Mental Illness is nothing to joke about. Unlike physical illness, mental illness comes with a huge social stigma. When most people think ‘mentally ill’ their mind conjures images of Norman Bates. So many people who have mental illnesses don’t feel safe and comfortable seeking medical help. Even if you do feel comfortable with therapy, there’s no guarantee that you will even be able to cover the costs. It is medicine after all! (Hahaha… ok I’ll see my self out)
So it’s not uncommon for someone to hide that they have a mental illness. Once you know they have one, they know that you will never look at them the same again. Even if only slightly, you’ll try to justify or explain things that they do or say with mental illness. Nobody wants that, not even from a friend. It will cast a shadow on every interaction you’ve ever had with them, (“He was depressed the ENTIRE TIME?”) and every interaction you ever will have. So it’s not surprising that depressed people try to cover their issues with humor. What is surprising is why they succeed.
“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.” — Alan Moore. Humor isn’t just saying ridiculous things for a reaction, it’s poking fun at the irrational practices we all pretend are normal. Who knows that better than those who suffer from depression?
- Bo Burnham
Well known for his comedy specials What and Make Happy, Bo Burnham has received royalties and critical acclaim for his Netflix specials. In an article in the Independent he said, “’My Whole Family Thinks I’m Gay’ [came from] my deepest, darkest thoughts. For a kid, your parents thinking that you’re gay can be traumatic." Bo has said similar things about a lot of his other songs, claiming that they were inspired by some of the darkest corners of his mind.
2. Louis CK
“Life is tremendously sad just by being in it.”- Louis CK. The comedian has mentioned many times that he has been sad before but what separates depression from sadness is that depression is an overall lack of feeling. On Conan, Louis warned viewers to avoid the feeling of being “forever empty”. H advises to do this by allowing yourself to feel sad.
3. Ellen Degeneres
Ellen, of Ellen fame, came out of the closet in 1997 and received quite a lot of backlash from it. After this, she fell into a state of “Anger and Depression” because of how she was treated so poorly by people she had called friends “…for no other reason than I was gay…” Even though she had her talk show canceled after her coming out it is, as of now, back on the air. So Ellen won i the long run.
4. Patton Oswald
Patton Oswald, well known for his comedic roles on film and for his intimately relatable stand-up, also suffers from depression. After the surprise death of his wife, Oswald was in a state of grief for 102 days straight. But he clarified the difference between Depression and Grief in a Facebook post on the subject, ‘Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick,’.
5. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey is a little bit different from the other comedians on this list because he has flat-out credited acting and comedy as his saving grace. He is of the firm belief that having a purpose in life can help negate the emotional numbness of depression.
6. Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman is best known for her comedies. Even though we all laughed at Bob’s Burgers or A Million Ways to Die in the Old West, many of us don’t know about her upcoming project I Smile Back. I Smile Back is a film about depression based on Sarah Silverman’s own experiences that she has had since childhood.
7. Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson is well know for his roles in “Wedding Crashers,” “Zoolander,” “Drillbit Taylor” and almost every good Wes Anderson movie. What a lot of people don’t know, or choose to forget, that Owen Wilson attempted suicide in 2007. Had he succeeded, the world would be a darker place without him, and we would be robbed of his roles in The Fantastic Mister Fox, Cars 2 and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Think about that for a moment. Imagine the alternate universe where Lightening McQueen abruptly changed voices with no real reason. Imagine a world where two great Wes Anderson movies went by without Owen in them.
Now realize that this could have happened with anyone on this list. We could have been without the works of all of these artists if they had just chosen not to go on. If you are depressed right now or if you think that you might not be able to go on, please seek help. Depression isn’t a joke.