I went to the taping of Wits last Friday. A couple friends are fans of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, and they asked us whether we wanted to join them. We said, “Sure.” Case makes good music, even if it isn’t the sort of thing I listen to on my own, and we’d been curious about Wits for a while. In their case, encouraging your audience to live-tweet is great viral marketing.
It was good show. In fact, it was nearly tailored to my interests. The comedy bits were highly surreal, Case and Hogan had some very frank things to say about living in poverty and are funny themselves, there was the appliance guy who chalked everything up to angels, and I got to see a Minnesota public radio audience try to figure out what to do during an Iron Maiden sing-along.
Then there was the comedy guest. I knew of Rob Delaney from Twitter, of course. He’s one of those people I don’t have to follow because everyone I do follow is always retweeting him. I’ve enjoyed his work enough that I thought it was cool he’d be on the Wits that we’d see, but I’ve never felt compelled to see his stand-up or anything like that.
Then John Moe interviewed him.
Well, hello humanist who worries about how his comedy affects other people, can make jokes about his wife that don’t put her down, and who doesn’t flinch from talking about addiction and mental health. Yes. Yes, I think I like you.
One odd/interesting thing about Delaney is that he always sounds like he’s lying to you with a great deal of sincerity. In fact, he stopped in the middle of an answer to clarify that all his answers that evening would be truthful. Even given that, it was hard not to feel like he was joking. So I read a bit after I got home. That’s when I discovered that it is possible to make a distinction between being a feminist and being a humanist that isn’t an excuse for inaction.
And I don’t feel like a feminist as I write this. I feel like a humanist. I am a comedian, and I am and will remain a consumer of comedy until the day I die, and I know in my bones that the funniest shit in the world was, is and will remain women and men working together.
Did I mention I like him? Then there’s his approach to talking about mental illness. His mental illness.
As a comedian, I talk about comedy all the time, every day, with comedians and noncomedians. There is a popular belief, in and out of comedy, that comedians tell jokes and endeavor to make others laugh as a means of treating the pain they feel inside; that depression and drug and alcohol abuse plague the world of comedy. Is this true? For me, the answer happens to be yes. Among the first things I do each morning is take two prescription depression medications, Lexapro and Cymbalta. Right before or right after that, I post my first joke of the day on Twitter. I take the medication because I deal with severe suicidal depression and have for years. It has come close to killing me two times in the past eight years: once before I became a professional comedian, and once after. I post the jokes on Twitter because making people laugh makes me feel really, really fucking good.
Yeah, I like this guy. And he really can talk about what he does–well.
So Rob Delaney has another Twitter follower. He won’t notice me among his 800,000+ other followers, but that isn’t the point. I’m telling you all this in case you don’t already know that Delaney is a feminist, humanist who manages to laugh about mental illness without making it laughable. You know, in case you’re looking for a new comedian to follow.
You can listen to the podcast version of the Wits show here.