Comedians have proven to be some of the most intelligent, insightful, and influential figures in our society. From Mark Twain to Robin Williams, we have seen how the bright minds of the “class clowns” can change our lives for the better.
Sometimes we find ourselves cringing at comedians for their unapologetic jokes that unveil hard truths and venture into controversial territory. It is also hard to ignore that many of history’s greatest comedians have suffered from crippling mental health issues. The suicide of Robin Williams in 2014 shed a much needed spotlight offstage. This spotlight rained down on those afflicted with depression, mood disorders, and other mental health issues that can so easily be hidden away, even when you are on stage for everyone to see. Comedians who project a raw, humorous, and shameless act about the trials of life redefine what we see as comedy.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” -Robin Williams
Exploring mental health issues through the eyes and words of jokes can quickly turn into a new genre of the poetic-comic. Who would have thought one of the brightest and boldest speakers of our time to be an untamed, red-haired, profusely sweating, divorcee, dad named Louis C.K.? Instead of keeping the hot spotlight on himself, he tends to redirect it towards the narcissism, materialism, and stupidity of the audience we are actively a part of. And better yet, we love it. Hearing Louis’ patronizing voice imitating our daily “struggles” that seemed to coin the term “white-people problems” appears to be a necessary wake-up call. Louis C.K. has taught us 5 eye-opening tips about how to deal with mental health issues in the face of our society and how to live better in general (before we die alone).
1. We need to be uncomfortable.
“The worst thing happening to this generation is that they’re taking discomfort away from themselves.”
Louis expanded upon this train of thought on CONAN by describing phones as toxic. Louis describes how phones and technology are a distraction from necessary seclusion, sadness, and the final feelings of profound happiness. Experiencing discomfort is an essential part of life, because experiencing discomfort allows us to accept it and endure it.
2. We need to be alone.
“You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away.”
This is probably why my mom tells me to “get off that damn phone” about 20 times in a day. We are plugged in, we are in group chats, we are distantly liking photos, and scrolling unlimited feeds. Most significantly Louis recognizes that phones strip us of that sense of being solitary; the ability to be alone with ourselves.
3. We shouldn’t settle for meaningless interactions.
“That’s why we text and drive, I look around and pretty much 100% people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars, but people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own cause they don’t wanna be alone for a second.”
Our obsession with being connected can leave us utterly disconnected from the real world. It can leave us depressed, seeking online validation, and staying in toxic relationships. We will hold on to the slightest point of contact to constantly distract ourselves from the issues at our core. Building meaningful relationships with people we love matters more than tallying up likes on our pictures.
4. We need to allow ourselves to feel deeply.
“I started to get that sad feeling and I start reaching for my phone and I go, you know what, don’t, just be sad. Just let the sadness…stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck and I let it come and I just started to feel oh my god, and I pulled over and I just cried, like a bitch, I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic, you’re lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true profound happiness.”
Life is filled with trials and conquests and it is important that we don’t shut ourselves off from them. Often when we are hurt by other people or by life itself we want to disconnect and flip a switch on our emotions. Allowing ourselves to experience the sharp, the soft, the painful, and the loving feelings without shutting them down, also allow us to feel alive.
5. We shouldn’t die with a phone in our hand.
“We don’t want that first bit of sad we push it away with like a little phone. You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kind of satisfied with your products and then you die.”
Technology, phones, and all of our things in general are helpful. You wouldn’t be reading this if the internet wasn’t here to deliver it to you. These things can remain helpful without eclipsing what actually matters. Comedians can be our teachers so that we can laugh at ourselves and then question why their jokes resonate so well.
We’re doing something wrong. We aren’t making eye contact when our moms are trying to have a conversation, we aren’t being alone with ourselves, we aren’t logging off, and we aren’t crying on the side of the road to Bruce Springsteen. Louis teaches us to look up for a second, at the good stuff and the bad stuff life is giving us and take it all.
Check out the clip of Louis C.K. on CONAN here:
Check out the work of these talented illustrators:
2013 Hiatt, Brian. Rolling Stone. “Louis C.K. Comes Clean.”