Comedians around the world are also mourning the loss of one of their own. And that includes a unique group of comics who have more in common with Williams than their sense of humour. ‘Stand Up for Mental Health’ teaches people with mental illness to use stand up comedy as a type of therapy.
Robin Williams interview with Charlie Rose: “Therapy? Yeah. Literally. I mean to be able to talk about things that were, you know, whether things going on in my life, going on in the world, it was always kind of a great release.”
In a 2009 interview with Charlie Rose, Robin Williams spoke about how standing on stage telling jokes was a relief from his sometimes crippling depression.
To fans, Williams was a funny man. But in his private life, he battled substance abuse and mental illness: “I’m a reformed alcoholic.”
Channelling that struggle into humour allowed him to expose his darkness to an audience without the same fear of judgement that existed off stage.
“With all the great drugs out there, I would have to be an idiot to choose anti-depressants as my high”
David Granirer founded ‘Stand Up for Mental Health’ to accomplish the same goal: “All of a sudden, they get a totally different perspective on their life, and I think that’s part of what’s really empowering. They realize, Wow, so this stuff I’ve been through is just great material.”
The program now spans North America and teaches people with mental health issues to write stand up comedy about their depression and anxiety. Manny Demelo attended the course in Guelph and now performs with a standup group to reduce the stigma of mental illness: “One of the best things about it is being able to talk about these things. I normally wouldn’t tell people ‘Hey, I’m Bipolar’.”
Like it did for Williams, comedy allows Demelo to bare vulnerabilities he otherwise wouldn’t: “You just go, get it out there, try to make them laugh and in turn, their laughter actually kind of helps you out.”
As grateful as he is to have comedy in his life, he understands that sometimes, it isn’t enough: “The thing about depression is that even the things that make you the happiest don’t always work.”
Learn more about ‘Stand Up for Mental Health‘.