Comedians are already known to be self-deprecating, so imagine being in a room with comedians suffering from mental illness and addiction issues. There’s a load of shame, guilt and anxiety. In other words, just your average AA meeting—or as comedian Ed Crasnick later confessed “my Bar Mitzvah.”
On Tuesday, non-profit organization This is My Brave put on their first-ever variety show titled "The Resistance" at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. Hosted by comedian Mara Shapshay, who paid tribute to her late friend Carrie Fisher in her opening act, brought together a community of mental health sufferers and addiction survivors to raise awareness about mental illness and addiction in an effort to end stigma. Everyone in the lineup were comedians who struggled with mental health, addiction or both, and they all made sure to poke fun at themselves and the sad audience who share the same miserable sufferings.
A lot of the stories were about the early, blinking hours of surviving in early recovery. Comedian Lisa Sundstedt (Chelsea Lately) talked about being sober while having sex, “All these years I thought I was a big ‘ole whore, but turns out I’m shy.” She also explained the difference between the disorders Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 and then outing herself as “Number One, so...winning!” In his act, comedian Greg Baldwin talked about the process of updating his resume to apply to jobs after getting sober, and asking himself if adding “Graduated from the Hazelden Betty Ford Center—three times” would suffice for the Education section.
The best fun of the night was comedian ANT who came out swinging, or, pointing. With one hand propped up over his hip, he made fun of all the disorders in the room like he was playing Duck Duck Goose. “You, sex fiends; you, anorexic,” he rattled off. “You—are you two lesbians? Pretend lesbians.” When one audience member said it was her birthday, ANT tersely responded with, “Oh it’s your birthday? We don’t care.”
While ANT provided the levity with his diversions and saucy name-calling, headliner comic Greg Behrendt, who also co-authored the bestselling self-help book He’s Just Not That Into You, provided a more reflective and inward-pointing humor. Right from the beginning, he went on the stage and told the audience, “Being sober isn’t fun. How is that possible? Why would people say that? I don’t have fun being sober.” The audience erupts with laughter, but when he tells us point blank that “I’m just in a constant stte of not angry and not sad. I’m good—I’m not crying” there’s pause—still laughter—but a level of understanding.
Such moments of vulnerability were what stuck out at the show and made the stage different from any other comedy act. Sure, another comedian came on soon after, another joke was delivered, but what was said in honesty was exposed, leaned into and accepted.
Because at the end of the day there’s no other way to spin it—life is hard when you suffer from a mental illness or addiction. It requires a whole lot of brave to go on with the show. You, me, and the comic up there on stage all know it.
What does bravery look like in mental health or addiction recovery? Watch the video below to see how the comedians and celebrities on the red carpet answered this question.