Stand-up comedy show brings humour to mental illness
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Six stand-up comedians took to the stage of the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre last Friday evening to show the audience that yes, you can laugh at depression.
The free comedy show was put on by the organization Stand Up for Mental Health, founded by comic, counselor, and author David Granirer. Through his organization, Granirer trains people with mental health issues to create and perform stand-up comedy in order to combat the stigma and prejudice surrounding mental illness.
Mental health is clearly a topic that matters deeply to students at Douglas—and to everyone in society—but is far too often misunderstood or brushed aside.
“It’s not a subject you see very often mixed in [with comedy], but it’s something that is important,” said Carter Grenier, one student who attended Friday’s show, and spoke with the Other Press before the event.
Joanna Teng, also a student, said she hopes events like this help to destigmatize the subject of mental health, “so we can create better awareness and have it part of our everyday conversations as something that’s not as taboo.”
At Friday’s show, Granirer and five comics trained by him through Stand Up for Mental Health performed routines based on their own experiences with mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia. The comics shared deeply personal and hilarious stories and quips about the side effects of medication, talking to strangers about their mental illness, the effects of mental illness on physical abilities and libido, self-medicating with drugs, and other anecdotes.
An attentive audience listened, laughed, and sympathized as the performers shared painfully honest glimpses into what it’s like dealing with mental health issues. The jokes were self-aware and tastefully self-deprecating, but also balanced humour with a sobering cognizance about the reality of these issues that plague so many people on a daily basis.
“I think comedy can also just be a great coping mechanism for any subject,” said student Siobhan Bostock to the Other Press before the show, a sentiment the performers seemed to agree with.
Jari Wilkman, one of the comics, told the Other Press that doing stand-up comedy does help him deal with some of the challenges. In addition to the reward of hearing an audience’s laughter at his original material, he’s also able to use the experience of performing in front of a crowd as motivation. “It helps me in my day to day, just sort of, ‘Well, I’ve done this, so obviously I can go to the store and go get groceries,’” he said. “Sometimes that’s enough to get me out of the house.”
Granirer said to the Other Press that he hopes the audience is inspired by seeing ordinary people who are not professional comics—especially ordinary people who have struggled with mental health issues—take the stage and share their experiences so frankly.
However, as the main takeaway from the evening, he said, “I hope it personalizes all those labels, and [audiences] have to see the people behind those labels.” Through these shows, he wants others to recognize that, for example, people with schizophrenia shouldn’t be seen as crazy, potentially dangerous criminals—that they can be likeable, relatable, and hilarious.
“We don’t have anything to be ashamed of here,” said Juno Mac, another comic who performed at Friday’s show.
To find out more about the fantastic and hilarious work of Stand Up for Mental Health, and to watch videos of some of their refreshingly candid comedy acts, check out their website: http://standupformentalhealth.com.