Comedians are opening up about the personal toll comedy takes on their mental health

By Jodi Guglielmi
June 04, 2019 11:00 AM
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Being a comedian isn’t always full of fun and laughter.

In a new trailer for the upcoming documentary, It’s Not That Funny, a handful of comedians open up about struggling with mental health problems — and how they’ve used comedy as an attempt to mask their pain.

“All of us learn a skillset inherently as children that get us through childhood,” says Sarah Silverman. “100 percent of comedians become comedians because somewhere in their childhood they needed to be funny in order to survive.”

The documentary, from SoulPancake — a division of Participant Media — and Funny or Die, explores the personal cost the comedians pay for bringing others joy.

Sarah Silverman
| Credit: Michael Rowe/ Netflix

“I felt dead,” says Anna Akana. “The only thing that made me feel alive was trying to make people laugh.”

Rainn Wilson admits that he expresses his pain through the characters he portrays on screen.

“Here I am, this really ungainly, insecure kid, feeling generally unloved and unloveable through most of my life,” he says. You see some of that Rainn Wilson trauma in the character of Dwight [Schrute on The Office].”

The Office
| Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Despite any pain the performers may be feeling, Wayne Brady says most comedians have been taught to keep quiet about their struggles.

“If I complain, strike me down!” he says.

But laughter isn’t always the best medicine.

“Comedy is not going to save you,” says Chris Gethard. “And if you are thinking about doing comedy as a substitute for therapy, it doesn’t work, I tried.”

It’s Not That Funny will premiere on the SoulPancakeYouTube channel later this year.