We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Tawny Platis a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Tawny, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Was there a moment in your career that meaningfully altered your trajectory? If so, we’d love to hear the backstory.
When I was 28 years old, I found my husband dead on our kitchen floor.
Not exactly how most comedy shows start but that’s my opening line.
I go on to explain in my 30-minute set titled “So Sorry For My Loss” that I didn’t want to be alive anymore after the paramedics told me my husband was gone. My idea was to take my life while I was holding his body but I noticed said paramedics were going to throw a wrench in my plan when they started wheeling in a stretcher with a bodybag on top of it.
I started to say, “Hey, I need you to leave his body here actually because it’s part of my suicide plan.” But I stopped halfway through that sentence when I realized they’d have me involuntarily held in the psych unit if I made that confession.
So instead what I ended up saying was, “”Hey, I need you to leave his body here actually… – but I guess I can’t do that because then I’m liable to turn into Norman Bates from Psycho and that’s not good. Or maybe you could leave the body here and I could sling him over my shoulder, carry him around, and see how long it takes for people to notice. That’s not creepy, that’s just cute and quirky, everyone likes Weekend at Bernie’s!”
Fortunately the paramedics all laughed. And when they did, they gave me that high and validation every comedian chases. And in that moment I thought, “Ok, maybe there’s nobody in the world who loves me anymore now that my husband is gone but I can still make people laugh. And that feels pretty darn close to being loved.”
I started incorporating my grief into my comedy on TikTok, hoping to connect with other people who were coping with loss by making really dark jokes. Using humor as a coping mechanism is still often considered disrespectful or inappropriate and consequently I’ve received a lot of hateful messages and comments related to my content. But I also hear from people daily that have shared with me how helpful that content is as well (I have over 60k+ followers and my videos have been viewed millions of times).
The need for more of this kind of content and resources for people who aren’t grieving in a “traditional way” became very apparent to me. I started an online support group for widows in their 20s and 30s that has different spaces for different topics – venting, humor, recipes, movie/tv recommendations, gaming, dating, etc.
During this time, other grieving people who felt underrepresented got in touch with me and asked for support groups that were centered around their demographic – grieving people in the lgbtq+ community, black, brown, and indigenous grieving people, polyamorous widows, and people who have lost their partner but weren’t married are just some of the folks who have been seeking others who can understand their specific loss.
That’s why on January 31, I filed an application to designate Death is Hilarious as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization (The Death is Hilarious Grief Relief Foundation) that provides one-on-one mentorship programs, virtual peer led support groups, professional led groups and talks, resource connections, and podcast production services with the humorous, realistic, and death positive approach that Death Is Hilarious is best known for to individuals experiencing grief- all at no cost to them.
We are also looking for volunteers to help us as mentors, support group facilitators, and more! Visit deathishilarious.com to get involved or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tawny, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m a voice actor, comedian, and founder of the nonprofit Death is Hilarious Grief Relief Foundation. I narrate audiobooks for USA Today Bestselling Authors, create comedy content related to grief on TikTok (@tawnyplatis), perform stand-up comedy for grief groups, and provide services and resources like grief mentorships, support groups, and more for grieving people at no cost. Learn more at deathishilarious.com
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
I have a business and management background in retail. In that industry, you’re taught to have mass appeal and that the customer is always right. Learning not to apologize for who I am and what I do has been a challenge to unlearn. I have the opposite issue of most creators- I don’t get defensive when people are critical of me, I get worried that I’m in the wrong! Having a mentor and therapist I see regularly is essential for me to remain balanced and grounded when it comes to self-evaluation.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
My husband died November 8, 2019. Right before the pandemic hit. I spent 2020 isolated in the place where I found his body. I would go weeks without human contact and would often have flashbacks to that day. I was severely depressed and struggling financially. I wanted to give up on multiple occasions but stuck it out because I still had hope that things could get better. In January 2021 my life dramatically changed for the better. I moved into a beautiful home in a gorgeous neighborhood with a dear friend. My depression and ptsd are under control and I’m no longer in touch with the hurtful people who were in my life. That’s something I think everyone should know- there is always a chance things can get better.
- Website: DeathIsHilarious.com
- Instagram: @ThatDeathPod
- Twitter: @thatdeathpod
- Other: TikTok @tawnyplatis
headshot taken by Katie Fisher