♪ I hate my brain ♪
♪ Because the things I think sometimes ♪
♪ Are so judgmental and lame ♪
♪ I’ve got everything that I want ♪
♪ Except my set of expectations ♪
♪ Won’t stay the same ♪
Thank you very much. Before I tell you anything else, I want you to know, I see a shrink. We’re good. I’ve been actually seeing the same shrink since 2007. I didn’t start dating the woman who’s now my wife until 2012. My shrink’s name is Barb, which I-I think we can all agree that’s the perfect name for a shrink, and Barb’s the best. Even though Barb is… kind of the worst. And mostly ’cause she’s not necessarily like, good at it, you know. She’s not good at actually being a doctor. When you’re a doctor, there’s all kinds of rules that go along with that. When I started with Barb, I was like, “I don’t… think she knows that.” But then very quickly, I’m like, “Oh, wait, no.” She just doesn’t give a shit, man.” She once spent a portion of a session sitting on the couch with me, showing me pictures on an iPad of a house she bought in Mexico. That’s also how she let me know that she was moving to Mexico. All of our sessions now happen via Skype, oftentimes while she is lounging in a hammock.
She has seen me in many shows over the years, she’s come out to live shows, and that’s very nice, it’s very supportive, I get that, but… There are these things called “boundary issues.” You don’t want those being crossed. She once… She once saw me in a show here in New York, and my parents also attended that show, and they lived near each other in New Jersey at the time, and Barb asked my parents for a ride home… and they gave it to her. If you’re not familiar with how this type of doctor/patient relationship is supposed to go, it’s not supposed to end with your shrink and your parents alone in a car.
But there’s a reason I’ve stayed with her as long as I have. I mean, it’s been a decade. She can… she can be great. There’s a lot of crazy stuff, and you’ll hear a lot of that, but she can also be great. One time she says to me, she goes, “You know what your basic problem is?” “Your reactions to things “are not in proportion to the things you’re reacting to.” And that just… Mwah! ‘Cause that’s very true about me. That has always been true. Really big things will happen in my life, and I’ll be like, “Whatever. Who cares?” And then these tiny little things will just spiral out of control.
Like my wife… my wife… My wife’s incredible. I think my wife’s a perfect human being. Outside of… of one flaw. She does… She has one flaw. If she opens a cabinet door, that cabinet door stays open. That is a fact. I don’t even know if she’s aware that they move in the other direction. And unfortunately for me with my anxiety mixed with my slight OCD, if a cabinet door is open and it doesn’t have to be, that feels to me like the entire world is falling apart. And there’s one night, where she and I are in bed, and I can’t fall asleep because I know… that in our kitchen… there is a cabinet door… and it is open. And I’m in my head, I’m going, “Who cares?” “Let it go. “There are no negative repercussions to a cabinet door being open right now.” And then I think to myself, “You can’t make that promise.” And I’m going, “Don’t do it. It is crazy if you do it.” But I do, I get out of bed, and I tiptoe into our kitchen, and I close the cabinet door and when I do, I say out loud, “It’s over.”
Now, clearly that does not deserve that reaction. Barb is on the money when it comes to this one, and maybe I should know that about myself. Maybe I should know that my reactions don’t always make sense. I-I really didn’t, and for her to tell me that in such a simple way, that’s the type of wisdom Barb drops every once in a while that makes it so worth it to stay with her. Even though she also says things like the time she told me that she believes human brains are actually computers invented by aliens and placed inside our heads. My shrink told me that. She didn’t just tell me that. She forgot she told me that, and reiterated it eight months later.
So I-I bet for a lot of people, the big question is, “Why?” Right? Like, “Why do you have to see a shrink?” That cabinet door thing isn’t so bad.” And it’s not. It’s also just the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately. I’ve been dealing with stuff more severe than that since a really young age. Um, I didn’t… I didn’t know when I was 11 years old that this thing had a name: Depression. I just thought everybody in fifth grade had an internal monologue like the guy from Taxi Driver. It’s very hard to verbally kind of describe what it… what it feels like. I bet anybody else who has dealt with it would agree that’s… that’s one of the very frustrating things about it. Um, I can say this, even when I was little, I knew I was never sure which version of myself I would wake up as on any given day. “Is today gonna be a day where I’m… I’m really mad at everybody and I can’t even explain why?” “Or today am I gonna get really shy around people who I have known for my whole life?” “Or, or maybe today I’ll be really manic “and try to convince the other kids in the neighborhood that we gotta get up on a garage and jump into our neighbor’s pool.” “Maybe today I’ll be too scared to even leave the house “because I’ve convinced myself if I do, “I might see the Virgin Mary and die, like those kids who saw her in Portugal a hundred years ago.” Because I think we’d all agree that when you’re born with mental-illness-level anxiety, the cure clearly is being raised Catholic. Catholicism doesn’t help anxiety. It’s like, “This man’s watching you. Apologize for something.” That’s like… That’s the whole religion, that’s it.
I didn’t… I didn’t see this stuff hit its peak level until I was 14. That’s the first age where I had one of my attacks. And… and these attacks have plagued me ever since. Basically if my depression really gets going, I kind of can’t, like, grab onto my thoughts, is how I might describe it, and I can’t breathe, and my-my body is hot, and my face numb, like, actual pins and needles. When it’s at its worst, my face goes numb. It’s awful. So, I bet the even bigger “why” is “Well, why does that happen?” And I’m sorry to tell you, no real reason. I wish. I wish I had one. I wish I had some inciting incident that I could point to and say, “That. That’s what caused this in me.” I don’t have that. I was a pretty normal kid at the end of the day. I loved basketball. John Starks, that’s my dude, now and forever. Love Starks. I love pro-wrestling. The nature boy, Ric Flair. That’s my guy. Woo. A couple other people, that’s nice, that’s good. I, uh, I loved comic books, but we can be honest, right? Marvel only. Come on! Thank you. DC Comics are bullshit, always have been. They have a character called the Blue Beetle. Get the fuck outta here. That’s not okay, you know?
And comedy was the big one for me. I mean, when I’m nine, ten years old, all I want to do is stay up late and watch David Letterman. And I start collecting Andy Kaufman tapes when I’m still in high school, and Saturday Night Live. When I was a kid, that’s the best era of SNL. Chris Farley. “Living in a van down by the river!” It’s the best, you know, so… Pretty average nerdy kid interests, you know, and no real traumas to report at home. My… My parents are still in love and married after 40 years. Like… I don’t know. I don’t know what caused it. Like… hate to say it, but sometimes… people just break. Welcome to a comedy show. Welcome. Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.
So, in 2001, I’m 21 years old, and I find myself driving on Valley Road in Clifton, New Jersey. For anybody who’s not familiar with Clifton, New Jersey, this is a very long road. It goes from one end of this town all the way to the other. So even though it’s just a regular suburban road, people do drive fast on it. And I’m driving behind this pick-up truck. It’s a big, beat-up pick-up, the kind you’d see, like, a landscaping company use. And I’m listening to The Smiths.
Who, if you’re not familiar, The Smiths are a rock and roll group. They’re from Manchester, England. Very popular in the early to mid 1980s. Um, even… even if you don’t know The Smiths, you might know their… their front man. He still tours around a lot. His name is Morrissey. He’s like a very legendarily emotional singer. I am clearly trying to rip off his haircut right now. And I know I’m listening to The Smiths, because when I’m 21 years old, all I listen to is The Smiths. Because when you’re 21 years old, and you’re as sad as I am a lot of the time, and you hear a lyric, like,
♪ If you’re so funny ♪
♪ Why are you on your own tonight ♪
♪ I know ♪
♪ Because tonight is just like any other night ♪
♪ That’s why you’re on your own tonight ♪
Thanks. When you hear that, you’re like, “Someone gets it.” Someone just verbalized this thing I have always felt. There is one person in this world who understands me. It’s weird that it’s Morrissey, but… I’ll take it.
So I-I’m behind this pickup truck, and the blinker turns on, the driver’s gonna turn left. I don’t even slow down. I’m gonna pass him on the right. I come around him, and as I do so, I realize he’s done one of those, “Oh, that’s not the turn I’m supposed to make.” He’s coming back into my lane. He’s coming back into the right lane, and it’s very clear I’m in his blind spot. He doesn’t see me. And I think to myself, “You should hit the brakes.” And then I think, “No, don’t.” “Because this way it’s just a car crash. “And this way, your parents don’t have to go around town being the parents of the kid who killed himself.”
Because we don’t judge people when they die in car crashes, but we do judge people when they die of suicide. I think it’s one of the strangest things we’ve given ourselves permission to do, and ultimately, I think it’s a branding problem… honestly. I do. I think suicide has a real branding problem. Because it has a tagline, it has its own tagline and the tagline sucks. It’s very condescending. “Suicide is the coward’s way out.” What a bad tagline. That’s bad branding. A tagline’s supposed to get you pumped up. You know? Like Nike, that’s a good tagline. “Just do it.” Right? I’m not saying that suicide should take that one, that’s not… That’s not it. Really, none of the big ones apply to this. Although, Burger King “Have It Your Way” kind of does fit, oddly… oddly enough. I’ll say this too,
I’ve never understood it, the phrase. I don’t get what’s cowardly about suicide. To me, suicide means that someone had a lot of problems and they couldn’t fight through them anymore. That is a lot of things, it’s not cowardly.
So this truck hits me, sideswipes me, sends my little Nissan Sentra off into this driveway. Which sounds like a safe place to end up, except, unfortunately for me, this little section of Clifton, New Jersey is built on a hill. So the driveway has a retaining wall, and I hit it head-on. Car comes crashing down on the front lawn of this house, and as soon as the car stops bouncing, I think to myself, “Oh my God, I did that.” And then it’s silent. Until I hear the sound of an aluminum front door squeaking open. It’s a very familiar sound for any of us who grew up in the suburbs. And then I hear this voice that has the same exact accent as my mother, which is the same exact accent… as Carmela Soprano. This is very true, and if there’s any North Jersey people here tonight, you can vouch for me. A lot of people sound like Carmela Soprano where we grew up. That’s… very true. I grew up in Essex County. That’s where Sopranos took place, and they nailed the culture of it, and Edie Falco in particular. She earned every award she ever won. And that’s the real message of this show tonight. That’s the real, uncomfortable truth, I wish we’d just speak more openly about is that Edie Falco, pretty fucking good at acting. Quite good at what she does.
So, this door squeaks open, and then, I hear this Carmela Soprano go, “Oh my God!” And then a second door squeaks open, and I hear a second Carmela Soprano go, “What’s going on?” And then a third door opens, and a third Carmela Soprano goes, “Is he dead?” And the second one goes, “We don’t know.” And the first one says, “We’re trying to figure it out.”
So I’m listening to this chorus of Carmela Sopranos debate whether or not I’m dead, and I’m in total shock inside the car. I’m like, “Maybe I am.” “Maybe I’m dead right now. Maybe they know better than I do. “Maybe… Maybe I’m dead and I’m a ghost. Maybe I’m the ghost of Clifton, New Jersey.” Which could be worse. Could be Passaic. Which if you knew… If you knew the geography of North Jersey, you’d be like, “Nailed it, bro!” I promise you would. You would, I promise.
So these Carmela Sopranos, they’re discussing me, and then I hear another voice, angry male voice. This guy says, “Get the fuck out of the car.” I realize this is the driver of the truck I hit. He’s coming towards me from the truck. He’s a big dude, he’s jacked. Scary looking, not even because of the muscles, because of his outfit. He’s wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off… and the shirt is tucked into a pair of Daisy Dukes. It’s very disconcerting. It’s very disconcerting. So he says, “Get the fuck out of the car!” I say, “I can’t, man. The door, it’s all caved in.” It doesn’t… It doesn’t work anymore.” And he says, “I’m gonna fuck you up.” And he walks around the car, and just before he gets to the passenger side door, another voice, North Jersey, Italian-American male accent. This guy sounds a lot like my best friend Anthony’s dad. And… And this guy just goes, “Hey calm down, man. Look at him, huh? He’s just a kid. Look at him, man, he’s just a kid.” And the big guy goes, “What?!” And the Carmela Sopranos are like, “What’s this new development?” You know? Everybody’s just trying to figure it out, you know. And the Italian guy says that a couple more times. “He’s just a kid, man, come on. He’s just a kid.”
And to this day, I’m not sure why, the big guy turns around, gets back in his truck. He just leaves. Gets out of there. He leaves the scene, never made sense to me. The Italian guy, he opens the passenger side door, he gives me his hand. I climb out of the car. He says, “You okay?” And I say, “Thanks, man. You saved me.” And I’ve always felt bad about that. Because there was a lot more to be said. Like, sure, you saved me in that immediate sense, but also you saved me because I did that. And I never ever thought I could ever actually act on that impulse. And-and-and now you’re here, and you remind me of my best friend’s dad. Like you saved me, but I, I didn’t even know how to formulate those thoughts, let alone express them, so I just mumbled, “You saved me.”
And I will never forget how he responds. He puts his hand on my shoulder, and gives me a nod and he says, “It’s all right. I wasn’t gonna let a n i g g e r beat up a white kid.” “Okay, thanks again, man.” Thank you.
And believe me, from the bottom of my heart, believe me, I hate saying that word. I hate the sound of it coming out of my mouth. And… and I wish that’s not how that went. That’s a true story. All these stories tonight are true. And… And I wish… I wish it was different. I wish… I wish it was the racist guy that was… that was mad at me. The roles were reversed. That’s not how it went down. Life wasn’t simple that day. There’s these shades of gray, and I would argue that those shades of gray where things get that awful and fucked up, it’s… it’s a big part of why this world seems so overwhelming and depressing to people like me.
So, he says that bullshit, and I’m like, “Oh.” I thought the car crash was the rock-bottom.”
And I think about that day a lot. I think about the aftermath of it, and I get very upset with myself because I still didn’t get help after that. Everybody in my family thought that that was a car accident. And I’ve always been really good at hiding this side of myself. Anytime, anytime at all when people are asking me what’s going on, I keep myself way too busy. That’s always… That’s always been my style. And back then, I was a full-time student at Rutgers University. – I had a full-time job.
An appropriate level of enthusiasm. Many… Like Ohio State people are like, “O-H-I-O!” Rutgers, you like wait a minute, and you’re like, “I as well.” Like, that’s really… That’s really… Thank you.
I was a full-time student there. I had a full-time job, and I mentioned how much I loved comedy. I found a place willing to let me do it. It’s still here, it’s in New York. It’s called the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Great place, great place. And, uh, I started there when I was 20 years old, and… and I loved it so much. And one night, I’m driving home from the UCB theater, back to my parents’ house in Jersey, where I still lived at the time, and it was after a particularly bad show. It was an improvised parody of Japanese anime cartoons, and I was playing a schoolgirl named Urine. And… needless to say, I wasn’t feeling great about myself. And I’m-I’m driving, and I’m like, “I’m so exhausted all the time. Why? And like for that. Is any of this… even worth it?” And I can’t… breathe, and the heat, and the pins and needles while I’m driving.
And I pull off of Route 46, and I stop in this bank parking lot, and I call Teresa. She was my girlfriend in college. And I say, “It’s happening again, and I’m driving and it’s scary.” And she interrupts me. She does what I think is the kindest thing anybody has ever done for me. She says, “Look.” “Here’s what’s gonna happen. “You’re gonna go home right now. “You’re gonna wake up your mom and tell her what’s going on. “Because, look, I’m calling her, okay? “I’m calling her first thing tomorrow morning. “I’m telling her, so now’s your chance to get it done on your terms.” She took the choice out of my hands. Thank God. That’s what I needed back then. Although, believe me, that night? Not into it at all, at all. I’m like, “You can’t do that. That’s not yours to share. This isn’t fair.” And she’s like, “Fair?” “You wanna talk about fair? “You still call me about this shit. You dumped me 18 months ago, asshole.” Touché. Touché.
I do what she says. I-I get home… and it’s about 2:30 in the morning, and I walk into my parents’ bedroom, and… and my mom’s asleep in bed. And my mom is this five-foot nothing, arthritic, little Irish-Catholic lady. And, uh, and my dad… My dad had a job in Puerto Rico for like a year or so. So randomly, he just lived on the island of Puerto Rico at that time, and that means my mom’s alone in this bed. It’s way too big for just her, you know? It looks like she’s, like, drowning in all those blankets, and I, uh… I reach out to wake up my mother, and before I touch her, I pause. Because I realize that this is the last moment in my mom’s life where she gets to think that she has a normal kid… and I almost bail. I almost just walk away, but it’s out of my hands now. Right? I-I gotta do it, so… I do it. I shake my mom awake, and-and she’s really confused, and I just blurt it out. I say, “Mom, I’m… suicidal”, and I’m really scared.” And she’s blindsided by that. And I never… I never want to see my mom that frightened ever again. And-And she puts on her glasses, and-and she says, “I-I didn’t know. “I don’t know what to do. What… What do you… What do you think we should do?” And I think to myself… She sounds so much like Carmela Soprano. It’s ridiculous.
It feels good to tell somebody what’s going on, and it feels good to ask for help. And-And my mom, she steps up. Helps me find a doctor at a clinic on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona, New Jersey. And I go. At the end of that week, I see a doctor for the first time. Even though, I-I didn’t… I never wanted to, you know. And I get it. The first time you see a shrink, you kind of feel like you’ve failed, you know, like you’re giving up. And especially where I’m from, like, my neighborhood in North Jersey, you tell someone you’re going to see a shrink, they’re gonna be like, “Wait. What? Why? Like… “Like you get to fix your life up or something? What? Like… “Like you deserve to be so happy? What? You think you’re fucking better than me?” Like that is the vibe where I grew up. I’m so sorry. Thank you, sir. I’m so sorry.
I went… I-I-I went, and I kept going, even though I didn’t like it at all, and I was proud of that. ‘Cause it was my one hour a week where I was finally fighting back. But this doctor… I notice right away, this doctor’s questions, broad, vague questions, like they’re not really addressing the things I’m even bringing up. He’s not really listening, which I-I thought for a shrink was the only job requirement, you know? I’m telling him about my childhood. I-I-I’m like, “Parents, great, no complains there.” But I did grow up in this town, West Orange, odd place at times, kind of violent and like a lot of bullying and stuff, and like no real consequences for it even. My older brother, when he was 12 years old, he got beat up by a bully so bad, this kid broke my brother’s shoulder, broke his collarbone in a fight. This happened at Edison Middle School. The kid didn’t even get into any trouble for that. I’m a few years younger than my brother. I see that, I’m like, “Okay, I guess… “I guess the world’s, like, violent and aggressive “and nobody’s really going to help you out so, “keep your guard up, man. Like, don’t let anybody in.” It really messed me up. It did. And oddly enough… I mean, this doesn’t really matter, it’s neither here nor there… But oddly enough that bully happened to be a little person. A dwarf broke my brother’s shoulder. My childhood may as well have just been directed by David Lynch. It made no sense. It made no sense.
And… And this doctor… Doctor interrupts me, and he goes, “Are you gay?” I’m like, “What’s that have to do… with that?” I-I-I don’t think so.” “That’s an interesting answer.” Not really though, right? Like there’s a spectrum. Everybody’s on it. We’re fine. “M’kay. M’kay. But did your father hit you?” “Did you not hear what I just said?” Like, “A dwarf was breaking bones.” “We definitely have shit to talk about.” “Did your gay father hit you?” I said, motherfucker.
What I realized is like he had these checklist questions. He asked everybody these questions. I smelled a rat. It was bullshit. I didn’t like it. But I stuck with it, I did stick with it, and, um, even went on medication through the clinic doctor. The first time, first time I went on meds, it was via the clinic doctor, and I didn’t want to do that either… for many reasons. Chief among them, mental health medications, to my knowledge, that’s the only type of medication that when people find out you’re taking it, they feel this freedom to offer up their entirely unsolicited opinions about it, right to your face, it happens all the time. And I don’t think it’s okay with any other sickness to just like say shit about the medications. Like nobody has ever been diagnosed with diabetes and had their ignorant cousin go, “You’re gonna take insulin?” “For now, right? You’ll get off that shit someday.” No one in human history has ever said the words, “What’s so wrong with your life that you need chemotherapy?” Never been said. But when you take the medicines I take, people say stuff like that, legit, all the time.
So, I’m pushing back against it. I’m giving myself all the usual excuses. “You won’t really be yourself anymore.” Right? Or, uh… “You’ll be walking around in a fog.” Or the big one for people like me, “You won’t be creative anymore. “You won’t be funny if you take those pills. “You won’t be funny unless you’re a Sylvia Plath-esque, tortured soul improv kid.” Which, I will tell you, in my opinion, which is really all this show is, um… That-that-that creativity thing, that’s the biggest bullshit myth that we allow to perpetuate, and I don’t get it, and not just perpetuate, we romanticize that one. Still. We do. People have said to me, people have said to me, like, “Yeah, but like”, “Kurt Cobain though, right?” Like, “Those songs. Kurt Cobain.” And I’m like, “Okay.” “You know what I’d love, though? “I’d love if Kurt Cobain was still alive, putting out shitty light rock albums. I’d love that.” I would love it if in December, Kurt Cobain dropped a Starbucks exclusive Christmas album. I’d love that. I’d love that.
I also, it’s… I don’t even think it’s true. Like I get it, I get that certain drugs can dull your creativity, but a good doctor will just put you on different drugs. And one of my life’s true regrets, is that I bought into that one for years. I didn’t take medicine for that reason, and what a waste of time, because I’m happy to tell ya, at least in my case, I am significantly fucking funnier on medication. It’s not even… Thanks. It’s not even a contest. It’s not, and like… I was always so scared I’d lose my ideas. That was the big fear from back then. “I’ll lose my ideas if I take those pills.” And I think about these ideas from back then, that I was so scared to lose, and…
Like, there was a night at Rutgers, I call up all my comedy friends, I say, “Drop what you’re doing.” “Meet me at the diner. I have the best idea I have ever had.” And they do. They show up at the diner. They’re like, “What’s going on?” I’m like, “Well, here’s what’s going on is” “we’re gonna write a play, tonight. “It’s gonna be called Time Phone. “It’s about a phone where when you pick it up, “you can talk to people in other eras of time. “We’re gonna perform it, one night only, also tonight…” “in the cash machine booth at a local bank.” “First question, I know. Who’s gonna see it? “Great question. Well, if anybody needs money, “I guess they’ll catch a few minutes of Time Phone. “And if not, then whatever, guys. “It’s just for us, then, right? “Like then it’s just art for art’s sake, right, guys? “Right, guys? Right, guys?” And they’re all eating chicken fingers, like, “No.” And not only is Time Phone a pretty bad idea, it is already the plot of a Dennis Quaid movie. Frequency is just that with a ham radio. That’s what I’m so worried about? That I won’t be able to fly into a manic fit, and rip off Dennis Quaid?
So, even though I’m one of these people that’s like, “Medications, yeah.” I don’t know about that.” It turns out, they do work really well for me. And I know people have strong opinions on this one, so, let me just get this out of the way. I’m not trying to convince anybody about any of this. I promise I’m not. I’m not a shill. This show is not secretly sponsored by Pfizer, I swear. We’re good. I’m not even gonna say that going on this drug is a… This type of drug, it’s not an easy thing to do. I would never say that. There’s side effects. There’s side effects now. Let alone in 2002. The drug cocktail that the clinic doctor put me on then, it was Depakote, Wellbutrin, and Risperdal.
And Depakote, clinic doctor says, “You know, one of the side effects of this is “you can’t lose weight while you’re taking it. So, be careful what you eat.” And I say, “Got it.” But I’m 22 years old, so I eat whatever I want. And very quickly, I develop the physique of… like a… like a sad uncle who’s like, “Maybe I should’ve gotten married.” That was my body type: Dejected uncle.
Wellbutrin, some people have side effects from it. I’ve never had any side effects from Wellbutrin. I’m back on Wellbutrin today, and I love it! That’s what I have for breakfast every morning, is my ‘Butrin. Give me that Byootch, baby. It goes down smooth. That’s a tagline. Glad to see I got some other Byootch people here tonight. That’s good, that’s good.
Now, I don’t know if anybody’s ever heard of Risperdal. Whoo! You? Usually doesn’t get cheers, that one. Usually people are like… ‘Cause you guys can… You do know that’s a heavy duty one, though. Everybody who’s heard of that knows, that’s an antipsychotic. Um, I was put on that ’cause about halfway through my time at Rutgers, I started having very severe paranoia, and it was getting delusional. For example, Rutgers is a very big campus, and they have buses to take the kids around, and you have to push that thing, tell the driver when it’s time to stop the bus, you know. And I’d go to push that thing and I’d go, “Hmm. Nah, don’t… don’t push that. If you push that, they can track you.” And I’d hear myself think that, and I’d go, “Hold on. There is no they. “And on the off chance that there is, “I highly doubt that they are interested in the comings and goings “of a C-plus American Studies major, at an admittedly mid-tier state university in New Jersey.” You know that it’s true. You know that it’s true.
I take the Risperdal, that stops right away. I stop thinking that cops are following me. It’s freedom. It feels like this… this freedom. It does have one side effect. It makes my back muscles tighten up. This is apparently pretty common with this drug, so they also put me on a muscle relaxer. And that has a side effect… that we are going to talk about.
We’re all familiar with male ejaculate, yeah? I know that due to lifestyle preferences or experience levels not all of us come into contact with it on the regular, but we’re all adults here tonight. We all understand that men ejaculate, that there’s a companion substance known as ejaculate. We all know a certain range of colors to be expected with this substance. There’s a certain level of viscosity that one can rely upon in dealing with this substance. This is… This is why you’ll be so surprised to hear that when I was 22 years old, I was masturbating, which is not the surprising part at all. When you’re a 22-year-old male, masturbation is most of what you accomplish on any given day. It’s like golf. It’s like a sport you play against yourself, you know? And I wanted to be good at it. I was putting in my Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours on that one. In a big way.
No, the surprising part is that I finished, and I… I came water. Think about how I felt. Water came out of here… and then very quickly, water came out of here. Because it was disturbing, you can imagine. You have all these thoughts, you’re like, “Oh, I guess I’m so fucked up”, that God’s now removed my ability to reproduce.” You have that thought. And then even physically it wasn’t good, like it was not even a good amount of water. And I’m already not the most powerful ejaculator. And if there’s one thing you remember from this show… if there’s one thought that really sticks with ya, I hope it’s that, that I, Chris Gethard, not the most powerful ejaculator. But it-it was not even good by my standards. Like, you know when your landlord’s working on the pipes and disconnects the water, but you don’t know it and you turn on the faucet, and get that last little… I would’ve killed for that water pressure. I would have loved that. Really, the only thing that I can compare it to is when you’re eating spicy food, and… and you open your mouth too wide, and then from under your tongue, you get that spritz. That little saliva, you know? Where I grew up that was called “gleaking.” We called that “gleaking.” They don’t put that on the bottle. “Possible side effects include… your dick gleaks.” They leave… They leave that one out.
Every time I bring up the medications, it always makes me think about Barb. Because when I started with Barb in 2007, she says to me, “You need to be back on pills, that’s very clear. “But… check this out. “I get a lot of free samples from the pharmaceutical companies, “so maybe we’ll just, like, slip you some. Get the dosage right, you know?”
Now this is perfectly legal, but I like that she handled it with the tone of a street level drug dealer, I love that. I loved it, made me laugh, made me feel comfortable. Like, like she’s playing ball with me. Like, it made me feel like she was ready to go any length for my treatment, I love that. Although, first to admit, she can take that too far every once in a while.
Like, there was a time, before she moved to Mexico, I’m in her… I’m in Barb’s office one day, she says to me, “Hey, there’s this guy, “his office is right down the hall from mine. “We’ve been teaming up on patients, we’re getting great results. “My specialties, his specialty. “A lot of crossover there. I think you need to go see this guy.” I say “Okay. What’s his specialty?” She says, “Numerology.” And I go, I go, “Numerology numerology? “Like… like, I give this guy my birthday “and then other significant dates throughout my life, and then he analyzes them and predicts my future?” And she says, “Bingo.” I’m like, “No, that… Not for me,” you know? Although, I don’t judge it. I actually don’t. Like, if she says people are feeling better because of numerology, then great, whatever makes people feel better, I’m a proponent of it. Different things work for different people all the time.
You know, like some people self-medicate and apparently it works, I’m jealous. That’s great, more power to you, I tried. Alcohol… was how I tried to self-medicate. When I started with Barb, she says to me, she goes, “You don’t drink booze anymore, huh? How come? Are you, you an alcoholic?” And I’m like, “I’m not an alcoholic. I never drank every day.” And she goes, “That’s actually not what being an alcoholic is.” It’s a lot more about your relationship with alcohol.” And I go, “Barb, we can move on, okay?” “Like, I’d get a little out of control, but we’re good. I’m not an alcoholic.” And she says, “Give me an example of your behavior.” And I’m like okay, fine. I remember one night at Rutgers. I’m out drinking at the bars on Easton Avenue, and I’m with this girl. We’ve always been very flirty, and I really want to impress her, so every time she has a pint, I have a pitcher. Throwing it back and really quickly. She’s like, “Yo, this isn’t cool, man. I’m gonna head home.” And I’m like, “Great. Yeah. Whatever. I’ll head home, too, no problem.” And here’s where I baffle myself, is I know I’ve had too much to drink. That just happened, it’s embarrassing. Still, I get home, my roommates are drinking, I grab a bottle from one of them, crack it open, chug the entire thing top to bottom, throw the empty bottle on the ground. Now, my roommates are drinking Mad Dog 20/20.
Which some of you have heard of. For anybody who’s not familiar with Mad Dog 20/20, congratulations. You’ve never been homeless, that’s great. That’s great. We’re drinking strawberry-kiwi flavor. I drank the whole thing, my roommates are like, “We can’t believe you just did that.” I’m like, “Oh? You can’t? Gimme another one.” I chug another entire big bottle of Mad Dog, that’s when this night goes nuts. I start opening windows, and I’m yelling at people out on the streets, and I’m getting in my roommates’ faces trying to convince them they should fight me, and I’m rolling around on the ground.
And in the middle of all this chaos, my roommate Phil comes home, and he doesn’t size things up well. He goes “Bros, I’m going to a frat party.” Anybody wanna come?” And the rest of my roommates were like “Phil, no.” “No. No, no, no.” And I’m like “Yeah.” “I’m coming to the frat party, Phil,” “I’m coming and I’m… I’m just gonna do me, Phil.” “I’m just gonna behave however I feel like it tonight, Phil,” “and if anybody has an issue with that, I’ll let them know” “that you’re responsible for bringing me, Phil. I’ll let everybody know.” And right then, my roommate Dan grabs me and goes “Phil, run!” And Phil runs. He sprints out the front door of our house. Dan’s holding my arms down, he’s like, “You gotta calm down, man.” I’m like, “Fine, whatever.”
He helps me up to my room, in the attic, up all the steps. I get undressed, he tucks me into bed. I fall asleep. Should be the end of this story. Except the next thing I know, I… come to again and I’m… I’m fully clothed, and I’m running… down the middle of a street in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And I’m wearing… a Batman mask. I don’t know where I got it. I’ve never owned a Batman mask. I don’t even like DC Comics! But I’m wearing it, and I am running, maybe from the person I stole the Batman mask from. I black out again. I come to on the front porch of a house. I’m trying to open the door. There’s a guy, holding it closed from the other side, going, “No, seriously, Batman, you cannot come in here.” I black out. I come to, I’m on top of a parked car. I’m jumping up and down. There’s people surrounding the entire car going, “Batman! Batman!” I black out. I come to. I’m back in my room, thank God, and I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, blinking through the Batman mask, and as… as I get my bearings I realize that on the couch, in the corner of my room, there are two adult men who can only be described as sketchy, and they’re looking at me. And I say, “Hey, uh, you have to get out of my house.” And they look at each other and the one guy goes, “Wait. What?” And I go, “You-you have to go.” You have to get out of my house.” And the other guy goes “Okay.” But what happens?” And I realize… that I… must be in the middle of telling these guys a story. And they want to know how it ends. But I don’t know, I’m completely obliterated. I don’t know what’s going on, so I stand up and I’m like, “Seriously, you-you gotta go. You gotta get out of my house.” And at that exact moment, Barb interrupts me and is like, “Yeah.” You are definitely an alcoholic.” Okay.
Now by-by 2004, I’m actually feeling pretty good. I’ve been going to see the clinic doctor for two years. I’ve been medicated for two years. I’ve been sober for two years. And I’m learning to let my guard down, letting people in. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence I have this newfound positivity. That year, I get my first full-time job in comedy. I am hired to be the writers’ assistant for a show on Comedy Central, and that’s not a very glamorous entertainment job, a writer’s assistant. There’s a lot of ordering lunches and making copies and stuff, but I don’t care, you can imagine. I’m this kid, I’ve always clung to comedy, and now it’s my gig, that is… the best. Oh, there is… There’s one hitch. They say you have the job, and it starts on Monday, in Los Angeles. Now at this point, I-I still live in Montclair, New Jersey. I’m about ten minutes away from my mom. I-I have to call her up, and say, “Hey, Ma, I got this great news, but… “remember… “a couple years ago, I woke you up in the middle of the night, “saying that I wanted to be dead? “Now I’m gonna go… “3,000 miles away. “I’m actually going to go as far away as I can go “and still be… in the continental United States.” And you can imagine, a lot of fear from my mother, a lot of concern like, “You can’t… Maybe, you can just like wait” “and get a job in New York, you know,” but… She knew, she knew I had to go, and I do. I do. I drop my entire life, and I drive cross-country, and that trip’s the best. For me, that trip is 3,000 miles of nothing, but The Smiths. That is it, because when you’re 24 years old, and you’re feeling hope for the first time in a long time, and you hear a lyric like,
♪ When you want to live ♪
♪ How do you start? ♪
♪ Where do you go? ♪
♪ Who do you need to know? ♪
♪ Ohhh ♪
You are like, “Totally different era of life. “This motherfucker still gets me. How does he do it? He’s a genius.” We all know, he would’ve been knighted a long time ago if he didn’t threaten to kill the queen so many times, right? Definitely. Definitely. Definitely.
All these things… All these things happen on this trip. Like, I stay in this hourly hotel in Indiana that I think was a brothel. Didn’t ask, never knew for sure. And I got stuck, I got stuck in a lightning storm in Texas, which was actually very beautiful… and dangerous but beautiful. And then I’m driving in New Mexico, on this long straight highway, and this side of the car, it’s just prairie, it’s just grass, that’s it, that’s all you can see, and-and this side, sand, nothing but desert. And we all know, it’s very desolate out there in the West. I’m driving 30… 35… 40 minutes, I don’t pass another car the entire time. I’m just out there, alone. Except for the train. There’s these train tracks, they’re right alongside the highway, and it’s one of these big freight trains that you see out in the middle of the country, and I get really into it. I’m not… I’m not sure why, I-I-I just start glancing over, I’m like, “Okay. Uh-huh, uh-huh.” It looks like we got ourselves some train action right now, huh?” You know, I’m trying to guess what’s in it, you know? I’m like, “Maybe it’s like… Maybe it’s like hay?” “No. You don’t put hay in a train, you fucking idiot.” “Coal. It’s gotta be coal.” And then the tracks veer off towards the horizon, and I’m like, “Oh! I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery.” And then they come back towards the highway, and I’m like, “Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, looks like we’re just at the beginning of our journey, train.”
I couldn’t figure out why it was making me feel so elated, and then I-I realized that for the first time since the age of eleven, I’m not worried about anything. And I swear to you, I could see it in my head what this must have looked like from above. Like I could see a flash of the bird’s-eye view, and I realize, zoom out just a little bit, and you won’t even be able to make out my car against the asphalt of the road. And zoom out a little bit more than that, and those train tracks, you’d be like, is that another road or a river? What’s… What’s going on there? And zoom out just a little bit more, and all of it blends together. None of it makes any sense. And it occurs to me… that I’m… small… and I… do not matter… and that is beautiful. And what I mean by that is, I was living this life where every day, I mean, every single day, usually before I even left the house, I’d find some reason to be angry… or sad… or scared. And ask the other depressed people in your life, you do that enough days in a row, you just become convinced that that’s who you are, that’s how you’re wired, that… that’s how you have to live, because that’s your option. And… I realized out there on that highway in New Mexico, that another option is maybe someday I die old and happy. I honestly didn’t know… that I had that option.
So, anyway, I make it to California, I conquer the entertainment industry, depression goes away forever. Thank you, guys. Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you!
No, No need to… It was fake the whole time, it was… California, I didn’t conquer… I didn’t conquer anything. By a long shot. California was fun. It was not… Whoo! Whoo! California, fun. As the Beach Boys said in 38 songs, California, fun, whoo-hoo. I’ve brought up New Jersey 170 times to no enthusiasm. Woman: Whoo! I mention California once, and people are like, “Yeah!”
California was fun. It was not all sunshine, and I actually mean that in a literal sense. I… I wind up renting this very cheap room. It has no window. And I… Also, in my office, it has no window, and I’m working very long hours, so… I’ve never been to California in my life, I finally get out there and just never see the sun, and it gets unhealthy, very fast. I start getting nosebleeds all the time, like three times a week. And my boss, he grabs me eventually, and he says “Hey, you have to go outside for 30 minutes everyday.” I’m ordering you.” And I go “Why?” And he goes “Because I think… I’m… watching you die.”
So I do. I go outside for half an hour every single day. I play basketball with Juancho and Humberto, who to this day, they’re the coolest guys I’ve ever met. They… They work on our show. They grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. They’re so smart and funny, and just like, by far, to this day, the most chill dudes I’ve ever hung out with. And they’re really tough, but… they also love Morrissey. Which, I don’t know if everybody’s heard about this? It turns out in Southern California, almost every Mexican-American male just has a real love of Morrissey. I promise I’m not being racist. Google it. There’s éses trying to get to the bottom of this shit. There are, and to meet guys who are tough, but who also love Morrissey? I’ve never felt better about this in my life. Never. Never felt better about that one.
I’ll say this too, even with the Internet, 3,000 miles means you can cut people out, and, and there were people who were very, very negative in my life, I just never spoke to them again, and life starts getting fun. It really does, I, uh… I sleep with two girls in the four months that I am in California, which, back then, Sinatra-esque hot streak. You have… no idea. And I’m meeting all these new people, and they don’t know me. They do not know me as this anxiety-riddled mess from New Jersey. They’re just like… “Who’s this new kid that loves sex and basketball?” That’s who I am to them.
Then a great thing happens. We get a mid-season pick up, which is really rare in TV. It means while we’re working on our show, the network calls, and they’re like, “Hey, we love how it’s coming out.” “Keep going. We’re gonna give you even more money than we originally said, “so you can make more. Your dream gets to be your job, at least a little while longer.” And it’s great news. There are a lot of logistics to take care of though, like, uh, like I have to call the clinic doctor back in New Jersey. I call the clinic doctor, I leave a message on his answering machine, and I say, “Hey, good news, but… “it means I have to be out here for four months. “You prescribed me three months’ worth of medication, and so just let me know how we handle that.” And about a week goes by. I don’t hear back, so I call again. I leave another message on the clinic doctor’s machine. And I say, “Hey, I counted out my pills”, “and I’m definitely running out while I’m out here, so… “I don’t know, can you prescribe over the phone, or… “should I space out when I’m taking them? I-I just need a game plan.”
Because you don’t want to go cold turkey off any medication really, right? Let alone a mental health one. Let alone Risperdal. Right, Risperdal people? No way! If you want to be able to not fall asleep tonight, Google “What happens if I go cold turkey off Risperdal?” Read the very lengthy list that comes up. I’ve done it. Here’s some of my favorite selections from that list. “Psychosis. “Blackout states. Homicidal thoughts and actions.” “Sweating,” and I love that they even include sweating. Why bother? Why put sweating on that list? Why? It’s like, “Oh, if you don’t black out and murder somebody…” Whew!
But all-all-all jokes aside, I’m getting very scared, and a few days later I call again, I’m leaving another message on the clinic doctor’s machine. He picks up, cuts me off while I’m leaving it he says, “I don’t understand why you keep calling me.” “You’re not my patient anymore.” “And I say, “Excuse me?” “And he says “You, you… When you started with me”, “when you started with me, you signed paperwork, it said,” “if you don’t see me for a certain number of weeks,” “then I am no longer responsible for you.” “I am not liable for you.” And I cut him off, “I say hold on. Okay.” “Let me, let me just cop to this.” “If you say I signed that piece of paper, I’m sure I did.” “I’m certain you’re correct about that.” “But please just keep in mind that” “the first day I saw you, I signed a lot of pieces of paper.” “I was also 22 years old.” “I was suicidal, and I was terrified.” “So pardon me,” “if I don’t remember every piece of paper that I signed.” “And even if that is the case,” “that’s how you handle this?” “You just chose…” “to not pick up the phone?” “I’ve told you more about me “than I’ve ever told anybody. “You know I am further away from my family than I’ve ever been, “and you chose to not… “pick up the phone. That is… really fucked up.”
And… I wind up… talking about this situation with a-a coworker, and she puts me in touch with… with her shrink. I get like a last minute emergency appointment. And I see this guy, I’m really freaked out, telling him what’s going on, and he stops me about five minutes into the session, he stops me, and goes, “Hold on.” “I’m gonna calm you down. “I’m gonna write you your prescription right now, “right in front of you, so you know that you have these. Because you need these.” And I’m quoting him when he says, “Your doctor in New Jersey… sounds like an asshole.” That’s his professional diagnosis of his peer.
That job’s up. I come back East. I see the clinic doctor again. I say, “Get me off these pills, man.” “Because I can only get ’em from you, “and I’ll never trust you again. I-I just won’t. Get me off the pills.” And I do, I wean off the pills at the end of 2004, safely. And 2004 to 2007, good years, honestly. No complaints at all. I-I move to New York, start picking up jobs, none of them are the dream, but I’m inching closer. Writing gigs, weird ones. At one point, I’m hired to write jokes for the NFL Player Chad Ochocinco. Nobody, to this day, nobody has ever explained to me why a member of the Cincinnati Bengals needed jokes, but I’ll take your money, I don’t care. I’ll take that cash, give me that. I get acting… I start getting acting work. I’m getting mostly commercials, mostly commercials. If you search my name on YouTube, to this day, you go deep enough in the search results, you can still find a very annoying commercial for H&R Block where I wear lederhosen. You can find that.
And, I once auditioned for a Subway Sandwich commercial to play the role of. “Man Who Is Unattractive to Women.” That was the character’s name in the script. They couldn’t even call him Doug or something like that. I didn’t book that part, I’m assuming because…
And I’m home one day. I’m in Woodside, Queens where I live at the time, and I’m in my underwear and a T-shirt. I’m eating cereal, not because it’s breakfast time, but because the gas has been disconnected from my stove. Not even because I’m broke, I just forgot to pay it a few times and they turned it off, and I’m like, whatever, I don’t care, who cares, and it stayed off for a year and a half. And… It’s true. My phone rings. My phone rings. It’s a 212 number I don’t recognize. “Hello?” “Hey buddy, how’s it going?” “It’s all right… I’m sorry, who is this?” “Seth Meyers!” Now, I-I just want to be very clear. Seth Meyers is behaving as if he and I have spoken on the telephone before. This is not the case. “Oh, um… Is everything okay?” “Yeah, actually, I wanted to run something past you. “We have a little extra money in the budget this year. Do you want to come be a writer at Saturday Night Live?” “Yeah… I do.”
Turns out, I have a two-week guest writer contract at SNL. Next thing I know, I’m at 30 Rockefeller Center. I’m walking the halls with all the pictures of the past hosts. It’s like Steve Martin, Tom Hanks. Jason Priestley? Really? Like what, you know? I’m staying up all night. I’m staying up all night, working on sketches with the cast and the writers, it’s like so hands-on. It’s so fun. It’s everything we’ve all read about in the too many oral histories of that show. Then the two weeks is up, and it goes away. And they’re nice about it, they’re cool. They’re like, “Yeah, we like what you do, it’s just not what we do, you know?” It’s not a great match. This job’s not for you.”
And man, does the bottom fall out. And I want to be clear. I need to be clear. I’m not trying to stand up here in front of you guys, going, “Oh. Poor me. I didn’t get a cool job.” That’s not the issue. The issue actually is… that I did get the job and nothing changed. Nothing. I spent my whole adult life chasing jobs, that’s just what I did, and I always figured you get one of those jobs, you know, like one of those brass ring jobs everybody’s trying to grab onto. You’ve got to feel so validated, right? Like everyone has to recognize how amazing you are. That didn’t happen, and I knew in my heart, I knew even if that had worked out long term, that was never going to happen. No job can change the fact that I don’t have it together enough to have a functioning stove. Comedy does not exist to fix me. Maybe, just maybe, banking my entire emotional health on a successful career in the arts wasn’t a good idea.
And the next few months, bad, bad. Ends with me having an attack that lasts for four days, unbroken, four days long. It’s the longest one I’ve ever had. It was brutal. And my roommate at the time, starts making me sleep on the couch, and then, he’s making sure I fall asleep before he does. He thinks I’m gonna hurt myself. And on the fourth day, he says, “Dude, don’t put me in this position anymore, man. “You gotta… You gotta find help, man. I’m getting really scared.” And this is a guy who grew up in Chicago, and like doesn’t, he doesn’t get scared. He doesn’t… he never… he’s… He didn’t want to go to the hospital when he had fucking kidney stones. He’s never been scared. Gets through to me, and I do what he says, and I reach out to some doctors, and that’s when I find Barb. And guess what, guys? Everything’s great now, because… “He’s melancholy, she’s quirky, but it works!” Gethard and Barb, coming to ABC Family this fall! Family friendly sitcom. I wish…
I wish it was like we sail off into the sunset when I meet my weirdo shrink, but… that… that would be very disingenuous actually. Because that would imply that meeting Barb has somehow healed me, and that’s… not the case at all. I still take pills everyday as soon as I wake up, every night right before bed. I’ve gotten past this tough guy “I won’t need the pills some day” thing. It’s medicine, I take it, it’s fine. And I still get depressed, pretty frequently, actually. Although, I think you’ll be happy to hear, nine times out of ten, when it shows up now, I can handle my depression how we all handle a cold. You know, like there’s days, there’s days where you wake up and you’re just like… “Ugh, I feel like this, ugh, okay.” And then you move on, right? You do what you have to do, you go to work. I’m lucky enough to come here as my work. You guys go to offices where you GChat people, it’s like, you know, you do what you do.
I can handle my depression that way, because I take my medicine, and because I have worked very hard, and because I lean on Barb. With her help, I have decided that at the very least, I would love it… if this wasn’t the thing that kills me. I can say that now.
And since she came up again, since I mentioned Barb one more time, I want to make sure you guys know, Barb is well aware of this show. She knows all about it. I was… I was really up front with her, actually. I say, I go, “Barb.” “One of the running themes of this show,” “one of the ideas that I return to again and again,” “is that you’re not great at your job.” “Is that okay with you?” And she says, “Yeah, whatever.” She goes “I think you should work on it, like, it sounds like a good challenge.” “If you can make that stuff funny, it’ll be more gratifying than the usual bullshit jokes you write.” She goes, “I actually think it’s a really good idea.” “I think it’s such a good idea that you “should come to Mexico, “live in my house, and you and me will write the show together.” And I go “No!” She says, “Why?” I’m like, “You have to pretend to be a real doctor one fucking time!” What are we even talking about?
But even with her in my life, even with someone like Barb, who I so clearly trust, and enjoy as much as I do, stuff still goes down every once in a while. The last really major incident I had, it was in 2012. I’d been seeing Barb for five full years by then. I fell off the wagon that year. I performed comedy at a music festival called Bonnaroo, and after the show, a bunch of the comedians wanted to celebrate, and they say, “Hey, we think we’re gonna do some MDMA.” And I said, “Oh, I’ve heard of that, right. “MDMA, they call that Molly. “That’s the stuff Ecstasy is made out of, right? “Like, I’ve heard that’s very fun.” And they’re like, “It’s so fun, and it’s actually super relaxed, man. It’s very chill.” Like, “I don’t know, like, maybe.” And I’m like, “You know what, I haven’t had a drink in many years at this point”, “clearly I can demonstrate some self-control now. I think I’m gonna try some MDMA.” And I do. I try it and I like it. I like it a lot. I’m like, “Wow, my skin is so… tingly, “and I had no idea that a fire hydrant, and me, and God are actually the same thing.” Never knew any of that.
I like it so much that over the next 36 hours, I personally eat $300 worth of MDMA. Which we just heard some users gasp at. Because you guys know, that’s too much MDMA. It also was explained to me later, I guess it’s well-known amongst people who use this drug that you’re gonna get depressed in the days after you do it. This is like a thing everybody knows about this drug. I would not have taken it if I had known that. I suffer from lifelong massive depression issues. All I needed to do to avoid a completely fucked up summer, was just take out my phone and just Google, “MDMA, what happens?” That’s it!
I didn’t even put in that much work and everything goes haywire. I-I get back to New York. I break up with this girl who I’ve been seeing for years, and I move out on that roommate who I think saved my life, and I start staying out all the time. I’m partying like seven nights a week. I start sleeping around, which, we’ve known each other for, like, an hour. You guys know that that’s not me. I am well aware that I look like I wandered off the pages of a children’s clothing catalogue. I know that. But I’m… I’m charming… I’m not gonna claim I’m charming all of New York City that summer, but I’m definitely charming significant portions of both Greenpoint and Williamsburg. That is true. It turns out, looking vaguely like Ira Glass goes a long way in Brooklyn. It does, it turns out. Turns out.
There was one girl who I could not charm, and I remember it very well because it, it actually hurt, it hurt… it hurt pretty bad. There was this group of friends, we always went out dancing, that was our thing, and this one girl, she was this leggy redhead punk rocker. I thought she was the coolest, and we live in the same neighborhood, so, walking home same direction, you know, and the vibe is there. I decide to make the move. And she goes… “Pfft!” I’m like… But we’re friends. We’re friends, and she’s like, “Yeah, I mean, like, no offense, like, maybe someday, but come on, dude, you got to get your shit together.” And I’m like, “Oh that, yeah.” “Absolutely no argument from me. “You are very perceptive. I only like you more now,” it was one of those, you know?
And I tricked Barb that summer… mostly via lying. Because I told her, I told her I did the drugs, and she asked if I was okay, and I just said yeah. I didn’t tell her everything was spiraling out of control. She had no idea. I was hiding it. She didn’t know I was behaving really erratically, very out of character. If she had known that, she would have done a lot of things differently.
She says to me that summer, “Hey, I think you have ADD. I want to put you on Adderall.” And I say, “Yep!” Because I don’t know much about Adderall except that college kids abuse it, and it was that kind of summer, man. It really was. It turns out, Adderall is an amphetamine. I didn’t really… I didn’t know that. It’s an amphetamine. Scientifically speaking, it’s not that different from meth. And that summer I basically become a meth head. I’m popping Adderall like jelly beans. I am eating 60 milligrams of Adderall every day. Which we just heard a grad student gasp at. We heard it. Good luck on your thesis. I hope it goes well. Now this drug, I’m not trying to throw this drug under the bus, it can really turn people’s lives around, it really can. I was abusing it. I deserved all the weird side effects that I got, and there were many, there were many. Anything that happened to my body that summer, if I Google Adderall, comma, whatever’s happening, it comes up. Like, “Adderall…” Can’t get a boner.” Yep. “Adderall… Boner will not go away.” Yep. “Adderall… Shitting blood.” Yep. Turns out that Adderall can make you, like, very dehydrated, and… and hypertense, and that gives you these internal hemorrhoids, and then what happens… is like, let’s say maybe like, like maybe you’re not eating enough fiber, you know, or like, you got some stressful stuff going on. You go, you’re not hydrated, you push, they burst, the blood. Did you guys have any questions or…? Are you good? Okay. You’re good? Great, good, good. Good, everybody’s good, guys. Everybody’s good. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
I go to see a doctor about this problem. He bends me over a table. He takes a device that, I’m not kidding, is called an “Anoscope.” He inserts it into me, then recoils and says, “Wow! You have particularly beefy hemorrhoids.” So that’s been said to me.
So that summer, I start doing as many shows as I can, ’cause comedians in New York, we’re really lucky. If I want to do five, six, seven shows a night, I can do that in this town, I’m lucky. You know, that’s if I want to break my back, and as you guys know, if I… If I don’t want people asking me what’s going on I keep myself way too busy. So one Sunday night, I’m on stage, at the Upright Citizens Brigade, where I came up. I’m in an improv show there. It’s called Asssscat. It’s been running for 20 years, and it’s a pretty notorious show. Mostly because famous people do it, like the SNL cast, or different sitcom stars when they’re around, drop in, mess around, do improv. That’s important, it’s a mess around show. It’s not… If you go and no one’s taking it seriously, I’m warning you now, like, people make fun of each other, sell each other out, people will be drinking on stage. It’s fun though. It’s like, it’s not a good show. It’s-it’s-it’s good people intentionally doing a bad show. It’s fun… It’s like the comedy equivalent of the NBA All-Star game in that way. Which even if you don’t like basketball, I’m begging you, watch the All-Star game. It is my favorite thing all year. You get all the best basketball players on the entire planet, no exaggeration, and they show up in the same arena, and then they’re like, “You know what? “This doesn’t count in the standings. “Shoot from half court, nobody play defense, who gives a shit about this!” And its really fun, man. It’s really fun.
And… I’m in a scene… with another actor, and he makes a joke about me. Fair game, that happens every… every week in this show, people make jokes about each other, you know, let it go, who cares? But… but that summer, I-I-I just can’t handle it. I… I don’t even remember what I say, but his response is, “Well at least, I can straighten my arms,” and he’s referring to this. I don’t know if you noticed that about me. I got this thing going on, my mom has it, and she passed it on to me, and it sucks, but who cares. Let it go, make fun of him back, move on, that’s how the show works. You know, but… but that summer, I feel like, “Man”, “all these people are laughing at what I think is this really hideous thing about me.” And when that thought, enters my brain, my breath just goes… And the… heat… and the pins… and needles, and this is happening on stage, and that… that’s never, that’s never happened before, and I-I-I can’t… let all these people see this, and… I don’t know what to do. So, I turn around and I leave. I walk, I walk offstage. In the middle of the show, I leave, and… people always want to know, people always ask me, “Who said the thing about ya? Who said that joke about your arms?” They always want to know, and I have not wanted to share it, because famous people do get involved in that show, and I don’t want this thing with my name on it to be reduced to, like, TMZ gossip bullshit. But… during our stage run of the show, like, we took audience feedback sometimes, and people expressed that they were very dissatisfied by that, and they were passionate about it, to a weird degree. Like multiple people used the word, “cheated.” And one guy… one guy used the phrase, “blue balled.” I’m like, “Calm down.” Calm down, you know, so…
So what I’ve done, and I want to honor it even here is, I’ve come up with this game as a compromise, where every single time I perform this show I give one hint, and then it’s up to you guys. Is that… is that okay? If I give you one hint?
Great. Here’s your one hint. He played a character named Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock. So, put on your detective hats and see what you can do. I walk off stage. This mystery actor follows me. And he’s behind me in the tech booth at UCB. This is a long, narrow hallway, he’s behind me, he’s mad, and I get it, I do. He’s like, “Dude, that’s how the show works, man, you can’t do this.” “Like, we both look bad. “You look like a baby. You’re making me look like a bully, man. “This is not cool,” and… he’s correct about that. He is correct about that. And we… I want to make sure you guys know, he and I had already been very tight friends for over ten years at the point, and we’re still friends today. He lives in Los Angeles now, and he still texts me every single year on my birthday, which is way more than you get from most of your friends that move to Los Angeles. It is. He’s a good guy, very good guy. Good friend, and he did not have ill intentions. But he also hadn’t seen me yet. He’s been behind me this whole time. We get to the Green Room, I turn around, I don’t even say a word, and he goes, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Because 10 years of friendship, he understands, I deal with this stuff, and as soon as he looks me in the eye, he realizes that. I… am not even there. So, he says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” And I say, “It’s okay.” “It’s not your fault. “It’s just been a really, rough summer… Jack McBrayer.”
So I push past the mystery actor, and I leave UCB, and I get in my car. I should not be driving like this, but I’m… I’m freaking out, and I’m making random turns, I have no plan, and the next thing I know, I’m in the Lincoln Tunnel, I’m headed to Jersey. I don’t know why. I haven’t lived in Jersey in ten years at this point, but that will always be my home, and-and-and maybe if I get out there, I’ll calm down. I do, and I don’t. It’s just getting even worse. I gotta try something else. And the next thing I… I do is I put on The Smiths. Because when you’re 32 years old… you’re having a night like that, and you hear lyrics like,
♪ Sing me to sleep ♪
♪ Sing me to sleep ♪
♪ I’m tired, and I ♪
♪ I wanna go to bed ♪
♪ Don’t feel bad for me ♪
♪ I want you to know ♪
♪ Deep in the cell of my heart ♪
♪ I will feel so glad to go ♪
♪ There is another world ♪
♪ There is a better world ♪
♪ There must be ♪
On a night like that, when you hear lyrics like those you think to yourself, “Thank God. “Somebody else knows this impulse, and he’s not calling me a fucking coward.” So I make a bunch of random turns, and eventually I wind up in Weehawken, New Jersey. I don’t know why. I don’t really know much about Weehawken. I know more now ’cause of Lin-Manuel Miranda. But there’s these cliffs, there’s these cliffs in Weehawken. They overlook the Hudson River, and the Manhattan skyline. I am on the cliff, I think… I should jump, and instead I sit… on this bench all by myself, and I cry. And I do want to make sure you guys know though, that’s the best view of the Manhattan skyline you’re ever gonna see. It is, somebody knows, a few people know. Boulevard East, Weehawken, New Jersey, stunning view, overwhelming view. You take a date out there, you’ll blow their mind. You’re gonna hook up that night, trust your boy, Gethard, on that one. Trust your boy. Don’t tell your date you found out about it in a suicide show.
Here’s how I know it’s a really good date spot. I’m sitting on this bench all by myself crying, and these two couples are walking towards me. They’re on the promenade, along the cliff. One of these couples, they’re on a double date, very, very clearly on a double date, that’s the vibe. One of these couples sits… right here… on my bench. The other couple… sits here on my bench, and they’re talking, and they’re joking and they’re laughing, and no one mentions the crying 32-year-old man… who’s also on the bench, and I’m like, “What’s going on?” “Can they not even see me? “They can’t even see me. “I must be a ghost. I’m the ghost of Weehawken, New Jersey.”
I stand up off my crying bench. I’m like, “I’m a ghost, and nobody can even see me”, “and if that is true, then that means I can do whatever I want “because if nobody can even see me, then there’s not even consequences to my actions.” And I wander around Weehawken for a few hours in this manic haze, and it’s bad. There’s a steakhouse, up on the cliff, fancy place, you can imagine, it overlooks the Manhattan skyline. And I need to be clear, I don’t actually say any of the following. I am thinking all of the following thoughts, I never verbalize them, I don’t say a word, but I enter this steakhouse. I-I start walking up to tables, and in my head, I’m like, “Bro, you got a… “burger at a steakhouse? “Come on, man. What are… What are you doing? “Your date’s gonna think you’re cheap, man. “Scallops, nice. “How come seafood’s always good at a steakhouse? “I’ve never really… “understood that. “A steak at a steakhouse. “Thank you. “Do we see how it’s done, everybody? Do we see how it’s done?”
But again, I don’t actually say any of that. So all these people in this expensive restaurant see is a crying, 32-year-old man burst in, and go… and then leave. And it’s bizarre. It’s bizarre to the degree that I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the people there that night is doing their own one-man show just about seeing that.
I wander through Weehawken for a long while more, and eventually I wind up back on my crying bench, and I don’t know what to do. So, I call Barb, and she says, “Hey, you never call me at night”, or on the weekends? What’s going on?” And I said, “Barb, I-I…” “I lost it on stage. “I-I-I couldn’t breathe. This guy… he made a joke about me, Jack McBrayer, is his name, and…” “I’m in… I’m in Weehawken now, “and I-I don’t even really know how I got here, “but there were scallops involved, “and now I’m up on a cliff, and I can’t… feel my face, but I’m up on a… I’m up on a cliff.” And… and she stops me, she goes, “Let me… Let me ask you a couple of questions. “Compared to a few hours ago, “do you feel like you’re headed in the right direction, or the wrong one?” And I say “I feel like total garbage still”, “but I mean I guess if you make me consider it like that “I guess I do feel slightly better, I mean, I guess I’m headed in the right direction.” And she says, “That’s good”, and it’s good you called me, right?” And I say, “Yeah.” And she says, “We’ll talk about it on Thursday.”
Which is not the correct thing to say… when you have a historically suicidal patient call you from a cliff. But she knows me really well. She knows how I’m gonna react. As soon as she says it, the spell lifts because I realize it’s Sunday. It’s actually after midnight, technically it’s Monday. I-I can make it to Thursday. Even if I feel this horrible the entire time, I-I-I can do that. When you put it like that, I can… I can do that. I can make it to Thursday.
And I’ll tell you something about my life. My life’s taken this very… unexpected turn the past few years, because I started talking about this stuff in… in my comedy, um, a little bit. Never as in-depth as I’m doing with this show. And I’ve… I’ve written. I’ve written about this side of myself a couple times online, and-and-and this has led to a situation I never saw coming. Where I am not exaggerating when I say that at this point, I’ve now received thousands of e-mails, Facebook messages, any way people get in touch, they do, and they’re people who need help, and a lot of times, I swear to you, they don’t even know I’m a comedian. They don’t know anything about me, they’ll just Google who’s willing to talk about this stuff, and this thing I wrote comes up, and-and-and so often they are really young, and they need help. And you’ll be happy to hear any time somebody asks me for help, I say the same thing straight away, I go look, “First things first, “I’m not a professional, “and it’s not like I can tell you something my shrink told me, because she’s not really a professional either.”
But when I… when I answer these messages, especially when they’re from young kids, I almost always find myself telling them some version of that Thursday story, and I say for me it was that, it was a length of time that I needed to last. For you, maybe it’s a place where you feel safe. Or a person you feel okay opening up to. I don’t know. It probably will not be that easy. You don’t get to pick what breaks you. You really cannot predict what’s going to save you, but please keep your eyes peeled for it. Please, because I bet that its out there, and I bet you can find yours, because I found mine, and I never dreamed, I’d be strong enough to say that.
I mean, there were 15 years of my life, you guys have heard about ’em tonight, 15 years, where the entire time for 15 years, I was just completely convinced that I was never gonna feel better. And now, when I call my mom, she doesn’t have to be scared, and I’m not wasting all this time pretending comedy is gonna fix me somehow. It’s not. This isn’t the type of thing that gets fixed, you just, you’ll live with it. And I don’t hide it anymore. I never have to hide it from anyone ever again, because my wife has seen this stuff at its worst, and she still loves me… And I… still love that leggy redheaded punk rocker… even if she doesn’t know how to close a goddamn cabinet door.
I get another type of e-mail too, though. I-I get another type of e-mail all the time. It’s from people who aren’t the ones actually suffering from this stuff, but they see it. They’re around it. It’s in their lives. They say… they say “My cousin”, “my coworker, “my friend, I’m watching them, “I’m watching them deal with this really horrible thing, and I want to help, but…” Then they always add this caveat, and it drives me nuts. They say, “I really want to help, “but I don’t want to mess anything up. I wouldn’t want to make it worse.” And that gets under my skin. And those people, I almost always find myself telling them about the clinic doctor, from back in the day, that clinic doctor. I say you sound too much like that guy right now. He never wanted to be responsible for messing anything up. He refused to be liable should anything get worse, and that’s why he needed everything to be so correct. I say, “Don’t be like that.” Be like Barb.” “She doesn’t give a fuck what’s correct.” But she really… always… tries to do what’s right. And when it came down to it, she chose to pick up the phone, and that’s why I have… so much love for her, and it’s why I always will. Even though… she once told me… that in the 1970s… she starred in a pornographic film.
♪ To give yourself a little bit of hope’s a lie ♪
♪ You said we’re just spinning where we stand ♪
♪ And if you cling to tokens for your life ♪
♪ You find ♪
♪ You wind up with imaginary men ♪
♪ Static transmit me ♪
♪ To the other side of another room ♪
♪ In pieces ♪
♪ Like a steady beating ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The telescopic pull ♪
♪ Of what you know’s a lie ♪
♪ It’s broken down a hundred thousand times ♪
♪ The parts collapse ♪
♪ In caving, they’re inside ♪
♪ The atmosphere ♪
♪ We’re carving out our names ♪
♪ Into the air ♪
♪ You are a runner ♪
♪ The steady balance as you’re gaining in speed ♪
♪ A photograph to scale the thrashing of your feet ♪
♪ And it won’t be over ♪
♪ Until the big, backhand of the sun ♪
♪ Beats the tar out of the road you are on ♪
♪ Until it’s won you ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪
♪ The summer hurts ♪