Welcome to Everything But The Bagel, a weekly space to make you feel a little less stressed, and a little more grounded, just with writing instead of cream cheese. By diving deeper into the reality of life as a (remote) Trojan, Everything But The Bagel will help you get through the ups and downs of your college experience. Through relatable anecdotes, interviews, and my curated edit of recommendations, this newsletter will remind you that you are at this school for a reason, further helping you make the most of your time at 'sc.

Dear Beautiful, Imperfect, Intelligent Humans,

I hope this week finds you all staying positive and testing negative. I’m very proud of this phrase and have started every email this week by saying it. Let me tell you, the responses have been incredible and hilarious –– I give you full permission to use it as the intro of your next “reply all.”

If anything, this sentence will make your email recipient crack a smile, or maybe even chuckle to themselves in between meetings. And now more than ever before, we need to laugh. In my mind, laughter is medicine –– I need it every day just like I need my Vitamin C and virtual yoga. And there is nothing better than a deep belly laugh from the latest SNL skit or Stephen Colbert episode. You know, the type of laughing where you can feel your abs start to form? Seriously, there is nothing better.

But during this time of universal suffering and hardship, I have also been asking myself if it is ok to laugh. Because when you look at our current situation, is there anything really “funny” about where we are right now? Is it ok to escape the harrowing reality of the present moment by running to comedic relief? Is there even comedic relief with no live comedy or standup sets? Should I feel guilty for wanting to laugh? Or do we need comedy to stay sane and find comfort and a community during this period of isolation? The list goes on. And as my spastic brain began to wire these thoughts together, formulating an overwhelmingly long list of questions, I knew I had to go straight to the source: comedians themselves.

“We laugh during everything. Even during the most serious world events, we find ways to laugh during it, and shortly after it. So I just don’t think people can survive without it. And I don’t think they want to,” former Trojan and comedian Ryan Goldsher said. Goldsher performed standup live throughout his college career. Now with the pandemic, he has moved into the exploding online comedy space, where he now makes content on his Instagram and Tik Tok. Goldsher has surprisingly found this opportunity for digital content creation to be less stressful considering that technology removes the barrier for entry. “You don’t have to make things super nice. You can just film something on your phone that’s like, clearly in your room that you just came up with on the spot,” which can be hilarious and reach millions, Goldsher said.

Comedy writer and director Jack Price experienced similar relief from reality thanks to comedy. “It can always feel weird to laugh in a really, really serious time. But I think there’s something really beautiful about it, too. And as long as we all are on the same page about the importance of the time, comedy can always play a good role.” Price touched on comedy’s recurring presence throughout history –– even during the darkest of days. “It’s what people rely on to take life a little less seriously,” Price said, despite the state of the world. He approaches life with the phrase, “if I’m not laughing through life, I’m not enjoying life.”

Price does, however, recognize that comedy at its core is about poking fun at what’s current, which is extremely challenging in the peak of a global pandemic. Yet Price finds it “really interesting to be writing and thinking as [the content] is changing in front of our eyes.” Price’s partner, comedian and actor Charlie Hall, has also pivoted to Tik Tok during the pandemic. Hall, outside his comfort zone, was initially hesitant to join the app given the platforms' younger demographic. But over the past seven months, Hall has opened his mind to explore how COVID-19 is causing comedy to evolve. He quickly found a following and niche within the Tik Tok world as laughter is essential in today’s media landscape, according to Hall. “No one laughs when they read the news or anything, so it’s kind of that perfect release in that it’s the other end of the spectrum.”

Hall is right. When the news is about Congress and Coronavirus it’s difficult to find the balance between joking and being insensitive. Hall believes that the social-awakening of the pandemic will be the biggest change instigator for the comedy landscape. According to Hall, quality comedy is about so much more than the laughter from an audience. “Like a knock-knock joke is funny, right? But a knock-knock can make people think about something. And I think that that’s probably something that is going to be almost required of comedy, which I think is a really good thing. The more attention you can bring to issues that are important, the better,” Hall said. Both Price and Hall believe that comedy in the context of being current, and helping people see the bigger picture, is essential and will be the backbone of post-pandemic comedy. Plus, “I think if you’re like looking for a distraction, it might as well be a relatively healthy one, like laughing,” Hall said.

When talking about how to cope with the challenges of a remote world, we read about different workouts and recipes and we try different skincare routines. But laughter rarely makes the to-do list. Do you ever ask yourself why not? It’s easy. It’s healthy. It’s accessible. It’s carefree. And it’s quite literally free.

So is laughing during a pandemic bad? Or selfish? Or tone deaf? No, it’s essential. As long as the laughing makes you think about why you are laughing, you’re good to go. And a laugh or two a day definitely makes the doctor go away.

Wishing you all a week full of laughter –– lots of laughter

-Ella

Now here are some of my favorite things from this week:

Quote of the Week:

“When you see something beautiful in someone tell them, it can stay with them for a lifetime”

Quote Analysis

We often choose to overlook the inherent power we all have just from being living, breathing humans. The power of our spoken words goes a long way. So compliment that stranger on the street or your classmate on your Zoom. You never know –– they could be having a bad day, a bad month or even year. That one nice affirmation could change their entire day around. Chills, I know.

Digest of the Week

Daniel Amen is a 12-time NYT Bestselling author and celebrity doctor known for his work as a psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist. Since following “Doc Amen” on social media, my feed is filled with uplifting, science-based content. His most recent tweet:

“Eat right to think right” is one of the most important strategies to end mental illness. Over the years, we have developed one food rule that captures all others: “only love and consume foods that love you back.” If you can get this one rule right, it will help you feel happy."

The Doc goes into detail about the problem of the “everything in moderation” mindset that I grew up with and more debilitating misperceptions when it comes to brain health and wellbeing. Definitely head to his page if you are looking to restructure your feed to more mindful and health-oriented content.

Something I am working on this week :

Listening to and Trusting my Body.

Over the weekend I had planned to go to a fun socially-distanced gathering with a few friends. But as I closed my Laptop at the end of a long work week, I found myself completely exhausted –– the Zoom fatigue was as real as ever and the thought of putting on jeans was, well, unthinkable. Though I had been looking forward to my plans for the entire week, I knew that my body and brain needed a break. So In-N-Out, Sex and The City and an early night was the answer for me. It can be easy, especially in college, to do what we feel like we are supposed to do, to go where we feel like we are supposed to go. But listening to your body is the only thing that you really have to do in college, and really ever in life. So take care of yourself and put your needs first, especially right now. As overwhelming and out of control as the world feels right now, without our health we have nothing. Always remember that.

Question of the Week:

Every week, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have that could spark discussion/ bring awareness to our community. I will respond to the best of my ability, consulting outside scientific resources to answer them to the best of my ability. Just click here to ask your question! And just remember: No question is a dumb one. If you have it, I’m sure many members of our community have the same one!

Story Ideas? Questions? Something resonated with you? Need a Hug? Write to me here:

ellakatz@usc.edu on EMAIL

@srirachamayoenthusiast on INSTA

@ellakatz20 on TWITTER