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Climate Change Is No Laughing Matter. Or Is It?

In 2017, Rollie Williams was a struggling comedian when he came across a copy of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s book on climate change.

While a New York Times review describes the book as “lucid, harrowing and bluntly effective,” Mr. Williams was struck by the potential for comedy. It had been 10 years since the former vice president’s passionate appeal, and the planet had just kept heating up.

“I thought Al Gore on an ‘I-told-you-so tour’ would be a funny premise for a comedy show,” he said. The resulting production was a hit.

Mr. Williams, who lives and works in Brooklyn, now makes comedic videos about the environment. He is part of a growing movement that takes on the climate crisis with humor. From Hollywood movies like Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” to independent sketches on YouTube and TikTok, comedians — no strangers to tackling difficult subjects — are increasingly looking for punchlines in one of the greatest existential threats ever to the planet.

Many people find the topic of global warming tiresome or depressing because of the apocalyptic stakes at play. But even some scientists and activists agree: Climate change has a messaging problem.

“Academics are trained to write in their own language, sending you to the dictionary every three words,” said Sarah Finnie, the founder of the 51 Percent Project, an initiative at Boston University that aims to help people communicate better about climate change. “Humor is a really great way to kind of calm the Doomerism and the panics that can paralyze people.”

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