizzying, exhausting, and kinda mostly sucks but grief is also one of the fullest lived experiences offered to us – it conjures feelings and thoughts about love and death and past and future and joy and pain–swim in that. I mean, if you’re not into that, don’t grieve. Stop making relationships with people so that way you never have to lose them. But the reality is we will all grieve at one point (really many points) in our lives, and just because it sucks doesn’t mean it’s also ok too.

How can people see your show?

I perform Live After Death in NYC on the last Saturday of every month at Blair-Mazzarella Funeral Home in Brooklyn. It’ll be appearing in the Blue Heaven Comedy Festival in Philly this April and this summer I’ll begin touring it across the country more! People can sign up for my email list on the show’s website to see tour dates when they drop!

Ben Wasserman is based in NYC and has appeared in the Brooklyn Comedy Festival, New York Comedy Festival, Blue Heaven Comedy Festival, NY/Philly/Burlington Fringe Festivals. His work and shows have been featured by The New York Times, VICE, Paste Magazine, Vulture, Comedy Central, Buzzfeed, and Time Out. His newest solo show Live After Death, about grief and loss, has sold out funeral homes, mortuary museums, cemeteries, and theaters in Brooklyn and across the country and will be touring in 2023. And also, a few years ago Ben painted with his butt on MTV. You can follow Ben on Instagram @benwassergram or Twitter @benwassertweet!