Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake just put out a moving half-hour documentary via Funny or Die that’s worth watching whether you’re a comedian, know a comedian, or are a living human being in 2019.
Laughing Matters opens with a reminder of how we felt in 2014 when we learned that Robin Williams had committed suicide, followed by a quick montage of other comedians who left us too soon, either from substance abuse, suicide or just by accident. Chris Farley, John Belushi, Sam Kinison, Mitch Hedberg, Brody Stevens, Greg Giraldo, Lenny Bruce, Harris Wittels.
Then we visit with 11 comedians who are still with us.
One of them, Chris Gethard, has been especially open about his mental health over the years (his HBO comedy special was called Career Suicide), and does so again here. The filmmakers wisely use one of his quotes to help open the doc: “I have this theory that maybe, percentage-wise, comedians aren’t more depressed than the rest of society. Maybe the rest of society just isn’t talking about it — professionally.”
They also check in with Wilson, who fills us in on his childhood as well as how he handled or didn’t handle his Office fame, plus Sarah Silverman, Wayne Brady, Baron Vaughn, Anna Akana, Rachel Bloom, Neal Brennan, Sara Benincasa, Riki Lindhome, and Aparna Nancherla.
These funny people walk us through some of the commonalities they all share (and so might we):
- The need for attention as a child
- Laughter as a self-defense mechanism
- The highs and lows of performing, then isolation in hotel room
- The allure of substance abuse
- Anti-depressants, getting help, and/or trying to use the stage as therapy
The simple truth is by sharing our stories, we remind you and each other that none of us are alone, and we don’t have to struggle alone.