The Great Depresh
Comedy Dynamics, A Nacelle Company
I’ve seen the recent comedy special by Gulman which includes documentary footage as part of it – and I loved it – but as with recent albums from specials by Maria Bamford, David Cross and Jim Gaffigan I think I prefer hearing it as a comedy album.
The Great Depresh is Gulman’s most confessional set yet – a return to the stage after time out suffering from depression; here he not only confronts that, addresses that, unpacks that, explains that, he basks in great jokes about that, but not only about that – he hints at the external pressures he grew up with that impacted the way he saw the world and the way in which he might recoil from it, retire from it (pressure on kids to be good at sports, bullying, hands-off parenting and care).
Don’t get me wrong, the televised special (HBO, available on Neon in New Zealand and you can find it where you find anything online of course) is well worth seeing and the documentary bits are important: His mother sits and talks about how happy she thought he was as a child while they look at the kid’s story he wrote called The Lonely Tree; his stoic, supportive, insightful, brave wife (Sade) attending therapy with him/for him. There’s some beautiful and important moments – important just for their approach to normalising the discussions around depression.
But for revisiting the jokes – because Gulman is a killer joke-writer – it’s the CD/streamed-audio that takes my fancy. Just the routine. And god it is good!
He combines here the writing approach and the timing of a hybrid David Sedaris/Garry Shandling. I’m sure they were/are both heroes to him – in some way at least – but here it’s so good hearing him speak through his own voice but echo those comedic heroes; high benchmarks of course. I must certainly mean the comparison as nothing more than the highest praise.
The way Gulman weaves his own story through the jokes is master craftsmanship – he is normal (apparently). He is just a guy finding his way in the world. He’s big enough to be a basketballer but he doesn’t care that much about sport. He falls into sleeping through practices, candidly mentions that he has to quit ball because he was feeling suicidal. A therapist sees him in 1989 – or as Gulman brilliantly quips, “this is ten years before The Sopranos made it cool for big men to seek therapy”. But what’s magical is how he backs that quick line up with the fact that therapy was a revelation, a literal life-saver. He then adds to applause that he still sees a therapist – ahead of some gently self-effacement around how he probably breaks his therapist’s spirit. He then admits to taking medication (“On…and…on”) for 30 years.
There are jokes galore. There’s cleverness and kindness. But it seems super important in this day and age to just have a comic stop the jokes to simply praise the medication and therapy. He of course goes on to laugh at the side-effects (“the side effects of the drugs don’t bother me at all”) since it’s the side-effects of depression that bother him far more (“I’ll take dry-mouth over death”).
I just feel like this is super funny and wise and has the added bonus of being responsible as well as heartfelt.
Good, good content.
Well done to Gulman for keeping as on top of things as he can and for being as open and vulnerable and real in his discussion to date.
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