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Hes guested on Broad City and starred with Amy Schumer and the comic has also struggled with depression, now material for his brutally raw standup show, which hes about to take to Edinburgh

Im late to meet the comic, actor and talkshow host Chris Gethard at a cafe on the east side of Manhattans midtown. Its not my fault, I swear; the subway is having one of those mornings in which its status-alert website might as well redirect to Uber rather than offering updates on every single snarled line.

I text Gethard from underground, where Ive been stalled for 10 minutes. He replies No sweat! adding that he experienced the same difficulty, heading into the borough from Queens. When I finally get to street level, theres another text waiting for me. (Its counsel: No stress.) And when I finally meet him at the back of our appointed meeting place, he asks if Im OK.

Its not like I was expecting to meet one of the anxiety-addled characters the actor plays on Broad City (in which he portrays Ilanas long-suffering boss) or in various sketches from Inside Amy Schumer. Though the calm forthrightness of his concern is striking all the same. And when we start talking about his upcoming month-long stand at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, its clear that the comedians empathetic streak is being engaged by his new show, which is being billed as an hour of stand-up comedy that focuses on suicide, depression, alcoholism and all the other funniest parts of life.

Gethards past comedy hasnt exactly shied away from issues related to drug addiction or depression. His 2014 record, My Comedy Album, includes a narrative about a bad ecstasy trip (and a subsequent series of bad decisions) undertaken at the Bonnaroo music festival. Though he promises that the new show cuts deeper on the same topics.

I spoke a little bit about some of these issues in my work and would definitely kind of flirt with going there, he says. Id make some jokes and use some of my issues as a launchpad But a couple years ago, I was doing a ton of work with Mike Birbiglia; we would go out on the road a lot together. And when youre on the road, youre just driving around for hours and you wind up telling stories, and he started asking me: So what was that stuff like for real? I would tell him some stories that I thought were really brutal. And hes like: You have to tell that on stage, thats hilarious. And Id say: Mike thats about a time I crashed a car on purpose. I dont think a comedy crowd wants to hear it.

Still, the seed was planted. After testing out some of this rawer material in friendly rooms, Gethard realized that there was some merit to his colleagues advice. People started responding almost immediately. And it was a real adrenaline rush; it was terrifying to go on stage and talk about some of this stuff. And I would say the first 20 times I told some of these stories, I would get off stage and just be shaking. Feeling like: I cant do that again its too much. I just felt very exposed. But it wound up building out into this hour.

He was surprised to find fans sticking around after his sets, eager to talk about the material. It always means a lot to me when people open up, he says. Thats very nice. But he wanted to make sure the work wasnt just a public service announcement for mental health issues.

I always keep my ears open. Theres a lot of times where people go, It was really funny, but it also made me think about this ex-boyfriend I had who suffered from this stuff That was always my indicator. As long as they were saying its really funny but that means its really funny and also it had this other impact. And I like having that other impact. A lot of my favorite comedy does have a little bit more of an emotional reach than just the laughs.

But if the laughs dont come first, then I think its just cheap. Like theres a phrase in comedy called clapter. And I think a lot of comedians hate clapter, which is this idea that you just say a thing that you know everyone in the room is going to agree with, so theyll start clapping. A lot of political comedy falls into that. Like, yeah: if you slam Trump in front of a New York City crowd, theyre all gonna start cheering. But you knew that, and thats not the most challenging thing for you as an artist. This [set] has the potential to descend into that. I worked hard to avoid that tooth and nail.

He cites other comics like Maria Bamford (who has appeared on Gethards talkshow, which is broadcast on Fusions cable network) and Marc Maron for their work in popularizing frank-but-funny comedic approaches to mental health issues. I feel very proud to maybe be a part of this trend or this momentum thats building. Because I feel its fair to say that comedy has been a thing, over and over again, that deals with a lot of taboo stuff. Comedys the first art form to get to some stuff. Because laughter feels good and laughters involuntary.

Im very proud that this show has helped people feel a little less shame and that started with me personally. I realized that all that fear does relate to shame and I didnt think that I had that any more. But this show taught me that I did, and it kind of taught me how to maybe wrangle that fear and wrangle that shame a little bit and turn it into something a little more positive and little more productive.

Gethard cant guarantee that every single joke will translate in Edinburgh, but hes eager to find out which ones fail, so that he can strip them out. One of the goals as a comedian is to try to make sure my jokes are universal. I love being part of the Brooklyn comedy scene but I have a joke in the show about Malcolm Gladwell. That plays really well in Park Slope. But I dont know if Malcolm Gladwell is a universal figure. I will quickly find out with the Scottish crowds! And from what I hear Ive never performed in the UK I hear that the crowds have no problem letting you know if you miss. I hear that they enjoy conversing, and I look forward to that I cant let it be written off as thats just something for Americans. Or thats just for New Yorkers.

I dont know what the opinion of mental health issues is, outside of the US. But I can speak to the US: it seems like its still very much like, Dont let people know if youre crazy. Youll get judged. Its still very stigmatized. Going on antidepressants is still viewed as this weird weakness; so many people I know who go on antidepressants make it goal to get off them. And then it becomes a point of pride. So theres still this very weird view of mental health issues in America, where its shameful to suffer.

The 36-year-old reports feeling more on top of his depression issues now than at any other point in his adult life, a happy reality he attributes more to facing some demons in the course of developing this show than any of the more external markers of his success on television. I think I have started to meet with a little more mainstream success, he admits. And that feels really good. Ive been doing comedy for 16 years; it feels good to be gaining a little bit of a foothold and not just being a totally underground guy in New York.

But he also cites an earlier time when it might have seemed he was riding high, in 2010, when starring on a sitcom. (This show called Big Lake on Comedy Central. It bombed hard, you can look it up.) Of that time, he still recalls losing my mind and going home and crying. [After that] I sort of stopped chasing success To me success and happiness arent necessarily the same thing. And for a lot of people I think that is a very American attitude success means victory.

When things like Broad City happen or when I get a couple episodes where I get to be on the American Office then I almost feel like my job is to find something thats not palatable and fight for that. What can I do to make my life harder? How do I enjoy being on Amy Schumers show and enjoy the fact that that gets me some credibility and opens some doors while also challenging myself to never get too content?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jul/30/chris-gethard-depression-standup-comedy