Does Comedy Make Comedians Crazy? Or Is It Their Therapy?

Being a stand-up comedian is one of the hardest
jobs in the entertainment industry, if not the hardest job in the entertainment industry.
And it takes a special skill and a special talent to be able to do that, to be up there
onstage, just you and a microphone and a stool, and be able to be so open and vulnerable. You know, you hear stories. Comedians are more depressed. They have more substance abuse.
They have more this, more that. And, you know, they’re just a really, really troubled population.
And I, I don’t necessarily think they’re more troubled than anybody else. The lifestyle
of a stand-up comedian breeds the depression. Or can exacerbate something that’s pre-existing,
like the bipolar disorder, or substance abuse. Because what happens is that they are out
on the road, and they are by themselves, and they’re traveling sometimes to these areas
that aren’t very popular and aren’t very pretty and working in these dark, dank clubs
and then going back to a dark, dank hotel room. And it gets very, very lonely. They
don’t have their support system. They don’t have much of anything there. They’re by
themselves. So when you’re bored, you’re gonna find something to entertain yourself
with, like alcohol or drugs. And that’s that’s when the problems start to persist,
and then it, it goes on and on and on from there until they get treatment. Comedians do see comedy as a sort of self-treatment.
A lot of times they think of it as their therapy. The problem is, is that being onstage and
performing and doing your stand-up it’s not therapy. It is definitely therapeutic,
but it is not therapy. There is that thought that if you are successful, if you make more
money, if you are admired, if you’re recognized out on the street, that all your problems
are gonna go away. That is not true, and again, as we saw with Robin Williams, his problems
did not go away. Your problems just become different. They become different levels of
stress, different levels of depression. And it’s, across the board, if you don’t deal
with your mental health it’s not gonna go away. There is a stigma across the board still
with mental health. We think that that we can’t solve our own problems and if we go
seek help by talking to a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, any other mental health worker,
that there is a problem with us, that, that we’re crazy or something like that. So comedians
I think will and can be a useful resource in terms of teaching the world about mental
health issues. When you come out publicly, um, and deal with, um, any sort of issue on,
um, a certain level and talk about it as if it is just something that is not stigmatized,
then we won’t look at it as something that is bad or evil or that we’re actually ill.
I think what we need to start doing is really looking at mental health as any other medical
condition that we all experience. You know, we have a pain in our knee, a pain in our
back, we have diabetes, we have a heart condition, we go to a doctor, take medication, eat right,
exercise, do what we need to do, follow through with that. And we start getting better, hopefully.
Well, that’s the same thing with mental health.


  1. "It is definitely therapeutic, but it is not therapy."
    That's the most un-academic thing I've ever heard. I'm a comic myself, and they way you speak about us is very abrasive. Do some more research and try again.

  2. I think she is mixing correlations. I think its more people with issues seek comedy. Often you have to live a extrinsic lifestyle in order to joke about it.

  3. I call BS so she is ascribing comedians mental issues to solitude, what rubbish it might be a contributor but it would be a small one. Oh no the poor comedians, they have to go to dark clubs and hotels. There are people that have it a lot worse and they're not as susceptible to mental issues. If you don't know something just say, we are yet to understand why it is this way. Don't assert rubbish.

  4. I heard joke once. Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Life seems harsh, and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world. Doctor says: "Treatment is simple. The great clown – Pagliacci is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. "But Doctor…" he says "I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains

  5. wtf?
    right! if you are bored you start to abuse drugs
    and yeah, comedians are always on their own in dark areas xD
    I think this Dr. Ildiko is ill and speaking here is her therapie

  6. Meh, environment of a touring standup plays a role and obviously doesn't help. But to call that the major attributing factor would be incorrect.

  7. I don't think she is qualified to answer this question in the way she did. Some numbers would really help her hypothesis. I can't accept this as important or true information because the idea is so clearly contested by anybody who likes being a comic. Controversial claims require evidence.

  8. I heard Armand DiMele say a performer in a manic state can hold our attention. If they were in a normal state they would have a flat energy. It's the high energy of the manic state that holds our attention. We want that energy. It's al about the energy.

  9. Heres a joke:
    Boy: calls 911 Hello? I need your help!
    911: Alright, What is it?
    Boy: Two girls are fighting over me!
    911: So what's your emergency?
    Boy: The ugly one is winning.

  10. The good doctor seems to be justifying her JOB. Mental illness affects comedians at the same rate that it affects everyone else.

  11. Every time it's a woman in the video, there a comments like "Shoot her" and even crazier stuff. Seriously what the fuck is wrong with people?

  12. It's fascinating how the only thing I retain from what she said is that the creaky voice is very popular in California.

  13. What is bad and evil about the stigma is you charging ridiculous amounts of money for deliberately stalling the improvement so the client keeps paying you. You do really have to be crazy to pay that amount of money for someone who will try their best to make you come back and pay more for as long as possible.

  14. I'm very disappointed in this video, Big Think. First, bipolar is not "crazy." The word is very negative when used like that and those people already carry enough negativity around with them. Please try to step out of the 1950s. You'll notice that she never used the word, so why did you put it in the titles?
    Second, there are a few wide generalizations being made here about comedians, and they're being made as if they're exclusive or more prominent for comedians. "A lot of times" is a red flag phrase signalling "here is some personal opinion I'm going to try to pass off as statistics." (You'll see it most often in political arguments here and on Facebook.) This is disappointing to hear coming from someone claiming to be an expert.

  15. I find acting as a form of therapy for me, being on the stage allows some form of release, and silliness. And with the troop, we just feel like one big family, even if we are not in tune with each others personalities there is still a sense closeness.

  16. I disagree, I've never been on stage but I've been told I grasp the crowds attention, with my personality/joking. I believe "us" that use comedy, will use jokes or something funny to mask the real issues in our life; blind our own thoughts from from pain. I battled depression but didn't realize it until my doctor pointed it out. I believe "us" with comedic mind sets find something funny out of pain, only to mask our true feelings. probably, being on the road makes it worse, as she stated. Depression is no joke and I can't believe how depressed I was until I came out of the "dark hole", known as depression.

  17. What about musicians or actors? Musicians go to to dark clubs. I don't think entertaining a dark house or club frequently for a person iOS is going to cause depression.

    Many comics experienced depression prior to performing, and recognized how comedy was an answer all along.

    what a sad sad joke that she thinks comedians develop depression from performing. Granted, the comics lifestyle of travel leaves him little support, but it's not because of it.

  18. Well the idea of comedy is turning dark and morbid things into comedy. considering I have quite a few mental illnesses and I'm sure I have more. I just need to look at my father cabinet filled with medications, not my sob story considering I don't have shit to sob about my life is shit, not chemicals and water. I am what people consider funny, I joke about shit people wouldn't dare say aloud, and I just don't care because it makes me forget. It's as the woman stated "therapeutic, but definitely not therapy."

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