We’ve been active for 6 years and have experienced of a lot of powerful moments. Some overwhelmingly joyous and some devastatingly sad.

We perform short-form improv, like the kind on Whose Line Is It Anyway. Colin Mochrie has even been a special guest!

We have a Kickstarter active right now, raising funds for an online video series of our shows. This is something that families have asked for so they can keep seeing Funnies when they are discharged or transferred to a hospital that we don’t perform at yet. We’re 50% of the way to our goal! You can learn more about our campaign at www.funniestv.com

Ask us anything!

-- EDIT 10:00 PM EST --

We have loved answering these questions! This is the most in-depth "interview" we've ever done.

We're going to sign off (or at least slow down) for now. We'll answer any new questions in the morning.

Thanks for taking an interest in Funnies. All the comments have meant a lot to us.

Once more, we're Kickstarting our video series at www.funniestv.com. We've gained 3% since the start of the AMA.

Kristie & Rock




Bonus Proof Selfie Outtake:


Comments: 128 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

butterandtoast101169 karma

I'm sure you folks see a lot of awful situations. Has there even been a time that no matter what you do you just couldn't lift the spirits of someone. How did you handle it?

Oh also, thank you for what you do. Humor is a seriously underappreciated form of aid. I really appreciate it.

funniesforfamilies357 karma

Thank you, we agree about the aid. We have seen first-hand how effective it can be for people going through their toughest times.

To answer your question, there have been many times that we couldn't lift someone's spirits or make them laugh... but in those times we remind ourselves we aren't just a comedy show. We're also a break for the whole family to stop thinking about treatment for a few minutes. I like to think that even if people aren't laughing, they are still focusing on something else and getting some respite.

Also, sometimes we might just be a distraction that gives parents who are stressed beyond belief a minute to sit down. Most of the time parents are laughing along, but sometimes they are literally resting their eyes in the back.

- Rock

InAFakeBritishAccent46 karma

Not seriously sick, but some days im so sleep deprived i cant actually physically laugh without contrived effort. Don't worry, I'm laughing on the inside.

funniesforfamilies48 karma

This is really interesting to us!

We often say that we've found that laughter is a reflex, not a choice.

There are families who come to shows that can't imagine laughing, but if something is funny, they can't help it!

Hopefully we'd get a chuckle from you, but we'd understand if we didn't.

  • Rock

skrulewi60 karma

Have any of you been changed, in any way, by this work?

Either your comedy, or personally?

funniesforfamilies130 karma

Great question.

Yes, definitely. A big struggle is compassion or empathy fatigue. Basically that means ordinary things that we would normally need to care about - a deadline at our day job or a friend telling us about an argument with their roommate - become very difficult to care about when compared with the realities we face at our shows.

We have taken courses and met with professionals to combat that and we also share those resources with our comedian volunteers.

  • Rock

eeare15 karma

Interesting. And how do you combat that? I have a new baby and other people’s issues have become very difficult for me to care about. But there Re some things I need to care about, like being emphatic to my husband’s problems at work because they affect him in a real way.

funniesforfamilies5 karma

Congratulations on the new baby!

We’re not experts on it, as we’re still learning. But what I can say is it’s something that actually takes practice, and a ton of self care. You’ll find if you’re burnt out or close to burning out it becomes incredibly difficult to care.

Practicing daily gratitude is essential to us combating compassion fatigue. Something we do is keep a joy jar. Every week we write down all the best parts of our week, little jokes, silly songs, moments big or small. We put them in a jar and open it up on New Year’s Day to look over our year! The rules are, you have to write something down, and nothing negative. You’ll find when you look over your year you can’t even remember why certain weeks were tougher than others.

Another thing that helps us is honest communication about our needs. Even something like having a safe sharing space for you and your husband to talk about things like his work problems. Maybe it can be something like “I can’t hear all the issues from work right when you get home, but once we’ve settled into our night I’ll let you know when I’m ready to talk about that.” Or “I’d like us to say three good things about each of our days before we talk about work problems.” You’ll find you may be more open to listening and he may be more conscious of your needs as well.

Like I said, we’re not experts, but these are some ways that help us. We definitely recommend reading more about compassion and empathy fatigue and finding strategies that will suit your life.

  • Kristie

CanuckWife25748 karma

I run a toddler group with lots of families. What advice would you give that could make someones day?

funniesforfamilies113 karma


Especially about ideas and efforts.

Compliments to kids about their ideas. Compliments to parents about their kid’s imagination or efforts that day.

Everyone has something they’re trying to be good at or recognized for. Parents and kids feel special when that thing is noticed and called out.

  • Kristie

oneiswishful45 karma

First thank you for what you do. I'm an adult (29) patient that frequents a children's hospital for my care. The past few years, infectious disease protocols for my illness have increased. I.e no service animals, no craft or snack carts, can't go into common areas and play games with other patients. It's very isolating. Are you able to go into patient rooms where you'd have to "gown up" or are those off limits? I'm hoping that you do!

funniesforfamilies63 karma

Thank you for sharing your story. We’re wishing you the best.

This is up to hospital protocol. We have different limits and access at each facility we perform. We have been able to suit up with infection protocol gear and play in the past, but that has been rare.

At one hospital our shows are broadcast live over the cc tv, to include patients who cannot come down.

This story is really what our Kickstarter campaign is all about. We have grown over 6 years, but want to reach so many more people who either are a) physically far away or b) close but immune-compromised. Our series will feature interactive elements to include the audience in the fun as much as possible.

  • Kristie

DasFrebier39 karma

How heartbreaking is it to see all those sick children?

funniesforfamilies90 karma

I'll add that we do our best to aid the mental health of our comedian volunteers. Every show begins in a brief where we talk about our day and our headspace, and ends with a debrief where we talk about the show, the audience and how we're feeling.

9.9 times out of 10 its just an ordinary conversation, but sometimes its all tears.

- Rock

funniesforfamilies49 karma

It can be extremely heartbreaking, but we also get to share in some very powerful moments of happiness and laughter that seem impossible.

These circumstances can also bring out the best in people, and we see families deeply caring for each other. Parents to children, sibling to sibling, extended family. That's encouraging and heartwarming.

- Kristie

WF7228 karma

I initially read this "Furries for Families" and you know what? It didn't even phase me.

funniesforfamilies50 karma

This is a fear of ours.

  • Rock

BraveSamwise24 karma


In all seriousness redditors - these people are some of the kindest, most responsible, and selfless people I've ever met. They are doing such magical, wonderful work. I've had the privilege to see a couple of their shows (even be in one once) firsthand and the difference they make in these families lives is palpable.

My question for you is: what is the most memorable feedback you've ever received from a sick kid, and from a sick kid's family?

P.S. Kristie and Rock and the rest of the team - I'm crossing my fingers for your fundraiser!

funniesforfamilies17 karma

Whoa!! Hey! Funny that someone we know saw this!

I immediately think of one testimonial we got from a Mom.

“What you do for all the families is so important. You brighten up our darkest days. And even long after the family has gone, you remain in our memory, sometimes as the only happy one we can recall throughout the hard ones.”

And I think any time we see kids and families and they quote something from a past show from weeks before - that’s also the most memorable and wonderful feedback we could ask for.

Thanks for asking!

  • Kristie

Crazyjumpinglady19 karma

What has been one of the most rewarding moments of doing what you do? Do you have any heartwarming stories?

funniesforfamilies72 karma

We are very lucky to experience heartwarming stories and rewarding moments every week!

There was a show recently at a palliative care hospice where we invited a kiddo to play a game with us - Pillars. In that game, the comedians do a scene and point to the audience volunteer to finish their sentences.

This young person had a delay due to their affliction, but played the game so well and got big laughs from their responses.

There was a really sweet moment where they weren’t ready for the next prompt because they were looking around taking in the laughs they were getting.

  • Kristie

CasualRedditor42016 karma

What inspired you to do what you do?

Was there an event in your lives that made you want to do this?

funniesforfamilies57 karma

We trained in improv at Second City and similar places for a few years and were looking for ways to use this training beyond doing improv shows in bars and comedy theatres.

Six years ago I had a family member stay at Ronald McDonald House during a hospital stay. That stay drove me to want to volunteer there, and I hoped to use the skills I had learned to do something unique.

We reached out an started a monthly show at that location, which evolved into a twice-monthly show, then a weekly show, then expanded to other care centres and hospitals.

Our volunteer comedians commonly say that doing Funnies shows feels like what improv was made for.

- Rock

TheReinsofFullnight10 karma

And maybe Patch Adams?

funniesforfamilies18 karma

We are friends with some therapeutic clowns who work full-time at a hospital! Living that Patch Adams life.

BungmyChung16 karma

How big is this organization? And do you plan on expanding this internationally?

You guys are wonderful!!! Keep doing what you’re doing.

funniesforfamilies22 karma

Right now it is small but we are trying our best to grow it! It’s our dream to expand to as many places as there are families going through these experiences.

Right now we have about 100 volunteer comedians. Everyone fills out their availability at the start of the month and does 1 or 2 shows!

  • Rock

Norgeroff15 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

funniesforfamilies26 karma

Bamboo toothbrush baby!

  • Kristie

ncconch12 karma

This is wonderful! My son is chronically ill and was a frequent flyer at our local children’s hospital. I don’t remember a comedy group ever visiting but any distractions were definitely appreciated. Keep up the good work!

Do y’all ever incorporate the audience into the show?

funniesforfamilies12 karma

Yes! Every show!

There are many great improv games that incorporate the audience. For example, a favorite of ours is "Sound Effects", where we improvise a scene and an audience member does all the sound effects with a microphone. Always a hit.

We accommodate the audience participation based on the facility we're at. We may adjust games to make sure we are not violating infection control with unnecessary contact, for instance.

Finally, improv is very audience-based by nature. We ask for a suggestion from the audience for every game we play to get us started – like "what's an occupation" or "how do these two know each other" or "what's something they could be celebrating".

Also, all the best to you and your son.

  • Kristie

tibbymat11 karma

How do you come up with your material? Is it catered to the individual or is this group sessions you do? Do you speak with the families before hand to know their “line” or topics of interest?

funniesforfamilies41 karma

Very good questions!

It’s short form improv like Who’s Line Is It Anyway, so the material is made up on the spot and different every time. Our 100+ comedian volunteers all have great improv training from comedy theatres like Second City and UCB.

We do go over the current situation with the staff at each facility before every show to know what’s going on and what we should avoid.

We also cater the shows to the facility. For example, at a homeless youth shelter we perform at, the shows are more “PG-13”, but we don’t call ourselves Funnies for Families because the word family might be a trigger.

  • Kristie

kiwi_reader11 karma

Do you ever feel insecure about how funny you are? If so, how do you deal with insecurity?

funniesforfamilies20 karma

I think anyone in a comedy profession has times of insecurity, especially after a show that doesn't hit as hard.

In our experience, the only way to deal with that insecurity is to just keep doing it! Luckily we have enough Funnies shows every week that if we feel like a show wasn't our best, we don't have time to sit in that insecurity... we have to do the next show!

- Kristie

Hi-world132411 karma

Has a child laughed to death yet?

funniesforfamilies28 karma

We've had audience members on oxygen who were laughing so hard that we were genuinely concerned.

But thankfully that hasn't happened.

  • Rock

xiaoming110 karma

Most unforgettable moment?

funniesforfamilies51 karma

This isn’t as endearing or heartwarming as it could be, but in all 6 years of Funnies for Families, only one swear word has accidentally slipped through.

I have never forgot the look of sheer terror in that volunteer comedian’s face.

  • Rock

NoReasons14438 karma

A few weeks ago, I did some volunteer work for work at the hospital, talking and cooking for the terminal ill. The shocking part was how much we had to wash hands, change aprons, gloves, etc. have you experienced anything such as?

funniesforfamilies11 karma

Yes. We wash our hands 1000x times a day. In fact, we started using heavy duty lotion to keep them from getting chapped!

Infection control is no joke, and it's so easy to transfer germs to these vulnerable populations. We also have a very strict policy about doing shows when you're feeling unwell. If our volunteers have a sniffle, they can't come! Better to have fewer comedians on the show than spread an illness.

Thank you for the work you did! I'm sure those patients appreciated it.

  • Kristie

Guyabovemeisclever2 karma

Nurse here. O’keefes working hands lotion is a lifesaver. I’m sure not only the families are excited to see y’all but the staff are too. We appreciate any joy that’s brought in. Keep up the great work!

funniesforfamilies3 karma

Thanks for the tip!

funniesforfamilies3 karma

I actually use this O’Keefes! I googled “highest rated hospital lotion” and this was the top. Works great!

We have done some shows just for staff! Every once in awhile at annual events for most places, but one place we go to we do a monthly show for staff. They need some laughs too!

  • Kristie

JudgeJudyApproved6 karma

This is awesome! Thank you for what you do. Hospitals can be depressing, sobering places, and it is warming to be reminded there are those who make the effort to bring a little more light to those that most need it,

You mentioned earlier that at some locations there are words you don't say to avoid triggering someone. Have you guys ever accidentally triggered someone in a bad way? What might a performer try to do to help in this situation and still keep face for everyone else? Also, do you have your own security, or only work with who the facility employs?

I know it's a somber question. My background is in private security and public safety, so that's where my mind goes.

funniesforfamilies7 karma

We work with the security that the facility employs – although security is more present at some facilities than others.

One time at a shelter there was a violent incident before we arrived, and the staff requested we not perform for our own safety. That's the closest we've come to any incident.

I can't think of a time when we have triggered someone in a bad way. I can think of many times when a performer said something that they thought might trigger someone.

For example, someone might accidentally say "I wish I was dead" (not a real example) while improvising, and then suddenly realize what they've said.

Improv is about trusting your fellow performers, and in these cases it is up to everyone else to continue the scene and not draw attention to the freeze up. And most of the time the faux pas is only in the performers head.

Finally, there have been a few very hectic experiences related to medical issues that have happened in the middle of a show, but those weren't security related.

  • Rock

throwawayhyperbeam6 karma

What's the secret to avoid being cringey?

funniesforfamilies13 karma

Love this question.

Honestly, it is a little bit cringey. Cringey is subjective though, and we what or the other comedians volunteering find cringey isn't necessarily what the kids will. As long as we're fully committed and not doing anything halfway, it will work, despite how cringey it potentially be.

Also, we try to play to the whole family. There are lots of jokes that are just for kids, but then other references and winks that are just funny to parents (and the kids don't get them anyway).

That helps keep it for everyone and not an overly sugary or cringe.

One time a kid gave us the suggestion "dabbing" when we asked for "an activity two people could be doing" for a game. In hindsight that scene was probably cringey.

  • Rock

Shevizzle6 karma

Have you seen the joker?

funniesforfamilies11 karma

We're friends with some therapeutic clowns who work in hospitals and I got genuinely concerned when Joker and IT came out that kids wouldn't want to see them anymore!

WildCard5654 karma

Hi! I love this what you’re doing! I’m currently in medical school on my rotations right now seeing families distressed over their loved ones’ health conditions in the hospital, and just like you already do, I want to bring happiness, laughter, and comfort to patients and their families even in the brief interactions.

Do you have any tips or advice about how to bring humor to people or what people relate most to? And what have been your most successful sketches/bits when comforting families and patients?

funniesforfamilies11 karma

Thanks for going through medical school! That is a feat.

You're already in a tough spot because you will be the one doing all the pokes, tests and IV's! I always recommend distraction if you can. Asking the patient what their favourite things are in the world. Ask them about their favourite music, what kind of activities they like to do, what shows they watch.

I'd say the number one rule is don't be afraid to look silly. Especially someone in such a noble profession, kids will think it's hilarious and fun if you sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or the latest pop music. Also bubbles. Carry a small tube of bubbles on your lanyard or in your pocket and you will be instantly magical.

As for successful bits, it varies with each experience. But I would say a popular one is poking fun at yourself to bring you all to the same status level. As a medical professional, your status is instantly higher than the patient. Pointing out a silly or cute flaw will put you on the same level. "I'm not a great dancer, but check out this move!"


can_of_sardines4 karma

Hi, I was wondering how funnies for families got started? As I’ve gotten older (I’m only 22 lol) I’ve realized how fucked up everything is, it’s really hard for me to motivate myself to complete my education and go on to pursue a job in the industry. I mention this because you mentioned your daily work burnout compared to your drive for the volunteer. I really want to use my skills either programming or photography to help people, but I need to care about myself too. So how do you start helping others? Any tips for motivating to get through the routine to do the things that matter?

funniesforfamilies10 karma


I think that a big barrier to volunteering or "helping others" is the idea that we (as one person) can only do so much. I struggled with this in the past – the idea that I might as well not do anything, because I will barely make a difference.

The reality is that even helping a single person is affecting change. We have done a handful of shows where only a single patient came. Those are some of our best, most rewarding experiences. We helped that person get through a tough time.

I would say that a tip to motivate yourself to get through the routine would be to find (or start) a group to help you help others. Look for like-minded people in the areas you are skilled in – programming or photography – that also want to help. That support team can be the push you need to make change.

Imagine getting together with a group of photographers to offer headshots for at-risk youth who are trying to enter the workforce and need a linkedin profile, or charting someone's experience through chemotherapy to help their GoFundMe.

On your own those things are difficult to start and continue, but with a team they are easier, cheaper and more scalable.

Best of luck to you. DM us throughout your journey!

  • Kristie & Rock

can_of_sardines5 karma

Thank you so much for the advice! I have done some photoshoots with a local dog shelter to help their adoptions, and I’ll look into doing headshots to help out others! And in the future I hope I’ll have a team at my back like you have :)

funniesforfamilies4 karma

Great idea with the dog shelter! You're already doing wonderful things!

  • Kristie

fisian3 karma

How can you remain cheerful in such sad environment? Do you try to distance yourselves from the kids emotionally or some particular coping mechanism?

funniesforfamilies3 karma

This is a very important topic and question.

We took several courses on boundaries. Some were required by the facilities we go to.

We try our best to keep a performer - audience distance. Frankly thought it’s almost impossible to be 100% disconnected, especially when we frequently return to the same facility and see the same audience members each week.

We have made great little friends and had our hearts broken. Something that keeps us grounded though is to remind ourselves that we are bearing witness to these tragedies, not being part of them. Our grief can’t possibly come close to what those siblings and parents feel. It’s our calling to try to give a bit of relief to them, not insert ourselves into their story.

  • Rock

bufftart3 karma

Are you actually funny?

funniesforfamilies13 karma


Luckily our comedian volunteers are!

  • Rock

murphymumich3 karma

What did you wish you knew when you got started? And are you franchising (or do you mind if other groups start doing something similar)? I'm involved in the improv community in Philadelphia in the States, and this idea could really work here, I think.

funniesforfamilies4 karma

It is our goal to work with improv communities around the world to spread these experiences as far as we can.

We have learned a lot when it comes to on-boarding facilities, and learn more every day. Improv can be hard to explain to program co-ordinators at facilities who haven't seen it.

Our goal is to formalize these processes throughout this year and next, but we would be happy to stay in touch and share our experience with you.

We of course wouldn't mind if other improv communities do something similar. Every group that does this is more sick kids laughing, which is all we want.

  • Rock

tweak02 karma

What "the joker drops his gun in front of a room full of children" types of moments have you had?

Also, what are you favorite dinosaurs?

funniesforfamilies3 karma

We've had just ONE swear in the 6 years we've doing it. It's our equivalent of dropping the gun.

Mine is a triceratops, ever since Jurassic Park when I was in Grade 1.

  • Rock

tweak02 karma

Now I need to know what letter the word started with lol

funniesforfamilies5 karma

This swear brought to you by the letter S.

pants67892 karma

Your program seems altruistic, thanks for doing it.

What was the last situation that made you guys laugh so hard it hurt? Funnies for Families related or otherwise.

funniesforfamilies4 karma

Thank you. We genuinely just want to make sick kids laugh.

When we were filming the video for our Kickstarter, the comedian who was puppeteering the puppet kept improvising inappropriate or personal things about us that were obviously unusable but made us laugh very hard.

"Kristie, is it ever okay to lie?"

  • Rock

Shmookley2 karma

What’s your favorite joke?

funniesforfamilies3 karma

My favorite joke is by my hero Harris Wittels. It's about an infomaniac. It's not appropriate for Funnies for Families.

  • Rock

funniesforfamilies1 karma

My answer would be the entire 7 minute video "Sad" by Kyle Mooney back when he was doing Good Neighbor Stuff. I still watch it often.

- Kristie

amysw92 karma

Idk if this is still open (I’m pretty new to reddit so idk how this all works) but I had cancer when I was 15 so I stayed at a children’s hospital too for a long time. I live in the Netherlands so we have something different called Cliniclowns which are people dressed up as clowns that entertain the children in their rooms. They came to my room sometimes and tbh, it was pretty awkward for me cause I was a teenager so I didn’t really like clowns and stuff like that. I still find it great what they, and you do though, it’s absolutely amazing how you can make children forget about their illnesses and just laugh again, I’ve seen it happen and that made me really happy. But I wondered, do you have more teenagers that you visit and if so, how do they usually react to your show? Idk what kind of shows you do but the Cliniclowns were really for young kids so that’s why I just felt awkward when they came along and acted like I was a kid too. Have you had that happen before too? When a kid/teenager just really didn’t like it?

funniesforfamilies2 karma

The nature of short-form improv lets us adjust the content and style for the audience!

So when we do a show for all teenagers, such as at a shelter, we can "age-up" the comedy to be more appropriate for them.

During all-ages show, we really try to make parents laugh as well as kids. Teens are a bit harder during those shows, but the performance isn't so childish that they would feel out of place.

GreatNorthWeb2 karma

Has anyone ever popped their stitches laughing at your show?

funniesforfamilies5 karma

If they have, no one's told us. Crossing our fingers that doesn't happen!


TheOneEyedPussy1 karma

What kind of comedy do you guys do? I know you mention children, but is it ever vulgar?

funniesforfamilies6 karma

We do short-form improv comedy, like Whose Line Is It Anyway.

We have over 100 short-form "games". Here are a few examples:

Make-A-Story: Comedians tell a made up story one word at a time (one word per comedian, down the line).

Puppets: Comedians perform a scene, but can only talk. Audience volunteers move their arms and bodies. (Mostly mashing them together to hug).

Scraps (our favorite): The audience writes down sentences on pieces of paper. Comedians perform a scene, and from time to time read out one of the lines as their dialogue.

Most of the shows are for children. They are never vulgar, but have a lot of fart humor. There are lots of winks and references to adult themes for grownups. Similar to jokes for parents in a Pixar movie or cartoon, the kids don't get it.

We do a few shows just for parents by request from facilities. These shows are closer to adult themed, but usually the parents are used to seeing us at the family-friendly shows and don't want to see us get too R-rated.

  • Rock

quillman1 karma

Why did the chicken cross the road?

funniesforfamilies2 karma

To read Blood Meridian.

  • Rock

Naive_Drive1 karma

When doing these sketches, do you ever have guests from the public? I'd love to be able to entertain kids like this.

funniesforfamilies3 karma

Almost all of the facilities we perform at have a fairly rigorous on-boarding experience that varies from police checks to multi-session orientations.

This makes it hard to have guests who aren't official Funnies for Families volunteers. Although we regularly have our own orientations to bring on new volunteers who are excited to make families laugh.

Also, our video series will make it much easier to have guests!

  • Rock

InsertSmartassRemark0 karma

Did you see the new Joker movie? If so, how did you react to the children's hospital scene?

funniesforfamilies5 karma

Luckily Joker isn't a kids movie, so not a lot of our audience has seen it.

As Funnies for Families we aren't really ever compared to clowns or the Joker, but I will say that our therapeutic clown friends get some comments!

  • Kristie

InsertSmartassRemark0 karma

I was more or less curious about how the scene made you react as a person who's involved in helping children with therapy/laughter, being that Aruther Fleck was doing something similar in the scene.

I am however relieved to hear that there aren't groups of children out there watching Joker lol.

funniesforfamilies6 karma


I remember thinking Funnies for Families during the scene, but I can't place what I felt about it. I think that because I am so close to Funnies, the version of clowning at the hospital seems so far removed from our shows.

In fact, I remember thinking "I hope this isn't what people think we do"!

WinstonsVictoryGin0 karma

How much is the most you’ve made in a day at a hospital?

funniesforfamilies10 karma

Our shows are volunteer run and totally free for the facilities we perform at.

We accept donations on our site, which are mainly used for transportation and administrative things like t-shirts and web hosting.

So I guess the answer is $0.

  • Rock