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The podcast-winner of 2022 used humor to cope: NPR

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The podcast-winner of 2022 used humor to cope: NPR

Tegan Nam won the 2022 student podcast challenge for high school with its story of using humor to process injuries.

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Tegan Nam won the 2022 student podcast challenge for high school with its story of using humor to process injuries.

Elisa Outdoor / NPR

Last fall, early in the junior class, Gypsy Nam experienced a terrible situation at school.

There was an anonymous tip that a Northwood High School student in Silver Spring, Maryland, brought a gun and ammunition in a backpack to the school. Someone called. The school was closed immediately.

The student was confronted in the classroom and later ran away while the police were driving. “I was in the classroom across the street,” says Gypsy, “so I could see through the window how they were taking the student out.”

No one was injured, and the student was quietly arrested and expelled. But sitting in that class – not knowing what was going on – was an injury.

"Student Podcast Challenge" LA Johnson / NPR

After sending text messages to their parents and a small setback – “I just thought I was going to die” – Gypsy realized he had moved on to humor. “To get rid of it, I just started making these stupid little jokes.” The jokes became memes that Tigan posted on Instagram, in real time.

“I heard someone summon a demon in the girls’ bathroom,“, says one message.

“I can’t be the only one who has seen this tractor belt.” jokes another.

Memes with a bright neon background should not be funny to laugh, rather, they should cause a smile or just “like” a friend.

And not only Gypsy published. Both classmates and friends did it. It felt like everyone was using laughter to cope with the fear-ridden reality that the students were across the country unfortunately know too well. Gypsy’s reaction that day was the center of their podcast Nervous laughter – and now he is one of the owners of the Grand Prix The fourth annual Student Podcast Challenge NPR.

Tegan recalls how they felt during the blockade at the school last year: “I just thought I was going to die, that something terrible was going to happen. I have no idea what’s going on. ” They wrote to mom and dad – they said: “I love you. I appreciate you. ”

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Elisa Outdoor / NPR

Tegan recalls how they felt during the blockade at the school last year: “I just thought I was going to die, that something terrible was going to happen. I have no idea what’s going on. ” They wrote to mom and dad – they said: “I love you. I appreciate you. “

Elisa Outdoor / NPR

Turning a moment of panic into an opportunity for jokes

Memes and jokes on Instagram didn’t stop until after the lock was lifted and normal life in high school resumed. They lasted for weeks. Everyone was talking about them.

Much of this was an inner humor that only students go to. For example, there was an account with only brick walls around the school – another of the only slag walls (then two accounts got into a virtual duel.) The largest account at the school received up to 366 subscribers.

Gypsy sometimes uses writing and podcasting as a way to make sense of teenage life, and he was so interested in the phenomenon – they started working on what would happen Nervous laughter.

They started with interviews with some friends about this experience. “Most of the children looked confused and scared,” said one student interviewed on the podcast. “A lot of people have tried to defuse the situation with humor.” Another student adds, “It was something easy that we could all just laugh at.”

“Needless to say, this seems like a strange reaction to the event, but it’s not unfamiliar,” Gypsy says in a podcast. “People laugh when they’re nervous all the time. And in a situation with such anxiety, teenagers always turn to humor.”

When the struggle mechanism hides true emotions

The podcast is called Nervous laughterbecause sometimes, says Gypsy, humor – it’s not just a clear line – it’s a cathartic release. “Instead of just laughing – like something funny – with nervous laughter, there’s something under it,” they explain. “You don’t necessarily laugh because something is funny or because you’re having a good time, you’re laughing because you’re worried and trying to make it easier.”

“Instead of just laughing – like there’s something funny – with nervous laughter underneath it, unless you’re necessarily laughing because something’s funny or because you’re having a good time. But you’re laughing because you’re worried and you’re” I’m kind of trying to relieve that’s what I think, really, I mean, the whole situation was.

Elisa Outdoor / NPR


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Elisa Outdoor / NPR

“Instead of just laughing – like there’s something funny – with nervous laughter underneath it, unless you’re necessarily laughing because something’s funny or because you’re having a good time. But you’re laughing because you’re worried and you’re” I’m kind of trying to relieve that’s what I think, really, I mean, the whole situation was.

Elisa Outdoor / NPR

The more Tigan talked to his classmates and friends, the clearer it became that they used humor in this way as a shield. Teenagers, says Gypsy, are emotional beings. But “we don’t usually want to show it because we think it makes us look rude, I guess, or vulnerable.”

Memes and jokes offered a way to connect – without that vulnerability.

“I think it really brought us together in such a weird way,” Gypsy says. “All these people who went through this really scary come together, acknowledging how scary it was, not because they were brave enough to really talk about it, but because they laughed nervously at this They said, “It was really weird, wasn’t it?” “

Here’s how their podcast ends:

“When we joke about a tragedy, laughter is a shield from something much more painful and much more honest and real,” says Gypsy. “Maybe we should all take a chance, lower our shields, open our eyes, lower our plastic smiles and tell the truth.”

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