Stand Up Comedy As An Assertiveness Training to Encounter Bullying

Stand Up Comedy As An Assertiveness Training to Encounter Bullying

84% of Indonesian children aged 12 to 17 have experienced being bullied, traditionally and/or online, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs (2017). Based on the UNICEF Indonesia annual report in 2015, 40% of Indonesian children have been bullied at school only. The numbers are very concerning considering the weighty impact of being bullied could bring harm to a child, physically and psychologically. Bullying could lead its victim to depression (Coloroso, 2007), where 10% of them would attempt to carry out suicide. In a larger scale, by the year 2020, WHO predicted that depression would become the second leading cause of disease worldwide. Mental illness is a factor in most suicides and is the most common cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.

Our project aims to decrease the numbers of bullying and provide support to prevent depression amongst bully-victims in the targeted communities. This anti-bullying project is called Comedy Buddy, a term in stanqxcdup comedy that refers to a comedian/comedy writer that helps other comedian in composing his/her comedy act to become better. It is recognized by many mental health experts, that writing and sharing stories (self-expression) are effective ways to encounter depression and aggression. This project will provide assertiveness training by using standup comedy, a hugely popular performing art amongst youth in Indonesia, as the media. Why standup comedy? The principle of standup comedy is a media for people with worries, disappointments, and anger to express their feelings and thoughts non-aggressively in a relaxed manner. Standup comedy process consists of observation / self-assessment, heavy writing with a logic frame, and performing to a group of audience in an acceptable attitude; therefore embodies the basic principles of assertiveness training. When we did the research on standup comedy, we found out that this media has also been used widely in the United States as part of the anti-bullying campaign. The feedbacks were very positive with a satisfying result. With this report, we are more confident with the effectiveness of this project.

The targets of the project are 50 students, aged 14 to 16 (10th and 11th graders) from two high schools in marginalized communities. Most of the students come from families living in the government-subsidized housings in Jakarta; they were once relocated from slum areas, highly exposed to prostitution, drugs, and violence. These students are highly-risk to be bullied or become bullies, considering their social-economic and psychographic background.

Assertiveness training (assertive behavior therapy) is a practice that aims to improve the ability for self-expression of feelings, attitudes, hopes, and opinions in social appropriate behavior. Being assertive means to have self-confidence and showing positive attitude towards self and other people while being open and honest (Townend, 1991). This training will use standup comedy act as the media. The students will be encouraged to make observations on their life, including themselves, family, friends, school, communities, etc. They will then try to recognize how they feel and think of them and the experiences. Channeling those feelings and opinions into comedy writings will naturally inspire them to transform their perceptions of a bitter experience into a lighter picture. At the end they will perform in front of other people to deliver what they had written, and they will officially be chosen as anti-bullying champion to continue the campaign at their schools.

This experience will give them an invaluable opportunities to 1) recognize their feelings (something maybe they haven’t done before), 2) look into a problem or misfortunate using a brighter angle, therefore encouraging them to have better self-acceptance, 3) share their feelings and thoughts to other people (the feeling of being listened to is very therapeutic), and 4) possibly get rewards and appreciations from their audience (they can perceive this as an achievement).

Using standup comedy as an assertiveness training method is important for both victims and bullies. Negative comments or mockeries could be perceived as motivation to grow by a person with sufficient level of self-confidence (Olivia, 2010). Meanwhile, incapability to be assertive can lead a person to solve his problems or express his feelings aggressively (Budi A, 2009). Comedy is a catharsis and outlet for the students’ feelings. For victims to prevent and cope with depression, and for bullies to reduce aggressiveness.

The other benefit from using standup comedy in this anti-bullying project is the students will more likely to listen and follow the program, since they would not feel as if being lectured by the teachers or parents, but tend to have figured it out by themselves. This will be a positive reinforcement for them to step in to the stage of true independence and maturity.