advertisement
Home » Blog » Podcast: Joking About Suicide: Is It Ever Okay?

Podcast: Joking About Suicide: Is It Ever Okay?


Is it ever OK to joke about mental illness or suicide? In today’s Not Crazy podcast, Gabe and Lisa welcome Frank King, a comedian who’s turned his struggles with major depression and suicidal thinking into comedic material.

What do you think? Is joking about suicide too heavy? Or is humor a good coping mechanism? Join us for an in-depth discussion on gallows humor.

(Transcript Available Below)


Subscribe to Our Show!

The Psych Central Show Podcast iTunesThe Psych Central Show Podast on SpotifyGoogle Play The Psych Central Show

And Please Remember to Rate & Review Us!

 

Guest Information for ‘Frank King — Joking and Suicide’ Podcast Episode

Frank King, Suicide Prevention speaker and Trainer was a writer for The Tonight Show for 20 years.

Depression and suicide run in his family. He’s thought about killing himself more times than he can count. He’s fought a lifetime battle with Major Depressive Disorder and Chronic Suicidality, turning that long dark journey of the soul into five TEDx Talks and sharing his lifesaving insights on Mental Health Awareness with associations, corporations, and colleges.

A Motivational Public Speaker who uses his life lessons to start the conversation giving people permission to give voice to their feelings and experiences surrounding depression and suicide.

And doing it by coming out, as it were, and standing in his truth, and doing it with humor.

He believes that where there is humor there is hope, where there is laughter there is life, nobody dies laughing. The right person, at the right time, with the right information, can save a life.

 About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

 

 

 

 

Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back.

 

 


Computer Generated Transcript for “Frank King- Joking and SuicideEpisode

Editor’s NotePlease be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a psych central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts.

Gabe: Hey, everybody, and welcome to the Not Crazy Podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and with me, as always, is Lisa. Lisa, do you have a new beginning this week?

Lisa: Oh, you totally ruined my thing. I was gonna do hi, I’m Lisa, but like in a cute voice.

Gabe: You think using like a different inflection, but the exact same words is a new introduction for you?

Lisa: Yes, I’m going to do different inflections.

Gabe: That’s terrible.

Lisa: I’ve been thinking about it for a full seven days.

Gabe: It’s terrible. You know, I am very happy that you’re here and I’m very happy that the show is about comedy. We are going to talk about is comedy and being funny surrounding mental health issues OK? Well, we kind of think it is. But Lisa, today we have a guest.

Lisa: Yes. Our guest, Frank King, lives with major depression and suffers from suicidal ideation, and he describes himself as a warrior in his lifelong battle with mental illness. And before we get started, we are going to talk about suicide. And Frank is a comedian. So it’s going to come up pretty quick. So be prepared for that.

Gabe: And there’s your trigger warning, folks, and after we’re done talking to Frank. Lisa and I will be back to tell you our thoughts, you know, behind his back.

Lisa: And recorded, so not really behind his back. He could still listen to it.

Gabe: I’m glad you told me that, because

Lisa: You forgot?

Gabe: Yeah, yeah, that just yeah.

Lisa: Yeah.

Gabe: I often forget that people are listening

Lisa: Really?

Gabe: No. No, never.

Gabe: And we’re just going to attack him a whole bunch. We’re gonna be like, that’s offensive. That’s awful. That’s terrible. People feel this way. And would you joke about murder? The answer, of course, is that people do joke about murder. People joke about all kinds of things. But I feel like we should let Frank defend himself. Frank, welcome to the show.

Frank: Thanks, Gabe. Thanks for the warm welcome.

Lisa: Oh, thank you for being here.

Gabe: Are you glad you said yes?

Frank: Huh, do you want me to be honest or kind?

Lisa: Too soon to say.

Frank: No, I’m delighted to be here. Glad we could find a time to do this, although I haven’t got another booking till May 2021, so I got plenty of time.

Gabe: COVID has slowed us all down. Frank, you’re a mental health comedian. That’s literally how you describe yourself. Frank King, the mental health comedian. Why? Can you tell us about that?

Frank: Yeah, I told my first joke in fourth grade and the kids laughed and I told my mom I’m gonna be a comedian. She said, because education is a big deal in our family. Well, son, you are gonna go to college and get a degree. Now, after college, you can be, I don’t know a goat herder if you choose. But you, my son, are going to be a goat herder with a degree. So I went to school in Chapel Hill. I got two degrees. One in political science, one in industrial relations.

Lisa: Oh, I didn’t know that was the thing.

Frank: I didn’t either.

Gabe: Can you get a job in that or did you have to fall back on comedy?

Frank: No. UNC Chapel Hill has a fabulous placements center. I interviewed literally 77 times. No second interviews, no job offers. So they’re looking at me thinking this guy’s a clown. And they were correct. So most people give up a good job to do comedy. But I was functionally unemployable. So my girlfriend, high school girlfriend and college, her father worked for an insurance company and he wrangled me a job as a marketing rep of an insurance company in Raleigh. And then we moved to San Diego. I should have never married my first wife. I knew going down the aisle it was not going to work. I just didn’t have the testicular fortitude to back out. We had nothing in common, essentially. And you know what they say, opposites attract. She was pregnant. I wasn’t. So, we got married and, in La Jolla, California, which is a suburb of San Diego, although La Jolla would tell you that San Diego is actually a suburb of La Jolla, the Comedy Store had a branch there, the world famous Comedy Store on Sunset.

Gabe: Yeah. Very cool.

Frank: And so I

Lisa: Yeah, I watched it when I was a kid.

Frank: And so I did what I tell comedians or want to be comedians to do. Go and sit through open mic night twice. See how bad everybody is, 75% of them. And that will give you the courage. I went down, sat through two nights of it and sure enough, 75, 80 percent were horrible. And I’m thinking I’m that funny just walking around. And so the third night I went, I got up. I did my five minutes. It was all about moving from North Carolina to California because back then that was quite a bit of culture shock. The joke I remember is I’d never seen guacamole. I’ve never actually seen an avocado growing up in North Carolina. So I pick up a chip and I’m headed for the bowl and I stop. I’m hovering over the bowl, staring at the guacamole. You know what guacamole looks like. The hostess comes running over. Frank, I’ll bet you don’t know what that is. You’re not from California. That is what we call guacamole. And it’s good. And I said, yes, I bet it was good the first time somebody ate it. And in my head that night, it’s only happened a couple of times in my life. I had the thought unbidden. I’m home on stage

Lisa: Aww.

Frank: There. And then my second thought was I would do this for a living. I have no idea how because I had no idea how difficult it is to make a living doing standup comedy. Had I known, I probably would not have tried.

Gabe: Frank, I love that story and that, of course, answers the second part, how you became a comedian, but why mental health? Why a mental health comedian?

Frank: Well, we’ll get there.

Gabe: Get there faster, Frank.

Lisa: Don’t, don’t.

Gabe: That’s what I’m telling you.

Frank: I see, okay.

Lisa: Don’t, Gabe. It’s just like with you, if you try to make him go faster, he’ll go slower. Just think Zen.

Frank: Yeah,

Lisa: Be chill.

Frank: Yeah.

Lisa: See all these years, that’s why I let you talk, because otherwise it takes longer.

Gabe: That’s so sweet.

Frank: I did amateur night for about a year, and then I won a contest in San Diego. Said to my girlfriend, now my wife of 32 years.

Lisa: Oh.

Frank: Look, I’m going on the road to do standup comedy. I had 10 weeks booked, which I thought was forever. You want to come along? And she said inexplicably, yes. So we put everything into storage that we couldn’t fit into my tiny little Dodge Colt.

Gabe: Wow.

Frank: No air conditioning. And we hit the road for 2,629 nights in a row. Nonstop, beer bar, pool hall, honky tonk, comedy club. And she just came along for the ride. We had no home, no domicile. No, we were, you know.

Gabe: Now, generally speaking, when people are homeless, I think maybe they’re not so good at what they’re doing. But?

Lisa: It’s apparently a different type of industry.

Frank: And it was a great time of our lives. I mean, back then they put you up in a comedy condo, three bedrooms. So I worked with and spent time, weeks at a time in condos with Dennis Miller and Jeff Foxworthy and Ron White, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell and Dana Carvey and Adam Sandler. Back when they were just comics. So we rode that wave for about seven years. And then I got a job in radio in Raleigh, North Carolina, my old hometown, and I took a number one morning show. I drove it to number six in 18 months. A friend of mine said you didn’t just drive it into the ground. You drove it into Middle Earth. So I did.

Lisa: Well, but in absolute value, that’s a, that’s a big up.

Gabe: I mean, six is a bigger number than one, congratulations.

Lisa: There you go. Yeah.

Frank: So then my boss at the time, we’re still friends, said to me, well, you go back on the road doing stand up. Well, standup was going away. More clubs are closing than opening. So I’ve always been very clean. Which cost me in the one nighter beer bar situations. But join the National Speaker Association, got to the rubber chicken circuit and rode that and made good money just doing HR friendly corporate clean comedy until 2007 and a half basically. And then the market, you know, the speaking market dropped out 80% practically overnight. And my wife and I lost everything we worked for for twenty five years in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And that’s when I found out what the barrel of my gun tastes like. Spoiler alert. I didn’t pull the trigger. I tell that story and a friend of mine came up afterwards, who never heard me say that before. And he goes, Hey, man, how come you didn’t pull the trigger? I go, Hey, man, could you try to sound a little less disappointed? So. And if you want to know why I didn’t pull the trigger, it’s in my first TED talk.

Gabe: I mean, sincerely, we. This is the crux of the show, right? That’s like really heavy. Like when you said it, I was like, oh, my God, what can I do to save, Frank? You already told me that it was.

Lisa: Yeah, I was also thinking whoa whoa, did not see that coming. All right.

Gabe: Right. But you said it funny. I mean, there’s no other way to put it. That was a joke about something really, really serious. And I imagine that there’s a shock value there. There’s a like that was unexpected.

Frank: Yeah, and it is there on purpose.

Gabe: Do you get shit for that? I mean, I can already read the letters. I was trying to listen to your podcast. We were all having a good time. And then Frank made a joke about suicide that I wasn’t expecting. How dare you? And on one hand, I want to agree with them, like, oh, like that would be unexpected. But on the other hand, I appreciate humor. I embrace humor. It is healthy. How do you answer the people that tell you this?

Lisa: Well, first, I want to hear how he decided to talk about this, because this friend comes up to him and he tells the story. Is that because that friend thought it was hilarious and you were like, oh, this is definitely where the money is? I’m gonna go this direction. I mean, how did that happen?

Frank: Well, I had a mental health act at that point when he actually said that. So I just, as many comics do, 

Lisa: Ok.

Frank: Added to that because everybody laughed. The actual original line was bankruptcy, lost everything. And I had an itch on the roof of my mouth I could only scratch with the front side on my nickel plated .38, which people found a little graphic. So I,

Gabe: Yeah.

Lisa: Well.

Frank: I came up with the what the barrel of my gun tastes like. It’s faster. And what I do is I do it on purpose for two reasons. One, anybody in the audience who has a mental illness who hears me say, I can tell you what the barrel of my gun tastes like, you can see them lean forward because all of a  sudden, they realize that I get it. And it shocks the neuro typical people, which is what I’m after, into paying better attention, because that’s why I’m there, is to let the mentally ill people know that they’re not alone and help the neurotypical people decode how someone can be so depressed that they would take their own life. And so, but then again, you notice I talk about taste of the barrel of my gun and then I go, spoiler alert, didn’t pull the trigger. So you get the shock and then you get the joke, although it only gets a nervous laugh, that line, you know. Huh. And then the big payoff is friend of mine came up. Why didn’t you pull the trigger? Could you. Yeah. So it is constructed that way on purpose. The shock value. And then the first small laugh. Should we be laughing at the fact you put a gun in his mouth? And then the big laugh with the guy who came up afterwards and said, you know, and I said try to sound a little less disappointed.

Frank: So but yeah, it’s, um, except for the fact that I was given some grief about the original line, about the itch on the roof of my mouth. Nobody’s ever complained about the. I don’t know whether they I’ve shocked him into apoplexy. They can’t. I’d like to say something, but I can’t. And there’s a comedy principle there in that if you give them something very serious like the gun in the mouth and you follow it with something amusing, then they’re much more ready and able to handle the next piece of serious information that you give them, regardless of what it is. So there’s a rhythm to and then the reason, you know, everything is where it is in that bit and in the in my speech. What happened was I would do standup comedy and I’d always wanted to make a living and a difference because when I went to work in insurance, I saw all the old school motivational guys, Zig Ziglar and like that. I thought, man, I could do that if I just had something to teach somebody. Well, when I came so close, and it runs in my family. My grandmother died by suicide.

Frank: My mother found her. My great aunt died by suicide. My mother and I found her. I was four years old, I screamed for days. I thought, I think I can maybe talk about it. And then I bought a book by a woman named Judy Carter called The Message of You: Turning Your Life into a Money Making Speaking Career. And I went into it thinking, I’ve got nothing. And Judy walks you through finding your heart story and what you should be talking about. And about halfway through, I thought I do have something to talk about. So I use Judy’s book to design my first TED talk. I used a book called Talk Like TED to refine it. And then I delivered it and I came out to the world at 52 as somebody who’s depressed and suicidal. My wife didn’t know my family, my friends, no one knew. Now to Gabe’s point, the only thing I’ve ever gotten grief for about that TEDx talk was that I didn’t know that the preferred language around suicide was die by suicide, completed a suicide, in that I said committed suicide. And it actually cost me a gig. They saw that, and I said, well, look at the next three.

Gabe: Yeah.

Frank: But they didn’t want to hire me because I used the term committed suicide.

Gabe: We talk about this a lot. Everywhere I go. I used to be the host of a podcast called A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast and all of our mail. OK. I should back off that a little. Not all of our mail but, but probably 75% of our mail, was your language is offensive. It should be called a person living with bipolar, a person living with schizophrenia and a portable digital file that you can listen to at your leisure. And I thought that’s just so cumbersome. But what really struck me about this language debate is, for the record, I agree that we should say completed suicide or attempted suicide. I don’t like the term commit because it makes it sound. I agree with that change. But so what? You probably agree with the thought behind it as well. And you just didn’t know at the time. We’re not educating people if we start, you know, firing people every time they make a mistake. I mean, just heaven forbid.

Frank: Well, here’s the deal. I said there is no bigger commitment than blowing your brains out. Two, there’s an old joke about breakfast, bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved. The pig was committed. Still didn’t get the gig. But I felt better.

Gabe: I understand. Look, I’m not saying that there’s not an iota of truth in the way we talk to each other and the way that we speak to one another and the words that we choose to use. It’s one of the reasons that you’re probably a comedian because, you know, that language can be manipulated in a way that makes people pay closer attention. 

Frank: Oh, yeah.

Gabe: Or a way that makes people laugh or that, you know, ruffles people’s feathers. We’re all aware of this. But I still have to point out time and time again, if we put as much effort into getting people with serious mental illness help as we do in deciding how to discuss people with serious mental illness, I think the world would be a better place. I had to take a lot of shit about that, Frank.

Frank: Yeah. My radio co-host, had an expression, is that the hill you want to die on? And no, that’s not the hill I want to die. That’s not where I want to spend my effort. I’ll use proper language. But I’m not you know, right before I came on with you guys, I was on a dental podcast because dentists have a high rate and several have died recently, high profile. And the gentleman I was talking to said committed suicide. And I just let it go. I wasn’t going to school him. I mean, if I saw him later, I’d say, hey, man, just a note, you know, just for your own edification and to avoid trouble in the future. And I have done that with other people. You know, people say something. I said, look, you know, when you figure somebody has mental illness, you need to avoid this or that. It is not always language so much as it is. You know, I choose joy.

Gabe: Yeah.

Frank: Ok, well, one of the guys who’s involved in our book is very much a positive motivational speaker sort of fellow. And he thinks, he said something about the state of mind, that positive state of mind and choosing positive thoughts is the antidote to depression. And I said, you have to be very careful about that because there are those of us who are organically predisposed. And I am the most positive person who’s suicidal you’ll probably ever meet. I have a great attitude. You know, I have chronic suicidal ideation so I could blow my brains out tomorrow. But, you know, it’s not a matter of attitude.

Lisa: Positive thinking only takes you so far.

Frank: Yeah, it’s like saying to a parent of a child who has a problem depression and thoughts of suicide to hire a coach. A life coach. It’s like, no. And the pushback I get the most on, Gabe, is somebody will confront me. How can you joke about mental illness and suicide?

Gabe: Yeah.

Frank: An overarching question, an in the macro question. How can you joke about depression and thoughts of suicide? I say, so here’s the deal. In comedy, maybe you know this, you can joke about any group to which you belong.

Lisa: Right.

Gabe: Exactly. Yes. Yes. I always hate it when people tell me how to talk about myself

Frank: Yeah.

Gabe: Or when people tell me how to react to my own trauma or my own experiences, like you can’t talk about your life that way. What I

Frank: What?

Gabe: I just. Listen, having mental illness. I live with bipolar disorder. And it is rough and it is tough. And society is constantly on top of me telling me what to do, how to behave, how to act. You know, this treatment is good. This treatment is bad. Anti psychiatry, pro psychiatry, med model. Just everywhere, just like everybody has an opinion about my life. And then people start having opinions of how I’m supposed to think and discuss my life. It’s bad enough you all have opinions on everything else I do. But now you’re trying to control how I think about my own experiences and explain them to others. Now, now I want to fight.

Lisa: Well, they think they’re helping.

Gabe: I know they think they’re helping, but they’re not.

Frank: The name your previous podcast was something of a bipolar? It was a?

Gabe: A bipolar schizophrenic and a podcast.

Frank: Yes, I thought it was so three guys walking into a bar.

Gabe: Yeah, we stole it from three guys in a pizza place

Frank: Yeah. Exactly.

Lisa: Well, the name of this one is Not Crazy, so if the question at the beginning of the episode is, is it OK to joke about mental illness? I think we’ve already answered it with the title.

Frank: Yes.

Gabe: Yeah, we get pushback on the title. People suck.

Lisa: I know.

Frank: So do I. I get. I just got off the podcast with the dentists, and I said, look, before I leave, let me give you my phone number, my cell phone number, and I give it to him twice, and I say put it in the show notes. And here’s the deal. The reason I do that, I do it every keynote that I do. I give my cell phone number.

Lisa: Really? 

Frank: Yep.

Lisa: Ok.

Frank: I say, look, if you’re suicidal, call the suicide prevention lifeline or text HELP to 741741. If you’re just having a really bad day, call a crazy person like me. Because we’re not going to judge. We’re just going to listen.

Gabe: Yeah.

Frank: As a friend of mine says, co-sign on your B.S. and I’ve gotten pushback on you shouldn’t use word crazy. So, here’s the thing. I’m taking it back.

Gabe: Yes.

Frank: As gay people took back the term queer and made it not a pejorative. I’m taking crazy back because I own it. I’ve paid for it. It’s my word if I want to use it. And so, yeah, that gets my dander up. It’s, you know.

Gabe: Here, here’s the thing about comedy that I love so much. And I agree with you and Lisa and I talk about this all the time, for some reason, we’re so hung up on words that we’re not at all hung up on context.

Frank: No.

Gabe: Do you know how many horrible things have happened to me with the right words being used? Mr. Howard, I’m sorry. I’m going to have to fire you from your job because you’re a person living with mental illness

Lisa: But we’ve talked about why that is.

Gabe: Why?

Lisa: Because it’s easier. Do you know how much trouble and effort it would be to end homelessness or provide an adequate mental health safety net or suicide prevention programs? Those are hard and they’re expensive. Telling people to start talking in a different way is much, much easier and free.

Gabe: And you can do it on Facebook.

Lisa: Yeah, that helps, too. You don’t have to leave your house.

Frank: And I get together once a month, sometimes more, on a Monday with my crazy comedy klatch, anywhere from two to six of us who are all crazy. All have a mental illness of one stripe or another. And we get together for an hour. We take off our game face and we are just ourselves and say things that would. One morning somebody comes and goes, you know, a guy jumped off a six story building downtown. I go, six stories? Not a chance in hell. You could survive six stories. Just leave you a quadriplegic. I’m going at least 10.

Lisa: Good thinking.

Frank: And there’s somebody at the table behind me is like, did you just? I go, it’s a math problem. You know, you just have to reach terminal velocity. Give me a break. But that’s how you know. Somebody said something about suicide. And I said, look, if you going to die by suicide, don’t jump off a bridge and land on some poor civilian’s car and ruin their lives forever. Get a bomb vest, find some jackass and wrap your arms around him and then pull the trigger. Do, you know, make the world a better place.

Lisa: That’s actually super good advice.

Frank: Yeah.

Gabe: That is terrible advice and Not Crazy, does not does not condone murder in any way.

Lisa: I just can’t believe. I have spent a lot of time thinking about suicide. I have never thought of that.

Gabe: Listen, what we’re talking about is called gallows humor, it’s dark humor. Now, I am a big fan of it. In my darkest moments, the things that, honest to God, saved my life were the people that looked at me and told me jokes like we just talked about here. But not everybody likes them and not everybody understands them.

Frank: No.

Gabe: I mean, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about mental illness, mental health or. You know, my family. OK, here’s what this reminds me of. My dad got in a horrible accident. I mean, he had to be life flighted like it was really serious. We got a call. We had to get in the car. We had to drive 12 hours because we live in Ohio. He lives in Tennessee. And we go there. And my dad is 70 years old and he’s listen, he’s beat to shit. And the nurse needed him to sign a consent form. And, of course, you know, my dad, he’s on painkillers. He’s scared. He’s in the hospital. Did I mention he was, you know, like, really physically messed up from the accident? And he’s giving the nurse trouble. He’s like, I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I don’t want to. And I said, you know, Dad, you need to sign that. And he goes, I don’t want to.

Gabe: And I looked my dad in the eyes and I said, if you don’t sign that, I’m going to beat you up. And there was this awkward moment of silence for like a second. And my dad just starts laughing. He just starts cracking up. He’s laughing so hard that he’s like, don’t. Don’t make me laugh. It hurts. It hurts. And he grabs the clipboard and he signs it. Now, I’ve told that story, I don’t know, a thousand times and about 50% of the time people gasp like, oh, my God, this sounds like a really serious emergency. Your dad had to be life flighted. Why would you say that to him? What kind of a horrible, awful son are you? Look, I know my dad. This is how we talk to each other. It lightens the mood. My dad thought it was funny. And listen, we didn’t have a lot to laugh at, so we had to laugh at the only thing that was in the room, which was the fact that my dad got in an accident that almost killed him and had to be life flighted and his son had to drive 12 hours to see him. I think it’s the same way with mental illness. I think that’s what we need to laugh at. I think if we’re not laughing, we’re crying.

Lisa: Humor is a way to deal with dark topics that are uncomfortable, it’s a way to make you feel better about things that are sucky.

Gabe: But not everybody believes that. How do you counterbalance that? Because in any room, especially your rooms, Frank, they’re big rooms, there’s five hundred a thousand people in those rooms. And better than average odds are, there’s a couple of hundred people that think that you’re a jackass that’s making fun of mentally ill people and you’re doing a great disservice.

Frank: Yeah, well, you know, that’s the difference between being a speaker and a comedian. As a comedian, I’m very careful. You’ve got to know your audience.

Lisa: Well, that’s really the key. Knowing your audience. 

Frank: Yeah.

Lisa: It eliminates this entire discussion.

Gabe: Yeah, but you’re hired at corporate events. The audience doesn’t choose themselves. This makes it a little more difficult. Right, Frank? I mean, if you’re.

Lisa: Well, no, because he doesn’t actually need to please the audience, he just needs to please the people who hired him.

Gabe: Now, come on, that that’s.

Lisa: Those two things will probably usually go together, but not always.

Gabe: We’re not playing lawyer ball here, Lisa.

Lisa: I’m just saying.

Frank: Yeah, the I’ve got a friend is a funeral director, mortician, so is his dad, and they have the darkest sense of humor. I go into a motivational speech for the Selected Independent Funeral Homes. They call me up and they said.

Lisa: This is a good joke. I can tell. It’s going to be a good, good setup.

Gabe: Well, this isn’t a joke, it’s a story, right?

Frank: True story.

Gabe: It’s a true story.

Lisa: It’s going to be funny in the end, though, I can tell.

Gabe: Everything Frank says is funny.

Frank: A month ahead of time they call me. What do you call your motivational speech for morticians? And I was kidding. I said I call it Thinking Inside the Box. And they liked it so much. I had to have my first slide is, you know, Thinking Inside the Box. The son and father are hysterical. And then his dad is on a ship. I’m doing 10 days on a 115 day world cruise. And I don’t know if you guys know this, but the longer the cruise, the older the passengers.

Gabe: Really?

Lisa: Well, that makes sense. They have the time.

Gabe: I guess. Yeah, they don’t have jobs. Yeah, that makes sense.

Frank: Yeah. One hundred fifteen days, we’re talking old people and their parents. Every night, same thing for dessert: oxygen. Yeah. Did a show in an 800 seat theater, it was packed. I call my wife, honey, there was so much white hair in that theater, it looked like a Q-tip convention. So in my act I have this story about how every industry has a favorite joke. And I tell one about the grain industry. There’s one about my favorite actually is ophthalmologists and optometrists. Their favorite joke is this is my impression of an ophthalmologist or an optometrist making love. How’s that? How about now? Better or worse? One or two? Yeah. And I said, guys like if you’ve never worn glasses, ask somebody because that’s funny.

Lisa: Well, yeah, I was going to say only people who wear glasses are gonna get that.

Frank: Well, then there’s a mortician joke and the mortician joke is what’s the most difficult thing about being a mortician? And it’s trying to look sad at a $35,000 funeral. So I tell the joke

Lisa: That’s not a joke, though. That’s real.

Frank: It’s true, but I tell the joke and I say

Gabe: Well, but it is funny. 

Frank: It is funny, and the audience laughs. And I say is anybody here in the audience, a mortician, retired or active duty? And a guy on the balcony raise his hand. I go, what’s a mortician doing on a 115 day world cruise? He stands up, waves his arm across a crowd and goes inventory. And it kills. 

Gabe: Oh.

Frank: And I’ve been, and it’s been killing ever since. And it may be, Gabe, because he delivers the punch line.

Lisa: It’s entirely because he delivers it.

Frank: Yeah, exactly.

Lisa: Otherwise, it’s not funny. Otherwise, it’s just mean.

Frank: Yes, comedy, there’s an art and a science. Comedians should always be shooting up, not down.

Lisa: Exactly. Yes.

Frank: So if I was neurotypical, I couldn’t make any of the jokes I make about depression and suicide because I’d be shooting down.

Gabe: Right. You’d be making fun of people below you on that. Yeah.

Lisa: Yeah, making fun of a oppressed group is not funny. It’s just piling on to the problems that are already there.

Frank: It’s like, women should always win in a joke. And that’s why men shouldn’t make fun of, or minorities. It’s difficult being a white comedian. Six foot tall, brown haired white guy because I.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah, you poor dear.

Gabe: We’re sorry, Frank. At least God gave you a mental illness so you had something to talk about.

Frank: Yeah, I’m well aware of being born a white male, heterosexual Protestant in the US gives you a huge advantage. But frankly, if you have born that way in a relatively stable family and you haven’t succeeded at something, you’re doing it wrong.

Lisa: Yeah.

Gabe: Yeah.

Frank: Yeah, so, if you are gay or black or Mexican, you can joke about all those. Comedy is tragedy plus time or difficulty plus time. So, you know, because minorities have more difficulty. If you’re a minority, you can joke about all minorities. If you’re a white guy, not so much. So there are comedy rules and regulations that bleed over into my speaking. I try to teach my speaking coaching students this. There should not be a word in there that doesn’t serve a purpose, including moving the narrative forward. I mean, you got to be very careful how you word things, because in radio, they say it’s not what you said. It’s not what they heard. It’s what they thought they heard. And nowadays it’s all filtered, more so, I think, than in the past because of the division. You know, the right and the left and the P.C. and the preferred pronouns. And I was on campus, Gabe, at University of Montana, Billings, two nice young men drive me around to radio stations. And one of them said, you know, Frank, comics have a tough time on campus nowadays because people get offended. Do you worry about people getting offended? I said, well, if I was a comedian, I’d be worried. However, I’m here on campus to save lives. So my philosophy is. And then there’s an F and an ’em. F ’em.

Lisa: Hmm.

Frank: I don’t care whose toes I step on if it means I’m saving people.

Gabe: Exactly. It’s always to your point about everybody being offended. If people are offended, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. And again, I want to be very, very clear. There are offensive statements

Frank: Oh, yeah.

Gabe: That go too far. But if people are sitting around discussing what you said and they’re passionate about what you said and they disagree passionately with what you said, they’re applying their critical thinking skills to what you said and determining if they like it or dislike it, agree with it, don’t agree with it. And I think that there’s power in that. If after I leave a whole bunch of people get together and discuss everything that I said, I think that a lot more people will be helped than if everybody’s like, well, he didn’t do anything. I mean, literally just it sucks to not be remembered. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be remembered for good things, Frank.

Frank: Yeah.

Gabe: But I want to be remembered.

Lisa: Well, but it’s interesting what you said there, that there are some things that go too far. But isn’t that your base premise, that depending on your audience, there’s not? That there is, in fact, nothing that goes too far?

Frank: Well, there’s too soon.

Lisa: Ok, too soon.

Frank: Yeah.

Lisa: All right. Not exactly the same.

Frank: But yeah, I think Gabe’s right. I think if you leave them talking and I have no problem with someone, who comes up afterwards and says to me, look, I have a problem with blank. And so we talk about it. Well, here’s my philosophy. Here’s why I said that. Here’s why I chose those words. Now tell me why you find that? What do you find offensive about that? Because I know I can learn things too. I mean it’s.

Lisa: Has that happened? Can you think of any? I mean, one of these discussions has perhaps led to you changing up a joke with or rethinking something or gaining new info?

Frank: Back in the day during the AIDS crisis, back in the Reagan years, a lot of comics, male, heterosexual, made jokes about AIDS because it was the gay plague. Back then, anyway. When it became affecting heterosexuals, it wasn’t quite as funny, but I told a joke in the punchline involved AIDS and a friend of mine took me aside. He goes, Look, I know you don’t have a mean bone in your body, but I don’t think you understand how devastating this epidemic is among groups and communities. And so, I think if you knew or if I can impress upon you how wrong that joke is, that you wouldn’t do it. And I dropped it immediately from my act once he explained why it was so wrong. So it has happened. It doesn’t happen a lot. And I’m very careful about, you know, getting there.

Lisa: Clearly, you’ve thought it through or you would be using the joke in the first place.

Frank: Yes. Yeah. So I am open to criticism and changing things. Like with committed suicide, I said, OK, that’s the preferred language. Or live with bipolar. That’s a preferred language that’s less offensive to some people, you know. What does it cost me to change it?

Lisa: That’s an interesting point. Yeah, that’s a good point, what does it cost you?

Frank: Yeah,

Lisa: You to change it?

Frank: But I’m with Gabe, I don’t think that should be our focus.

Lisa: Right. Right.

Frank: And, Lisa. I’m with you on this. That’s easy to do. Solving a homeless problem or much more difficult.

Gabe: Right. That’s where I am.

Lisa: Do you feel that some of the criticism you got is, you know, when I see people who are using incorrect terms, et cetera, that you feel like, OK, they don’t know any better, this is your chance to educate. This is your chance to inform. Do you feel that the thinking was, hey, if you’re going to broach the topic, you should already be at that level? Like, is that part of the criticism that people feel like you, of all people, should know better?

Frank: Yeah, I would say so,

Lisa: Would you not get that same amount of criticism if you yourself did not have a mental illness?

Frank: Yeah, exactly. And I have, as Gabe does I’m sure, that deep understanding of the. I don’t know, Gabe, if you do this, but I spend a lot of time by myself in self reflection inside my own head and.

Gabe: Of course I do. Constantly.

Lisa: That’s mental illness.

Frank: Yeah,

Gabe: That’s pretty much the only place I live.

Lisa: Yeah.

Frank: Well, I’m driving one day and I thought to myself, I’m not going to use the term battle depression anymore because battle implies I can win. I cannot win. I can tie. Uneasy truce like North and South Korea. I can lose. Kill myself, but I cannot win. And I’ve had arguments with people, no you can be cured. No. No. For me, there is no cure.

Lisa: Right. Only treatment.

Frank: I live with it. I take sort of an aikido approach. Aikido is a martial art where you blend with your person coming at you rather than go up against their energy, you blend with the energy, take their balance. Because depression is a great power and energy. And so rather than bump up against it, I try to blend with it and move forward with it. You use that energy to continue to move forward. It’s difficult, but that mindset of rather than, you know, battling it.

Lisa:  We’ll be right back after these messages.

Announcer: Interested in learning about psychology and mental health from experts in the field? Give a listen to the Psych Central Podcast, hosted by Gabe Howard. Visit PsychCentral.com/Show or subscribe to The Psych Central Podcast on your favorite podcast player.

Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Lisa: And we’re back talking about whether or not it is OK to joke about mental illness with comedian, Frank King. Frank, I have been wondering, after watching some of your acts, where does your comedy come from?

Frank: I believe my comedy timing, imagination is simply the flip side of my major depressive disorder and chronic suicidal ideation. I taught a class called Stand Up for Mental Health. You have to have a diagnosis to get in, a diagnosis to teach it. I got to tell you, they were the best students I ever had. Okay, here’s a dark one. These are jokes. This is the way it came out of her head. Most comics got a whole page, and they have to like redact two thirds of it. She goes I went to see my psychiatrist. I go, Camille, what did the psychiatrist say? Well, he asked me if I was depressed? I said yes. He asked if I had any thoughts of suicide? Yes. He said, do you have a plan? I said, I have five plans. Five plans? She goes, Yeah. You want to hear them all or just the ones that involve you? It’s dark, but there’s not a word in that that doesn’t move the narrative forward. Here’s one. Tosh. She said, My boyfriend said he wanted to break up with me. I said, well, why did he want to do that, Tosh? She goes, because he wants to see other people. I said, What did you say? I said, I’m bipolar. Give me a minute. Just that’s the way it came out of her head. And here’s a deal, I can teach you to write standup comedy.

Frank: I could teach you perform standup comedy. What I cannot teach you to do is process. So if somebody said, Frank, one pill one time, never be depressed again, never another suicidal thought. The only side effect is you’re not going to process as a comedian. Then keep the pill, I’ll live with the downside to hang onto the upside. That is where my comedy comes from. And heckler lines, people go, how did you think up? I’m on the bus. I was in Cambodia. We were on busses to go to the airport to catch a plane to come home. And the woman in front of me, an older woman on a cruise. Go figure. I was doing a podcast from my phone in the seat behind her and she goes, hang up the phone. I go, it’s not a phone call, it’s a podcast, I’m working. Hang up, eh. So I went back another row, kept my voice down. Well, it didn’t please her at all. It didn’t mollify her. So we’re getting ready to get off the bus. We all stand up. I’m several steps behind as she turns. She goes “drop dead.” And where this came from, I can’t tell you. I said, given your age, I’m guessing you’re going first. People say, well, how do you think that up? I didn’t think that up. The first time she heard it was first time I heard. I have no idea. But that’s my, that’s. You don’t have to be mentally ill to write comedy or perform comedy. But it don’t hurt.

Gabe: I always hear these jokes where people say, did you have a good childhood or are you funny? You know, I’ve read a lot of books that say, you know, some of the best comedy comes from traumatic experience.

Frank: Yeah, yeah.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Gabe: And I. Mental illness is a traumatic experience. And I’m not speaking for all the listeners and I’m obviously not speaking for Lisa and Frank, but for me, the humor is all I have some days. If I can’t laugh at it, I’m going to cry. And that’s why these inappropriate and I’m making the, you know, I wish it was a video podcast

Frank: Air quotes.

Gabe: So people could see how often I can make air quotes. If it wasn’t for the humor that I can find in this, it would be nothing but darkness. And that’s the way I see it.

Frank: One last example, I had a heart attack, I was in the woods half mile up a logging trail with the dogs, I had T-mobile, so I didn’t have cell service. And that never fails to get a laugh and.

Lisa: I used to have T-Mobile, yeah.

Frank: Oh, God.

Gabe: Yeah, it sucked.

Frank: Yes. Sucks out loud. Anyway, I got back to the car. Back to the house, yelled at my wife. I’m having a heart attack, dial 911. I heard she came out, got me in an ambulance. I’m at the hospital. Here’s the nice thing about a heart attack. No waiting. Nobody gives a shippa about HIPPA. I’m in the back. And the tragedy plus time equals comedy. But the longer you do comedy, the shorter the time. I’m doing comedy in real time.

Lisa: I could see that.

Frank: That nurse says to me, I’m in great deal of pain. I’m having a heart attack. She goes, Frank, no paperwork. But I just got one question for you. And I said, I’m married, Honey, but I love the way you think. And she’s trying not to laugh. It’s like, Gabe, if I didn’t have my comedy, what would I have? She goes, No, no, no, no. Your full name is Frank Marshall King, the third. But what do you like to be called? And I said, through the pain, Big Daddy. And to this day, when I go back to Oregon Heart & Vascular and somebody sees me from that morning, hey, Big Daddy, how’s it hanging? So, yeah, Gabe, if I didn’t have the humor. I mean, if I didn’t have that way of dealing with the pain, whether it’s a heart attack or mental illness or whatever it happens to be, it’s you know, it’s just the way we cope. 

Gabe: You know, Frank, obviously I live with bipolar disorder, but I’ve also had physical issues. I was rushed in an ambulance to the emergency room. I had a surgery that kind of didn’t turn out so well. And here I am in the emergency room and Lisa is trying desperately to find me.

Lisa: Well, the woman said to me, are you sure he’s here? I know he’s here. I followed the ambulance. He is here. And then she said something and I said, he is a six foot three redhead. He can’t be that hard to find.

Frank: Yeah.

Gabe: And the nurse said, you’re looking for Gabe?

Lisa: He’s only been here like fifteen inutes.

Frank: Well, he makes an impression.

Lisa: That actually happened. 

Gabe: I do. I make an impression.

Lisa: He’s not making that that story up. That actually happened.

Gabe: Now, here I am. The rest of that is true. And Lisa is now yelling at me because I’m so popular.

Frank: No, my ex-wife would tell you, look, Frank, he had a lot. He had a lot of faults, but I never went to a party with him where we didn’t have a good time.

Lisa: I can see that.

Gabe: Now, the reason I’m telling that story is because everybody loves that story. I tell that story all the time. People are like, oh, Gabe, it’s so good that you can keep your humor. It was scary. And that helped Lisa. And, oh, that’s so beautiful talking about it in that way. But whenever I do that for mental illness, people are like, that’s inappropriate stop. And I’m like, no, wait a minute. 

Frank: What?

Gabe: Why? What’s the. This is one of those, you know,

Lisa: Because it’s not as scary.

Gabe: Stigmatizing things. You know, making fun of me, almost dying from a surgery, going wrong and almost bleeding to death at home. People are like, yeah, he’s tough, but joking about mental illness, about bipolar disorder. And people are like I don’t know that you’re taking it seriously. And it’s a very scary illness. And I think you might be hurting other people that suffer from this. And I only point that out because we want mental illness and physical illness to be treated exactly the same. And I guarantee there’s nobody that heard your story about, you know, the big daddy story

Frank: Yeah.

Gabe: About the heart attack. That wasn’t like hell, yeah, he was. You’re a tough guy. But then I hear some of the stuff about suicidality, depression, and like, I don’t know, maybe I don’t like this. And let’s consider just, you know, you don’t have to agree with me immediately. Let’s consider the whys of that. Why do we feel that way? And I think that will allow us to move forward. Look, humor is funny. We need it. We like it. If it’s not for you, don’t listen to it. Frank’s not for everybody.

Frank: It’s a way of breaking down barriers and having a meeting of the minds. Because a laugh is something where your minds have to meet. You have to be in the same place at the same time. You know, seeing the same thing. I tell my comedy students, paint the picture, it’s gotta be very vivid. So they can be there with you. Right there with you.

Gabe: Well, that is awesome. You are awesome.

Frank: Well, thank you very much.

Lisa: Yeah, we really enjoyed it. Where can people find you?

Frank: TheMentalHealthComedian.com is my Web site. My phone number’s there and sometime in the next, I’m guessing this week, there will be an audio book version of a book that Gabe and I are in.

Gabe: Yeah, I actually I think I’m in volume two and you’re in volume one. I didn’t make the cut, but Guts, Grit & The Grind, you can find it on Amazon. It’s a collection of stories from men about their mental health issues, mental illnesses and just the whole concept, we’ve got to give a shout out to Dr. Sally, was that men just don’t talk about their mental health enough and there’s getting to be more men. But I like to joke that I got into this business because it was predominantly women.

Frank: Yes. And Sarah Gaer, whose idea it was and who teaches QPR to first responders, mostly men. She went to the bookstore to find a book on men’s mental health, couldn’t find one. Went on Amazon, couldn’t find one. So she

Gabe: Here we go.

Frank: She put it together. Yes. And if you go to my website, sometime in the next week or so, they’ll be a, put your email in, and you get a free copy of the audio book that I voiced.

Gabe: Nice. Nice. If you want to hear Frank’s voice even more, you know what to do. That would be awesome, Frank. It’s always fun.

Lisa: Oh, thank you again so much.

Frank: Oh, my pleasure. Bye-bye guys, you all be good.  

Lisa: All right, thank you, bye-bye. 

Gabe: Uh-huh, bye-bye. Lisa, what do you think? You didn’t say a whole lot. I mean, it is probably hard with Gabe and Frank on the line.

Lisa: Well, I thought he raised some interesting points. I thought his comedy was pretty funny, that was good. If I were at a conference, I’d want to go see that.

Gabe: Well, you know that that’s interesting because when you started off talking, I thought you were gonna say this sucks. I don’t think we should joke about mental illness. But then you ended with if we were at a conference, I’d want to go see it. It sounds like you’re conflicted, like you’re not sure.

Lisa: No.

Gabe: Whether this is okay or not.

Lisa: Well, I would say that the broader question of is comedy about bad things okay or not has a lot of gray in it. I think that humor and laughter is a recognizable way to deal with dark things. I use it myself. Almost everyone I know uses it. I think this is a universal part of the human condition. We all use humor to get through dark times or to address dark subjects. So, if this is something that you’re uncomfortable with, once he is laughing at his own mental illness, that indicates to the audience that it’s okay to laugh. He’s comfortable with it. So we’re comfortable with it.

Gabe: Lisa, you and I have been friends for forever, and I know that you like gallows humor. I know that you like dark humor.

Lisa: I do, I really do.

Gabe: We both like it. But I noticed that when Frank was telling some of the darker jokes and I mean, he just popped out of nowhere. You looked uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable. 

Lisa: I don’t know that I’m so much uncomfortable, as just surprised and you’re not sure how to react. You know, like, what do I do? What do I say? What comes next? And, today, whoa, he just went straight for it.   There’s no lead up, no buildup. I think maybe that’s what it was. It was just it’s so shocking to be right in front of your face so fast.

Gabe: But let’s say that I did that. Let’s say you and I were we’re sitting in my living room, it’s 3:00 in the morning and I just I pop that joke. Would you know what to say then?

Lisa: Well, it’s different.

Gabe: Would you have laughed?

Lisa: Yeah, but it’s different when you’re with someone you literally know. I’ve met this man for the first time just now.

Gabe: But why? I think that’s an interesting concept, because kind of what you’re describing is that gallows humor is okay among close friends, privately, but publicly,

Lisa: Well.

Gabe: Maybe it’s not OK? I’m just curious as to why?

Lisa: Well.

Gabe: Listen, I did the same thing. I laughed uncomfortably. Everybody just heard it.

Lisa: I didn’t think about that as whether or not it was one of those things where it’s more for close friends and family or. But that’s not really a practical way to go about things just because most of my friends and family just aren’t that funny. So if I want to hear said humor, I’m gonna have to turn to some sort of mass media.

Gabe: But you’re alone.

Lisa: Oh, okay.

Gabe: You’re doing that mass media alone.

Lisa: Well, what if I were in the audience?

Gabe: There’s no production. There’s no producers. There’s no Psych Central hovering. There’s no, there’s no recording.

Lisa: Right.

Gabe: However, you reacted, is being recorded right now.

Lisa: Right.

Gabe: On recordings that you don’t control. Did that impact the way that you responded?

Lisa: Absolutely.

Gabe: Why?

Lisa: And I think it’s probably, I’m assuming it impacts the way that his audience responds as well. Because you’re looking for society to tell you that this is OK or this is not OK. You’re trying to take your cue from other people as to, because you don’t know how to react. It’s so unusual and it’s so surprising that you’re just not sure what to do. 

Gabe: Isn’t this what gets us in trouble, though? Listen to what you just said. You’re looking around to take your cues from society to decide how you should react. Now, let’s put that in an analogy for people living with mental illness, maybe the guy that you meet with bipolar disorder, you don’t have a problem with it until all of your friends and family say, whoa hoo hoo hoo hoo. You should

Lisa: Oh.

Gabe: Not date him. He’s mentally ill. So you look around to society to decide how to react. And suddenly the guy with bipolar disorder can’t have friends or get a job or have a shot because everybody is sharing in the same nucleus of misinformation. You had an opportunity to laugh at a joke that I know you find funny. I had an opportunity to laugh at a joke that I know that I found funny. And we opted to skip it because we weren’t sure how our listeners would react.

Lisa: Well,

Gabe: Wow. We’re breaking down walls.

Lisa: Well, OK, but that’s not exactly a fair comparison, because we do have a vested interest in how our listeners react. It’s not like we were at a comedy club with a bunch of people and who cares what they think of us. We care very much about what the people listening are thinking. So I don’t think that’s exactly a fair analogy. So let’s use that analogy, though, where. Yeah, that’s a good point. If it was just about a bunch of strangers or about the larger society and not people who, you know, control the purse strings, we would in fact be saying, yeah. You’re right. That is part of the culture of discrimination. I had not thought of it that way. Good point.

Gabe: Obviously, we’ve talked about a lot. I like this type of humor because if it wasn’t for this type of humor, I don’t know that how I would have gotten through. And I do embrace humor is healthy. I do think that sometimes joking about it breaks down barriers. It’s like the analogy that I told about my dad. There are people who are horrified to hear this story. I’m sure that some of them are listening right now. But it’s my dad. And we talk to each other that way. He would say the same thing to me if I was in that situation. And we’d laugh together and we’d cry together and we’d be a family together. And maybe you shouldn’t walk up to a stranger and threaten to beat them up. I kind of agree with that. But.

Lisa: Well, of course, you agree with that. Everything is in context.

Gabe: And there. There is my big point, I think that sometimes people miss the context of some of Frank’s jokes or some of the jokes that I tell as a speaker. Where people say, you know, that’s not something that you should joke about. But the context is education. The context is bringing it out of the shadows and making it something that we can point at, laugh at, discuss and will not be afraid of. If we’re paying attention to the context, I think a guy

Lisa: Well, but.

Gabe: Like Frank is perfectly fine. If we pay attention to the words, m aybe Frank has gone too far. I am on the all discussion is good discussion bandwagon.

Lisa: Ok, but that same thing could be said about any controversial comedian or any controversial comedy subject. It’s all about the context. We would never have any of this criticism of someone’s material ever if they knew for sure the people in the audience would be okay with it. You know, it’s all about deciding if this particular group of people is comfortable with this humor or not. And I can see I know what it is you’re going to say. You’re going to say that if they’re not comfortable with it, we need to make them comfortable with it. And one of the ways we do that is exposure.

Gabe: I think that is a good point, but I wasn’t going to say that at all. What I was going to say is that people have a right to discuss their lives and their trauma and their mental illness in any way they want. And while you may not agree with Frank or even find Frank funny or like Frank or I don’t know why I’m shitting all over Frank, all of a sudden. We love him. We had him on our show. But I think the solution here is to understand that Frank is describing his journey in the way that he is comfortable with. And if you don’t like it, don’t listen. What I worry about is when people say, listen, you have a mental illness, but you can only talk about your mental illness this way. You can only describe your experience in this manner. You can only describe your trauma using these words. I think that really creates a system where people can’t define their own recovery and their own existence. And people can’t be who they want. Yeah, I’m well aware of controversial comedians that that say all kinds of horrific things, but they’re saying them about other people. They’re not saying them about their selves. 

Lisa: Well, yeah. That’s why.

Gabe: One of the things that I love about Frank is that Frank discusses his own life. And yeah, some people don’t like the way that he does it. But I gotta tell you, I’ve been in his audience. The majority of the people love it. It just seems like the people who don’t like it are really loud.

Lisa: Well, you would prefer they just weren’t there at all. Everyone has kind of the inalienable right to define their own narrative, to discuss their own thing the way they want to, to put it into the words they choose. And I want to just go with that. I want to just be done there and just stop. Full stop. Done. But then I start thinking well, but, how far does that go? I get that you have mental illness and therefore you kind of have the permission slip to talk about this. But there is a non-zero point where I would say, OK, stop it.

Gabe: Well, but I think that what you’re discussing is that you don’t want Frank to tell you what to do with your life. And that’s the great thing about Frank King. His comedy is very personal. He only talks about his experiences, his life. I’ve never seen Frank say I am a person living with depression. And here’s what every single person with depression needs to do. I don’t know what the joke at the end of that would be, but yeah, yeah, I’d show right up and I’d be like, dude, you’re not the elected spokesperson for people with depression. 

Lisa: But that’s why people would critique it, because there’s a finite number of spokespeople. There are so few voices out there representing us that when one of them says the following thing, that is extra damaging. It’s not like there’s a thousand of these people out there. There’s only a handful. So I think many people feel like you need to tightly control that narrative. If they feel that narrative is incorrect or damaging and other people see that. And he has that cover of, hey, he’s mentally ill. You can’t criticize the way he talks about it, because, after all, it’s his own experience. But they feel that that is damaging to the overall movement. So I don’t know where to go with that. 

Gabe: Well, but people can critique it and say that isn’t their experience, but it is, in fact, Frank’s.

Lisa: OK.

Gabe: I can tell you that being a mental health speaker, I’m not a mental health comedian. I’m a mental health speaker and I don’t even have the mental health speaker dot com. So I don’t know.

Lisa: Well, that was a clear oversight.

Gabe: Yeah, I don’t know where that leaves me. But I can tell you, being a mental health speaker, I love it when people tell me I’m wrong. I love it when I get emails where people tell me that I missed the mark. I love it when people are discussing the things that I say. Being a podcaster  or I feel the same way. Respectful emails where people are like, Gabe, I listened to your whole podcast. I listened to your point of view and you are completely wrong. Mental Health Month is in fact, incredible. You shouldn’t have insulted in any way. It is only goodness. I listened to everything that you say. I completely disagree with you. You, sir, are wrong. That is my favorite email ever. They listened to what I said. They considered everything that I said and they are now putting out in the world that Gabe Howard is wrong. There is nothing wrong with that. We should be very, very clear. I just want to take a moment. Frank is not doing any of these things. We’re just using him as a

Lisa: Well, yeah, because he’s the one who’s here right now.

Gabe: Yeah, he was just dumb enough to come on the show. I bet he’s rethinking that now that he’s listening to it. 

Lisa: Yeah, we’re gonna have trouble getting guests after this.

Gabe: But seriously, these discussions are powerful. Right, Lisa, I understand what you’re saying.

Lisa: Yes.

Gabe: You don’t want to be on the Gabe train because then it’s all one way or all another.

Lisa: Because where’s the line?

Gabe: I’m telling you, there isn’t a line. It would be nice if we lived in a world where this is the stuff that was appropriate. And this is the stuff that was inappropriate. That world does not exist. I feel very strongly that the best we can do is allow for respectful dialog and respectful disagreement. I think that mental health advocacy would move forward at an extraordinarily rapid rate if all the people who disagreed could get on board, find the stuff we have in common and push that forward. Because, listen, we’re never going to agree. The way that a middle aged white guy experiences bipolar disorder is j ust different than a 70 year old woman who’s been living with bipolar disorder, which is different than 20 year olds who are being diagnosed, which is different from people below the poverty line, above the poverty line.

Lisa: Yeah, we get it. It’s all different. Everyone’s different, yes.

Gabe: I just I haven’t even scratched the surface of differences yet. I know that you think that I’m just going on and on and on and on and on. But you know as well as I do that I haven’t even covered one percent of all of the differences with people bipolar disorder.

Lisa: Well, obviously not. Because all of the people with bipolar disorder represent all of the available differences in the population.

Gabe: Exactly. This applies to more than just mental health.

Lisa: Yeah, It’s a broadly applicable discussion.

Gabe: And I really wanted to remind my listeners that, you know, so often people living with mental illness feel that the bar is different for us. And it is.

Lisa: Yeah, it is.

Gabe: The bar is different for us. But, you know, sometimes the bar is exactly the same. It’s exactly the same as everybody else. People are trying to decide the best way to discuss all kinds of controversial topics, scary topics, misunderstood topics. And they’re all running into the same problems that people who are advocating on behalf of people living with mental illness are running into. It is one of the things that bind us. It’s difficult to know how to get the word out there, because as sure as I’m sitting here, you’re going to step on somebody’s toes.

Lisa: Yeah. Here, here. Gabe.

Gabe: Lisa, did you have fun?

Lisa: Yes. A real treat to have Frank with us today.

Gabe: It was really, really awesome. Now, Lisa, you have seven days to come up with a new way to start the show. If you say hi, I am Lisa, I. 

Lisa: It’s hard. I need help here, people, help me, help me. Give me some advice.

Gabe: Really? You want people to e-mail [email protected] to tell an experienced podcaster how to start her own show?

Lisa: Yes, I feel that people should definitely e-mail [email protected] to let us know what it is I should be saying.

Gabe: You heard the lady; I’m not going to argue with her. Listen up, everybody. Here’s what I need you to do. If you love the show, please give us as many stars as humanly possible. Use your words and write about how much you loved us. Words really, really help. And share us on social media. Use your words there too. Really this whole thing comes down to using positive words to share us and subscribe and to make us famous. Like, wouldn’t it be cool if we were as famous as Frank King,

Lisa: Oh.

Gabe: at mental health comedian dot com?

Lisa: I believe that’s TheMentalHealthComedian.com, Gabe. He’s just not a mental health comedian. He is the mental health comedian.

Gabe: Once again, thank you, Frank. Thanks, everybody, for listening. And we will see you next Tuesday.

Lisa: Bye. See you then.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person?  Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail [email protected] for details. 

 

Podcast: Joking About Suicide: Is It Ever Okay?


This article features affiliate links to Amazon.com, where a small commission is paid to Psych Central if a book is purchased. Thank you for your support of Psych Central!


Not Crazy Podcast

Not Crazy is the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. The show is designed to explore all facets of our mental health -- without all the psycho-babble. New Episodes Every Monday on your favorite podcast player.


No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Podcast, N. (2020). Podcast: Joking About Suicide: Is It Ever Okay?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-joking-about-suicide-is-it-ever-okay/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Jun 2020 (Originally: 9 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Jun 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.