How comedy causes – and eases – my anguish

One stand-up's frank admission

The other day, while in conversation with my long-term partner, I made a flippant comment about how we all think about killing ourselves. 

‘What do you mean?"’ she asked. 

‘You know what I mean,’ I replied, like it was the most normal thing in the world. "When you have those days where everything is awful and you can’t find happiness in anything so you think about crashing your car or jumping off a bridge but you never actually do. It’s just there’s a weird peace, a finality, in knowing you could end it all if you really wanted to.’ 

She did not know what I mean.

I honestly thought everyone felt like this. I thought it was normal to feel the weight of the world slowly crushing you. I thought everybody was a numb, hollow shell on the inside and we all just faked feelings because life is easier that way. I’ve noticed I’m naturally less sociable than my other friends but I always put that down to being more in tune to what an insufferable cunt everyone else is. 

There’s plenty of evidence suggesting a link between comedy and mental illness. All I know is I didn’t feel like this before I started stand-up. Who’s to know whether I’d have ended up feeling like this regardless.

I worry immensely about what others think of me as an act, but oddly not so much as a person. There are one or two people who I know like me as a person, but I think don’t respect me as an act, and that’s difficult because it leaves me feeling like I have something to prove to people who don’t know how desperately I want them to listen.

The worst part is that I don’t see the good in anyone anymore. I can’t enjoy other people’s success. I hear someone has been signed by a big agent, all I can think about is how they’ll get opportunities I won’t. I hear somebody’s on TV, I just see another reason for promoters to book them and not me. I read someone’s good review, I can only think about how I feel overlooked by others.

I think about quitting constantly, but I can’t because I’m financially dependent on comedy and, more importantly, the time I spend on stage is the only time when all of this melts away. It’s my sole respite from all the problems it causes. 

Recently acts who I think are good have found themselves with emptier diaries, and I’ve started to worry that one day this might happen to me, which would bring about more anxieties and less abatement. Comedy takes so much from me, but it’s one of the only things that makes me truly happy.

I don’t know how many people feel the same way, though it’d be comforting to know. Everyone deals with it differently, I suppose. A lot of people just shut it out, like I do. Some people can’t do that and their neuroses manifests in darker forms. They might needlessly wage war with people and comedy clubs online, feeling as though they are exposing some deep comedy truths. They might even set up their own awards ceremony. Not mentioning any names. 

It might seem like unacceptable behaviour, but there’s a chance they’re struggling with all those thoughts and fears and pressures.

Just like I am. 

• The comedian who wrote this piece has asked to remain anonymous.

Published: 8 Sep 2016

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