You may believe that comedians are happy all of the time in that they are always cracking jokes and making people laugh. The truth is that a lot of comedians use comedy as a tool to mask their depression. Comedian Gary Gulman used his HBO comedy special “The Great Depresh” as a way to teach others about his depression and how his humor helped him get through it.

Early Signs of Gulman’s Depression

Gulman had been in the emergency room twice for feeling symptoms of depression and was hospitalized for it in spring 2017. When his psychiatrist recommended in-patient care and asked if he was suicidal, he lied that he was fine so that he could go on tour to perform standup as he felt it was his only chance to make money. Gulman would speak about his depression on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” where he says he would sleep until noon and eat ice cream with a fork. He felt comfortable sharing that since he never mentioned the word “depression” in it.

Giving Up Standup

After being released from the hospital, Gulman gave up on comedy and worked as a camp counselor for adolescents on the autism spectrum and severe anxiety to prepare him to go back to school to be a teacher. While at the camp, Gulman started writing down funny notes. In October, his confidence came back about returning to standup. He realized that he was giving up on something that he enjoyed which is one symptom of depression.

Return to Standup

Gulman had difficulty returning to comedy. In one show, he had a mild meltdown. In another, he bit his lip and made a pained face as well as severe tremors. But, Gulman never let his audience know about his condition as he never wanted pity from the audience. It was not until late 2017 that Gulman had the courage to address his addiction in his comedy act with acclaim from the audience.

Gulman’s Comedy Special

In early 2018, Gulman gave his manager an audio recording of his recent show and told him he wants to tell more funny and interesting jokes revolving around depression. Audiences felt it was therapeutic to listen to. That was when HBO’s “The Great Depresh” special was born. Gulman broke the stigma in dedicating a whole comedy special to depression and recovering the comedic skills he thought he lost. 

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