Published on April 6th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Serving up the big questions on soulpancake.com

Those who follow The Office star Rainn Wilson through the social media outlet du jour are well aware of Soul Pancake, a website he co-founded that is designed to foster discussion of philosophical questions.

There are your standard questions about death, dreams, racism, etc. But there are also plenty that cover creativity. “What would you try to do, if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” easily solicited answers about acting, dance, and of course stand-up comedy. “Does all creativity stem from the challenge?” is an interesting one for comics to chew on. And the request to construct a 5-item list of who you’d take with you to create a new society on Pluto solicits an unbelievable number of comedians who would be spared from the Earth’s destruction.

My favourite question so far was posted earlier today:

“Is it true that comedy comes from the darkest of places? Are comedians actually the most effed-up, lost souls on the planet? Are they laughing on the inside, or are they crying???”

I initially cringed, of course. We know it’s not true, but the myth is perpetuated enough that you start to assume everyone else thinks it is. But the responders so far haven’t bought into the whole “sad clown” cliche as fully as I expected they would.

And the best part? Wilson himself responded:

This is a great question and needs a deep and high quality response which I can’t give this very second.

Short answer: maybe.

I always thought so, but as I’ve gotten to know some great comedians that I’ve worked with I think that it is possible that one can have had a relatively normal, balanced childhood and be drawn to comedy as more of a challenge – a science – as it were and tap into it that way.

For me, comedy has always been an askew survivalist response to the world because I never felt like I fit in. And when I discovered that girls actually liked me more BECAUSE i was funny!? Forget about it. That was all she wrote.

more later, I hope…

I hope so too! Keep checking in with that thread, because a lengthy answer from Rainn is bound to be incredible. Rainn is a very spiritual guy – he’s spoken extensively about his Baha’i faith, and occasionally how comedy fits into it:

“I think that whatever profession we’re in – and Bahá’ís are encouraged to have a profession and encouraged to explore the arts – Bahá’ís see that as an instance of worship. There’s no difference between prayer and making art and everything should be done as a service to humanity. If I can make people laugh, that’s a great thing.”


And if you aren’t into that mushy spiritual stuff? Here’s my favorite video of Rainn serving humanity, by getting the shit kicked out of him by Dennis Hopper.

About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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