Being funny does not equate to being happy. Trevor Noah put depression back in the spotlight when he accepted an award at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal on Friday, July 28. Picking up the Comedy Person of the Year award, Noah took the time to say thank you to Jim Carrey, who was also present at the festival. The host of The Daily Show said that it wasn’t until he read Jim Carrey’s story that he realized that he was suffering from depression. Up until that point, Noah thought nothing of the fact that at times he would sleep for weeks at a time, and it was thanks to Carrey’s honesty about his mental health that he found a way to conquer his own demons.
“You can’t win at comedy. Every comedian knows, you’re going to have your good days, you’re going to have your bad days, but you don’t win.”
Trevor Noah goes on to speak about the beast of “suicide” and how many comedians face the same demon of depression.
“Winning is getting to the end without committing suicide, and Jim Carrey was one of the first comedians that described the beast that many of us face in this room and that’s depression.”
“I didn’t know what that thing was. I just thought I liked sleeping for weeks on end sometimes, and then I read [Carrey’s] story and I was like, ‘Oh s–t, that’s what’s going on,’ and I thank you because, you know, I found a way to fight it. I found a way to build a community and that’s what this place is, it’s a community of people trying to do something.”
Jim Carrey first opened up about his battle with depression in an interview with CBS in 2004. He was on Prozac for a long time but needed to get off it because it left him with a “low level of despair,” according to CBS News. This made a huge impact on Noah. Trevor Noah, who is just 33-years-old, first spoke about his journey with depression on the Daily Show in March 2016. In an interview with comedian, Neal Brennan, who is well-known to suffer from major depression, Noah speaks about the perception that society has about comedians on his Comedy Central show.
“You know what’s funny about [depression], though, is people go, ‘If you’re depressed, you can’t smile, if you’re depressed you can’t tell jokes,’ but as comedians that’s like the one thing most comedians share is that monkey on the back of depression,”
The Link Between Comedians And Mental Health Disorders
A study in Great Britain found that comedians are more likely to struggle with mental health issues. The British Journal of Psychiatry published an article in 2014 that proved the hypothesis that comedians show a “higher level of psychotic characteristics related to both schizophrenia and manic depression.” The researchers said there was a widespread belief that there is a link between creativity and madness. In particular, there is a connection between people with bipolar and comedy as those with bipolar disorder mimic the same ability a comedian has to combine “ideas or categories of thought to form new and original connections.”
The researchers found that comedians were, in particular, more susceptible to being unsociable, suffer from depression, and exhibit the extrovert manic-like traits. Yet, the study also found that stand-up comedians were also more introverted than actors or other stage performers.
The suicide of Robin Williams made the world sit up and take notice of the fact that many comedians live and work with long-term depression. John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Greg Giraldo all suffered from depression and all died of drug overdoses. Richard Jeni also committed suicide, and yet many people still fail to see the link between comedy and tragedy.
Clinical psychologist, Deborah Serani, says that “Comedy can often be a defensive posture against depression” and that humor is a “counter phobic” response to their battle with depression.
Jim Carrey received a Generation Award at the Just For Laughs Awards in Montreal this year.
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