With help from The PIT Chapel Hill, an extension of the comedy venue that began in New York City, Oakley was able to put together a show of local comedians, each of whom have lost a parent at some point in their lives.
“I didn't ask anyone to create any kind of content for the show," Oakley said.
A majority of the comedians had already written material about their experiences.
Will Purpura is the artistic director of The PIT Chapel Hill and will be a performer in the show. He said comedy has provided him with a cathartic way of taking ownership of the pain.
“All the comedians are really good, and they often deal with personal trauma in this kind of way, which has been helpful for people to watch,” Purpura said.
While some comedians use their work as a means to deal with the things happening in their lives, Purpura said comedians in this show will be particularly vulnerable as they share emotional anecdotes.
“It took me a while to joke about it because it was so traumatic,” Purpura said. “Eventually, I was able to let go and move forward and I was able to incorporate that into art.”
Jordan Hale is a comedian who will also be performing at the show. His father passed away about a month and a half ago.
“Death is universal, but it's so unique and surreal and rare to a person,” Hale said.
In preparing for his routine, Hale said he did not write material so much as transcribe bizarre experiences. He used his relationship with his father and his father’s death for inspiration.
“Something about going on stage, turning my admittedly complicated relationship with my father, who I miss, into something that makes other people laugh and gets things off my chest in some way taught me the strangest and easiest part of this,” Hale said. “It's been a good outlet for me.”
Hale has already used some of his experiences with his dad in local shows and found the set received with a lot of laughter. After the shows, Hale said several audience members told him his set made them a little misty-eyed despite the years that had passed since the passing of their own parents.
“It's a very unique show that you won't find anywhere else, and I hope that my experience will make people laugh,” Hale said.
Despite the seriousness of the content, contributors of the Dead Parents Society emphasized that the show will be funny.
“The show really stems from respect for the complicated relationships we have with our parents and is rooted in using comedy as a lens to understand and deal with grief,” Oakley said.
The show will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. at The PIT Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased online or at the door. The event will be donating $5 from each ticket to the Hospice Foundation of America, a non-profit organization that provides grief counseling.