When it comes to struggles with depression, everyone’s story is different. But a lot of the time, the stories can be pretty similar. In this episode, we point out some common themes that seem to rise up in a whole lot of conversations with comedians. Join us for a journey through feeling awful and trying some things to feel better with Michael Ian Black, Aparna Nancherla, Mike Drucker, Jordan Carlos, Jenny Jaffe, Jake Weisman, Sara Benincasa, and Bill Corbett.
It’s not exactly normal for a 5-year-old kid to listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” over and over and over, but Andy Richter didn’t know that. It felt natural to him. The actor and longtime comedic accompanist to Conan O’Brien relates his childhood in Illinois, the impact of divorce on his nascent depression, and how he plugged away at finding both an effective treatment and who he really was. Also, are ALL people who go into comedy at least a little twisted? Here Andy’s answer.
Just about everyone who mattered in the ’60s and ’70s hung out with Dick Cavett. His talk shows were hilarious, candid, and culturally vital. They were snarky before David Letterman ever hit the air, and sharp before Jon Stewart showed up on anyone’s TV. Along the way, he managed to infuriate Richard Nixon such that the President plotted attacks against him, which is when you know you’ve really arrived. On this episode, Dick talks about his own struggles with depression as well as the struggles of people he knew, including Judy Garland, Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, and Groucho Marx.
It was an otherwise ordinary morning in May when Sam decided it was the right time to die. In some ways it was a surprising decision. He had managed to kick most of the substance abuse problems that he had wrestled with for years. Oxy, ecstasy, crack, heroin, and booze were no longer part of his life. Depression was still there, though, and so was a lot of frustration about his comedy career and personal life. So he went for it and swallowed more pills than he would ever need to kill himself. Then something else happened.
For some people, treating depression is a matter of going to a doctor or therapist, maybe getting some meds, and then feeling better. For comedian and actress Maria Bamford, the path to doing better was way longer and more complicated. She shares her experiences with depression, OCD, hypomania, and persistent, unwanted disturbing thoughts, as well as bad therapy, ineffective in-patient treatment, and breakdowns. A diagnosis of Bipolar II, which covered a lot of what was wrong with her, and some Googling helped put her on track to become the healthier person she is today.
The longtime host of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me has battled depression for much of his life but has never gone public with that struggle until now. Sagal recently went through what was for him a very painful and very messy divorce. He shares how he’s been able to move on and host a weekly comedy program even as his life was falling apart. Some of the methods: keeping very busy and listening to Amy Poehler. We also hear from Peter Sagal’s friend, the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, on what helps and hurts a depressed person’s brain in times of crisis.
A sneak preview of some of the voices you’ll hear on the upcoming season of The Hilarious World of Depression. Host John Moe talks to some of the top names in comedy who share candid conversation about their experience with depression and have a few laughs along the way.