Mental illness and comedy often go together. The clown who’s crying on the inside may be a cliché, but it got that way because so many comedians struggle with depression. Maybe the impulse to get up on a stage and try and make a roomful of strangers laugh is a form of mental illness, and even if it’s not the time spent on the road and the frustration of dying and the euphoria of killing has got to take its mental toll.
It’s not something most comedians talk about, which is surprising. There’s a strong stigma around mental illness, but most comedy comes from talking about what’s taboo, or at least what makes people uncomfortable. I’ve heard several times that the best way to get a comedian to talk about something is to tell them not to talk about it.
Maybe that’s why Maria Bamford talks so openly—and often hilariously—about her battles with obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. She’s helped make mental illness less scary, although in her acts she covers a wide range of topics because her problems are only a part of who she is.
Happy birthday Maria Bamford. Keep taking care of the pugs.