Comedians: Smiling in Front of a Crowd (Part 1)

Comedians can fill a room with their humor and bright personalities. They are perceived as extroverts with sociable dispositions and riveting storytelling tactics that capture an audience’s attention. Yet, a majority of comedians are masking their own agony with humor. Jamie Masada, owner of The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, CA hired an in-house psychologist to assist comedians.

Sarah Silverman and Ellen DeGeneres Battle Depression

Sarah Silverman, Ellen DeGeneres, Wayne Brady, and Jim Carrey are all award-winning comedians, hosts, and actors. Their quick-wit and comedic timing entertain audiences all over the world. However, underneath their monologues is real-life satire.  

Darkness can’t exist in the light.

Sarah Silverman, actress and comedian, recalls dealing with depression since her teen years. She told Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross, “The depression I experienced [felt] like a chemical change… “It was like my perspective of the world changed about three degrees, and everything I saw was different.” Prior to this experience, Silverman recalls being an outgoing teenager –usually the class clown– in her school.

In 2016, Silverman’s own life was parallel to her role in “I Smile Back,” a mother who suffered from depression. Silverman is known for parodies on real life topics. Nonetheless, this role wasn’t simply acting for Silverman as she has dealt with similar issues first hand.

Silverman includes her own experiences in her monologues such as discussing women’s issues, mental health, and her personal life commending her therapy sessions as inspiration. “And also, something I learned in therapy … which is darkness can’t exist in the light, and then that made me think of something that Mr. Rogers said, which is, “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.”

Another powerhouse, Ellen DeGeneres, Emmy award-winner talk show host, revealed earlier this year that she battled with depression as she managed the highs and lows of her career. Depression affects one in six people and one-third of women according to the American Psychiatric Association.

In an interview with Dax Shepard for his podcast Armchair Expert, Degeneres disclosed that upon revealing to the public that she was gay in the late ‘90s, she faced a harsh reality as she dealt with the public scrutiny. Although she felt liberated by her action, the public’s reaction altered her outlook and affected her greatly. However, her honesty also caused a rift in her career.

“Because of [people making fun of me] and because my show was canceled, I was looked at as a failure in this business. No one would touch me. I had no agent, no possibility of a job, I had nothing” as mentioned in Marie Claire.

DeGeneres was used to telling the jokes but after disclosing her sexual orientation, she became the butt of the joke. She recalls the torment she endured as fellow celebrities also poked fun at her. She had to rebuild her career at the same time she was ending a relationship with her then girlfriend, Anne Heche.

DeGeneres also battled with the responsibility that transpired from her revelation. She felt as though she was plunged into a leadership role as a representative of the LGBT community, but she did not believe she was adequate enough for the role.

After returning to stand up and slowly regaining momentum in her career, DeGeneres made a full comeback as Dory in Finding Nemo. In 2016, having come full circle, Degeneres was recognized with the Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama for her dedication to equality. Although an illustrious moment, DeGeneres recalls the hardships endured for disclosing her sexuality battling depression but overcoming it.

Part 2 of this article will explore more comedians’ struggles, including Jim Caryey and Wayne Brady!

To contact the writer, email Leslie Rivera at [email protected]