Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Why the Funniest People Are Sometimes the Saddest"

After Robin Williams' death, I ended up being a lot more upset, in ways I couldn't imagine, about a celebrity I had never even met. Of course, when anyone commits suicide, it's an upsetting thing but there is something so deeply disheartening about it being a comedian.

Like I had mentioned in my "Finding the Funny" post, a good chunk of my time in New York was spent sitting at a long table in the back of Olive Tree Cafe with a bunch of comedians, in Greenwich Village, right above the Comedy Cellar. After being told myself from several comedians that I was "a dark and twisted person", I slowly realized that it wasn't just me. Several comedians have periodically joked with me that being a comedian is fucked up profession. You are literally on stage trying to make people laugh at you and I have learned that many comics are some of the deepest, darkest people I have ever met. (I am not trying overgeneralize all comedians. This is obviously through my own personal experience.) Everyone knows, and I have been told a million times myself, that humor and sarcasm are a psychological coping mechanism for depression, pain, trauma, etc.



If you take a look at Robin Williams' "rap sheet" (non professional resume), here's what you have: one failed marriage due to an affair Robin had (and was later sued by the woman he had the affair with for giving him herpes), second marriage failed to first son's nanny, third marriage to a graphic designer, major drug and alcohol abuse in the 70's and 80's, overweight and immensely shy kid until high school (read as: seriously bullied), complicated and terrifying relationship with his dad, fear of abandonment issues, plus his mom was a Christian Scientist (That alone is enough to screw you up). He's also made public quotes like these:

Such a sad quote for such a funny guy. 

I'm not saying what happened isn't heartbreaking, but I'm honestly not surprised. The next day (yesterday), several comedians (pretty much exclusively who I follow) started tweeting about depression and Jim Norton, a comic I have met on several occasions, wrote a beautiful article on TIME.com about depression in comics. (I made the title of this post his title in quotes for anyone that got confused.) Jim will be the first person to tell you he had struggled with depression and addiction and he also happens to be hilarious. In his article, he had mentioned "The funniest people I know seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that's probably why they're the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humor you need to dig yourself out of it." In his 25 years doing stand up, he has known eight comedians that have committed suicide.

Then Chris Rock tweeted/Facebooked this statement:


So then I looked into a little more and found out from Slate, that Laugh Factory, one of the biggest comedy clubs in LA, has an in house therapy program. Here's a quote from the article; "Two nights a week, comics meet with psychologists in a private office upstairs, discussing their problems while lying on a therapy couch formally owned by Groucho Marx. "Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy," explains Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada. "They didn't get enough love. They have to overcome their battles by making people laugh."'

My point in all this--just because people are hilarious, sweet and look put together, they may be fighting some serious demons inside. Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Depression and all mental illnesses are invisible illnesses and if you haven't ever been clinically depressed yourself or know someone going through it, it can be very hard to relate to someone who is. In my bouts of dealing with my weird, painful medical issues, I have even been diagnosed with depression. People who commit suicide are not cowards, (Shepard Smith, you should be fired and punched in the face.) they are people who truly feel like if they leave, the world would truly be a better place without them.



Even though it may be frustrating to be a supportive friend or family member, try to do what you can.


Just so everyone is aware, here is a list of symptoms of depression and warning signs of suicide (from WebMD).

Symptoms of Depression:
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism 
  • insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleep
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment 
  • persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings 
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Warning Signs of Suicide:
  • a sudden switch from being very sad to very calm or appearing to be happy
  • always talking or thinking about death
  • clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble eating and sleeping) that gets worse 
  • having a "death wish" tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
  • losing interest in things one used to care about 
  • making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless 
  • putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out." 
  • talking about suicide 
  • visiting or calling people one cares about 
These signs should be taken very seriously. Call 1-800-784-2433 for a suicide hotline, contact a mental health professional right away or go to the ER for immediate treatment.

To end, here is a quote Zelda Williams (Robin's daughter) posted after his death. Rest in peace, Robin Willams. We will always remember you as the sweet, generous and gentle soul that you are. Xx



2 comments:

  1. Very interesting quote.

    But I think that maybe some comedians will mis-diagnose themselves, especially if there is this prevalent "comedians are sad people" idea floating around.

    I suppose a better argument can be made that comedians are an angry people, not sad.

    Either way, it was a terrible loss.

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  2. Once you've touched all the lunch boxes (when you touch them they disappear), you must ride the moving girder to the top.suicide guy hack

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