Thursday, August 26, 2010

But I’m crying on the inside. Thursday, August 26, 2010.

“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” –Woody Allen

Woody Allen, man of much angst and many phobias, has put his experiences with psychotherapy out there for all the world to see. But Allen is just one of so many funny people who fight clinical depression or bipolar.

Drew Carey attempted suicide by overdose when he was in his 20s. Hugh Laurie, of “House,” suffers from clinical depression and is as morose as his character. Jim Carrey has bipolar (maybe not too surprising!). So do Jonathon Winters, Ben Stiller, and Robin Williams.

Rodney Dangerfield was diagnosed with clinical depression late in life, but believes it started in his unhappy childhood. Owen Wilson, who was in the hilarious dark comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” attempted suicide not long after the film won accolades. (Interestingly, the movie begins with one of the characters attempting suicide.)

Rosanne Barr has been open about her depression. John Belushi and Chris Farley likely self-medicated their depression with drugs and alcohol, which resulted in their deaths. Richard Pryor was abandoned by his prostitute mother, sexually molested on several occasions, and almost burned himself to death in the early 80s by freebasing cocaine. Freddie Prinze suffered from depression for many years, and shot himself to death after his wife left him.

How is it that these people can make us laugh, but be so desperately sad inside? In fact, it’s hard to find a comedian (with the exception of Jerry Seinfeld) that doesn’t have a background of depression, bipolar, anxiety, phobias, or addition to alcohol or other drugs.

It does seem that people with mood disorders are drawn to the creative arts, including (and maybe especially) comedy. Perhaps many of them had difficult childhoods and needed to make others happy in order to be accepted or escape abuse. Many of them were their “class clowns,” and a person who is constantly trying to make people laugh is constantly seeking approval.

Fifteen years ago I won an award from my state’s Newspaper Association for Best Humor Column. Although I was far from suicidal at the time, I was still dealing with bipolar, and had recently been hospitalized. I wrote about life’s average frustrations in an ironic voice, and people loved it. I was recognized on the street, and people wrote letters to the editor about how much they liked my column. And it felt good. Really good.

If you can’t smile on the inside, make ‘em laugh on the outside. And if they pay you, so much the better.


  1. I am a psychotherapist, and, at one time a stand-up comedian ! The ghostwriter for Joan Rivers wanted me to also be one of a her ghostwriters, and gave me her card. She said I was "naturally" funny. And, I am. But I am also "naturally" depressed a lot of the time.
    I too have run an international, ( and first), support group for people with agoraphobia, and other paralyzing phobias. I was on many Talk shows and in the New York Times for my unique support group. As a therapist, now, I work with people who suffer from depression and anxiety.
    Your writing about comedians completely resonated with me ! Thank you so much ! And, as Woody Allen said,"Ninety-eight per cent of life, is just showing up !" Love it ! xoxo