Laughter Is the Best Medicine

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Emilie Thompson and Thomas Hart were both interested in the sciences, but it was a comedy show and a shared sense of humor that connected them.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

By Nina Reyes

Nov. 4, 2022Updated 1:23 p.m. ET

The Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts

Emilie Thompson and Thomas Hart were both interested in the sciences, but it was a comedy show and a shared sense of humor that connected them.

Dr. Emilie Grainne Corduff Thompson and Thomas David Hart met during a theater production of a Federico García Lorca play, “Blood Wedding,” in early 2018, but it turned out, months later, that comedy, not tragedy, would provide the spark to their romance.

Mr. Hart, 30, who built the production’s set at a venue on Columbia University’s medical campus, was initially noticed by one of Dr. Thompson’s friends.

“She couldn’t stop talking about how good-looking the set designer was,” said Dr. Thompson, 28, who was studying for a medical degree at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and had a role in the play (the school encourages its students to explore non-medical interests). “My first impression was that he was quite stern.”

Mr. Hart thought he and Dr. Thompson connected at the cast party after the final performance of the show, in late March, but an effort to ask her out — to Shakespeare this time, and another tragedy — yielded nothing.

“What do you think of ‘King Lear’?” he said he asked her. “She replied ‘A bit of pathos, a bit of ethos. Why do you ask?’”

He concluded that she was probably seeing someone else and didn’t follow up.

Months later, Dr. Thompson was scrolling through Bumble, the dating app, when a familiar face appeared.

  • Dig deeper into the moment.

She had a quick little conversation with herself (“I know this one is good-looking and I know he’s not going to murder me, so what the heck!”) and sent him a message that said, “What’s a nice boy like you doing on an app like this?”

A first date, in October 2018 involving tapas followed by pingpong, shortly ensued.

For her, the event was unique.

“He didn’t back down from a challenge,” she said. “On a first date with a girl who was contradicting them as stridently as I was — compulsively — a lot of people would be cowed or at the very least turned off by that. He actually was enjoying it.”

Mr. Hart said that on that initial date, he understood only every other word or so that Dr. Thompson, who grew up in Oxford, England, said. She is the daughter of Jane Blumberg and Mark Thompson of New York. (Mr. Thompson is a former chief executive of The New York Times Company.) Mr. Hart is from El Cajon, Calif., just outside San Diego, where his parents, Kari and David Hart, still live.

Nonetheless, at the conclusion of the evening, he thought he had nothing to lose.

“I left not being sure if it went well or not, so I might as well ask her out for a second date,” he said.

On that next date, at a comedy club, their collegial relationship took a romantic turn.

“It was definitely a big spark,” Mr. Hart said, who noted that they shared their first kiss on the stairway of the Canal Street subway station after the show. “We both realized we had the same sense of humor, and for me, that was a big turning point,” he said. “She’s someone quite special. The same things made us laugh.” (He’s been known to offer his rendition of the bird of paradise’s eccentric courtship display until she’s “screaming,” she said, with laughter.

The two also share an appreciation for nature, which was especially important to her, as her family has a house on a lake in Rangely, Maine, that is dear to her. The first time she brought him there, she was thrilled that he was out in the woods first thing in the morning, cutting dead trees, bird-watching and making lap lanes to swim in the lake. He was similarly impressed with her willingness to abandon city’s comforts to throw herself into the wilderness.

“We got on so well, we couldn’t stop hanging out,” Dr. Thompson said. A Harvard graduate, she is now a second-year resident in internal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He is a senior solutions consultant in Philadelphia for Clarivate, a regulatory and market intelligence company. He graduated from U.C.L.A., received a premedical post baccalaureate from Columbia and then a master’s degree in computational biology from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

“It’s this similarity, our intense curiosity in the world,” he said. “I hadn’t seen that in another person before.”

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts hair and makeup Bella Angel

A year ago, they were engaged, and on Oct. 23, the two were married at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Rabbi Helen Plotkin officiated, and 115 guests, who were all asked to be vaccinated, attended.

Both said that enduring the coronavirus pandemic together, and sheltering to the degree possible in her New York apartment, cemented their relationship.

“The thought of not living together again was horrible,” she said.

“That was a real catalyst,” Mr. Hart said. “You really learn a lot about another person, and I learned that Emilie really is not that hard to live with. I’d do it again.”

A correction was made on

Nov. 4, 2022

An earlier version of this article omitted part of the name of the couple’s wedding venue. They were married at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, not the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It also referred incorrectly to the bride’s experience doing rounds at Harlem Hospital during the pandemic. She worked at the hospital only during the first week of the pandemic, in March 2020, not the entire year.


Location: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Makeup: Bella Angel

Hair: Pileggi on the Square 

Planner: Diamonds & Details

Caterer: Constellation

 Officiant: Rabbi Helen Plotkin

Photographer: Justin Johnson 

Florist: Sebesta 

DJ: Bonita Sound

Strings: Marjorie Goldberg Music 

Rentals: Lilac & Lace       

Transportation: King’s Limo  

Hotel: Le Meridien 

Stationary: Chick Invites

Alcohol: Frank’s Wine Mart 

 Additional Vendors:




PAFA wedding

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