When I first wrote about The Hilarious World of Depression I hadn’t listened to anything past the intro episode. Now that I’ve listened through the available episodes twice I’m back to talk about how much I enjoyed this strange little podcast.
As I started listening I realized I didn’t recognize some of the guests, but that didn’t stop me from relating greatly to most of the stories they had to share. For me, I think what helped bridge the gap between not being familiar with all the guests and being able to connect to the experiences they talked about was the host, John Moe.
Like I said in my first post, I’m a fan of another podcast John Moe puts out so I knew I liked his style before even starting. I found pretty quickly in the first episode that he did things a touch differently for The Hilarious World of Depression, namely, he narrated throughout. Not everyone appreciates narration where they don’t expect it, but I find a good narrator quite a delight and this podcast is no exception.
At the top of each episode the guest, usually a comedian or entertainer, is introduced by being asked the question “Is depression funny?”, followed by John Moe with some tidbits about their professional background. As they recount their stories of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, John breaks in from time to time, filling in blanks, giving further details, and smoothly transitioning from one talking point to another.
Each episode is a unique conversation between the guest and John as they articulate thoughts and life events, many of which had never been discussed publicly before. Like a mini therapy secession we’ve been invited to listen in on, these intimate talks last anywhere from thirty minutes to almost an hour.
They’re perfect for a quick listen during a lunch break or maybe as you get ready in the morning. You might think a podcast about depression wouldn’t be the best way to kick off your morning or to accompany your lunch, but you’d be wrong. As inherently depressing as it is to talk/listen about depression, John Moe and his guests bring a lot of laughs to a dark topic. This is likely because John has expertly picked guests who are naturally funny and enjoy telling stories, even difficult ones.
I won’t go into detail about the contents of each individual episode because they are pretty short, always delightful, and deserve to be enjoyed in full. Instead I want to point out some of the common themes I found to be valuable for a podcast about mental illness.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the lineup for this podcast is chalk full of people we might deem “successful”. You may not recognize the name of every guest, but there’s likely a few that you’ll know, and the rest you’ll find have achieved some level of success in their careers even if you don’t personally know of them. I point this out because one of the great misconceptions surrounding mental illness is that successful people don’t struggle with these things and that people who do struggle can’t/won’t be successful. I know I’ve had to fight against this very fear as I tread my path to wellness.
While the world is moving into an era where we want to end the stigma, we can never have enough stories of celebrities, world leaders, and other people in power sharing how mental illness has impacted their own journeys to success. The Hilarious World of Depression has less than ten official episodes right now, but I look forward to how this podcast will continue to give successful people a chance to share some of their much needed truth with the world.
Another common theme I found among these episodes was the guest’s desire to let anyone who might be listening know they are not alone. There’s not a lot to be gained by putting yourself in such a vulnerable position by detailing your battles with depression or suicide or what have you, but many of the guests expressed their desire to use their stories to help others. I love the hell out of that. For me, hearing someone’s voice break as they recount being told that their story saved someone’s life was a powerful moment as I listened through these episodes. You gotta love a podcast that makes you publicly cry because you’re listening at the library, right?
To be able to find purpose within the darkest moments of this life is a goal I’m constantly striving for. It’s part of the reason I keep this blog. The fact that our stories can help others heal, help them seek help, or actually keep someone living is kind of an incredible concept for a podcast, if you ask me.
Finally, the constant positive talk surrounding the use of therapy and/or pharmaceutical assistance when necessary is one of the most inspiring parts of this podcast. The stigma around getting professional help is such a real barrier in our culture still today and I love that the people behind this show actively push against that stigma.
Attending therapy, in the past or currently, was an experience that many of the guests shared. As someone who really struggled to finally reach out to a professional, listening to people discuss their positive thoughts about visiting a therapist (once you find the right one) made me feel like I’m less of a broken weirdo for seeking help, and more of a legitimately sick person in need of someone trained to help me.
The open minded views surrounding using medication to address mental illness was really refreshing to me. There is quite a fear when it comes to medication, a fear that prevents many people from possibly finding a way to cope with their struggles. Stories about medication use never felt pushy (pretty sure Big Pharma didn’t sponsor the podcast), guests simply shared their stories about finding a prescription that worked for them. As of now I do not personally use medication, but I value having a community of people making the possibility feel like an option rather than just another thing to be afraid of.
So, I said I wouldn’t go into individual episodes, but I did want to share the most profound moment I’ve found in the podcast so far. I’m going to attempt to describe it, but I definitely still encourage you to listen to this specific part, and the whole episode, yourself. Trust me, I think you’ll enjoy it.
In episode 4, Dick Cavett talks about a lot of celebrities he knew who struggled with mental illness and he shared instances of his own battle with depression. The whole conversation is immensely interesting, but I was especially moved when the conversation turned to suicide. It starts at about minute 25, but the most striking line comes at minute 29 as he references a man who jumped 20 stories off a building and appeared to regret it.
“He grabbed at everything on the way down.”
Such a crystal clear image of regret. Those words, more than anything else from this podcast, have made an impression on my soul. They are the words that fill my mind during dark hours, the weapon I use to defend myself against struggles with ideation, and the reminder I give my brain when I start thinking that maybe this life is much too much.
Seriously, I can’t express how or why that story impacted me so fully, but I’m grateful to have found it and to have the opportunity to spread the word about this episode and the podcast as a whole so someone else may find the words that will keep them afloat in their time of need.
Obviously I cannot recommend this podcast enough if you are looking for some deep, but still funny talk about mental illness. Do be aware that some of the talks get explicit about delicate topics such as suicide, so know your limits and listen with that knowledge in mind.
If you check out the podcast let me know! I’d love to hear what other people think of the show. John Moe primarily talks to comedians, but if you could make a podcast about mental illness who would you want to interview? Personally, I think I’d like to talk to either writers (like myself) or musicians. I imagine those two groups of people would have some interesting things to say.
Be well, friends!