Podcast News·Q&A

When comedy & caregiving collide: Gavin Crawford releases new podcast about his mom's dementia

Let's Not Be Kidding is the story about a comedian, his mom, and Alzheimer’s. Comedian Gavin Crawford — host of CBC Radio's Because News — offers a tender exploration of family, caregiving, dementia and humour in this memoir-style series with a comedic twist.

‘Let’s Not Be Kidding’ is a testament to the healing power of comedy in the face of tragedy

Gavin and his mother standing, smiling, in front of a scenic Alberta mountain landscape.
Gavin and his mother always had a close, comedic relationship. (Submitted by Gavin Crawford)

Let's Not Be Kidding with Gavin Crawford is not your ordinary comedy podcast; it'll make you cry, too. The Because News host embarks on a heartfelt journey through love, loss, and laughter as he navigates the complex world of his mother's Alzheimer's disease in this new memoir-style series.

Launching on May 1, Let's Not Be Kidding offers a glimpse into the often misunderstood world of dementia and the healing power of humour in the face of tragedy. The series features candid conversations with Crawford's family, friends and fellow comedians about the harrowing experiences of caring for a sick loved one — and how to find light in the darkness through humour.

Crawford discussed the emotional process of creating this project, which is produced by David Carroll and Daemon Fairless, with CBC Podcasts. Below is part of that conversation.

Tell us a bit about your mom, Donna.

My mom was a mom first, but also my friend and very much a champion of mine. She spent a lot of time on all her kids, encouraging us to pursue our passions and our education. She also spent a great deal of time on other kids; she had a soft spot for underdogs and was always willing to take in, take care, or just help out any kids she came across who needed a boost.  (This often led to us having our bullies at our birthday parties but she would always say "you don't know their life,  it doesn't hurt you to be kind.")  She was very funny with a dark, dry wit.  She was a teacher and an artist, who could seemingly make anything. There wasn't much she couldn't do if she decided she wanted to.  

Donna Crawford is pictured standing, holding a sketchbook and pencil, drawing.
Donna was always, above all, an artist. She preferred watercolour but experimented with lots of mediums. (Submitted by Gavin Crawford)

What role did creating the podcast play in helping you process what was happening with your mom?

I think in a way it has been a great release valve. Caring for or about someone with dementia can be isolating and often very frustrating, and it really helps if you are able to laugh about the absurdity of what's happening.

I noticed after a number of years of my mom's decline I had begun to forget what she was like before this happened. This podcast was a way for me to process what was happening but also to bring that woman back into focus for myself.

 

You're a writer & performer — why was podcasting the medium you chose to tell this story?

I wrestled with a few different options. Stand-up seemed too confrontational or complicated tone-wise. A book? Maybe, but I'm more of a talker so a podcast seemed like the right medium that could handle the balance of silly and serious without me having to type too much.

Gavin and his mom wearing sunglasses sitting in a boat on the water.
(Submitted by Gavin Crawford)

In addition to family, the series also includes conversations with fellow comedians and performers who are going through something similar with their own families. In your experience, what's the relationship between comedy and tragedy? 

Tragic things often eventually lead to comedy; it's how we cope. Sometimes the jokes are very dark, sometimes it's just letting out frustration. This type of tragedy unfolds very slowly, so the comedy inevitably catches up. 

Is there a particular audience this podcast is for? What do you hope they take away from this series?

I think anyone who has experienced any sort of long grief will relate. People who have a loved one experiencing Alzheimer's, or have been through that already, for example. Although, sometimes when you're in the thick of it you need to avoid anything on the subject.  

It's a bit like a video game FAQ for people I think, not to be too nerdy, but they can listen and be like "oh yes that's happening for us," or "I never thought of it like that." I hope it's helpful to people. If you know someone who is a caregiver, I think this podcast might be really useful in terms of knowing how to support them, to laugh with them instead of just feeling for them.

Gavin is pictured sitting with his mother in the care home, holding her hand.
(Submitted by Gavin Crawford)

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