Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh (2019) | Transcript

Gary Gulman's 2019 HBO stand-up comedy special, The Great Depresh, is a poignant and hilarious exploration of his lifelong struggles with depression
Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh (2019)

Gary Gulman‘s 2019 HBO stand-up comedy special, The Great Depresh, is a poignant and hilarious exploration of his lifelong struggles with depression. It’s not just stand-up, though. The special interweaves Gulman’s routines with documentary scenes that offer deeper insight into his mental health journey.

In the stand-up comedy part Gulman tackles his depression with characteristic wit and self-deprecating humor. He delves into topics like childhood loneliness, failed relationships, and the challenges of navigating the comedy world while battling mental illness. The documentary segments provide glimpses into Gulman’s personal life, featuring interviews with his family and friends, visits to his childhood home, and candid discussions about his experiences with therapy and medication.

* * *

Dear God, today is going to be big. The most-watched daytime service of the year. Some people don’t know how to be rich and still act like a human being. Stacy, this cortado is yucky, get it out of here. Gemstones are an absolute disgrace to all ministries. Let’s go get our money.


What? Daddy, you just threw Jesus across the room. It was a karate person. No, that was Jesus. I better sit.

Hey, bye, Ma.

Have a good time, Gar. Come on!

♪ I’ll say goodbye ♪
♪ To all my sorrow ♪
♪ And by tomorrow ♪
♪ I’ll be on my way ♪
♪ I guess the Lord must be ♪
♪ In New York City ♪
♪ I’m so tired ♪
♪ Of getting nowhere ♪
♪ Seeing my prayers going unanswered ♪
♪ I guess the Lord must be ♪
♪ In New York City ♪
♪ Well, here I am, Lord ♪
♪ Knocking at your back door ♪
♪ Ain’t it wonderful ♪
♪ To be ♪
♪ Where I’ve always wanted to be ♪
♪ For the first time, I’ll breathe free ♪
♪ Here in New York City ♪
♪ Oh-oh-oh… ♪

Ladies and gentlemen, Gary Gulman! Oh… You came. You actually came. Thank you. It… phew… was a long time since I shot my last special, like, over four years, and… The reason was is that I got… I got very sick with “the depresh.” Severe, just crippling depression and anxiety, about two springs ago. My wife, Sadé… Not the Sadé. A Sadé, my Sadé. She said, “Gary, all you were doing was crying and sleeping.” And I get so defensive. I always say, “I also watched Better Call Saul.” “I wish you would paint a more accurate picture “of what was going on for one hour a week, for 10 consecutive weeks, I pulled it together.” But yes, I was sleeping and crying. I was so sick. I couldn’t perform at all. I would bite my lip, until it bled, from anxiety. I was shaking all the time. My voice was so stressed, I couldn’t really talk. I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes, I was so fatigued all the time. I had to cancel all my shows for months, and… I was contemplating retiring from comedy. And then I, I thought about it some, and realized that retirement is a bit pretentious… …for what was going on. Like… Johnny Carson retired. Michael Jordan retired. Gary Gulman, you’re giving up. Also, the word “retirement” implies that you’ve accumulated some kind of nest egg over the years… …and that was not the case. I was going to have to continue working to earn money, and one of the requirements was that it be less stressful than a job that requires no more than an hour of my day… …and allows me to sleep up until about 7:30 p.m. So, I wasn’t able to work, and I had a lot of free time to reflect. And one of the things I kept thinking about was when did this… when did this start? How long have I had depression and anxiety? And while I’ll say that I’ve had a number of episodes over the years, none lasted as long as this one, none was as severe as this one, none left me as hopeless as this one. But I can go back to being a child— They say that— most experts will tell you that a lot of depression and anxiety starts in childhood, and I can… I can attest to that. That was case with me.

I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, and, um, ugh, as a sensitive boy, not a very accommodating time for sensitive boys. Like, I really admire and envy millennials. They’re so much nicer to each other than we were. Bullies were rampant when I was growing up, and, millennials, your stance on bullying is to be commended. I have a theory on why millennials are so much nicer to each other than we were, and it’s that millennials grew up much better hydrated than we did. Water just was not a consideration when I was growing up. And I’m not one of these middle-aged men who’ll come up here and say, “We didn’t even need water!” We needed it desperately. We walked around the decade, dizzy and listless. We needed water. But in my house growing up, in the refrigerator, all we had, pretty much, was whole milk and Tab. I wouldn’t get my first sip of real, pure water until Thursday. Thursday was gym day, and the entire experience was fraught… …perilous. Because water pressure in 1970s public schools was so weak, you had to make love to the drinking fountain. But if you got that close, it tempted the cretin behind you… …to smash your skull into the iron spout, which was considered a prank in 1978. Now it’s rightfully classified as felony assault. But back then, it was just boys will be boys. The teacher wouldn’t even interrupt her countdown, which was necessary because budget cuts in the ’70s caused classroom sizes to swell. Classrooms were enormous, so the teacher would have to limit your quench… with this. “One Missippi, two Missippi, three Missippi, next.” And I would protest. I would become outraged, and I would say something. I was very precocious when I was a little kid. I think you would’ve loved me. I remember I would finish my sip under so much pressure. This, but also, it’s like, I need to get my water for the week… …in three Missippi or less. It was daunting. And I would finish my sip, I would collect my teeth… …and I would say, “Mrs. McNally.” That’s her real last name. Oh, I will protect her no longer. Mrs. McNally, it is not Missippi. It’s Mississippi. You’re costing me an entire syllable of hydration with your pidgin English! But you want to know something, Mrs. M? How appropriate, how apt… …that you use Mississippi to carry out your unjust drinking fountain policy. That— Now, that’s precocious. To have that firm a grasp of Jim Crow legal doctrine at seven.

But millennials, they’re just much more accepting of each other. They feel safe around each other. Accepting, they’re accepting of non-conforming gender roles and identities, and, oh… I grew up at a time, the definition of manhood was so narrow. You were either Clint Eastwood, or you were Richard Simmons. There was nothing in between. There were no Paul Rudds… …no kind-eyed Mark Ruffalos. You had to be so hard! And millennials, they’re so accepting of each other, and they feel safe coming out to each other in high school, even junior high. I have to be honest with you. In 1987, I didn’t feel safe ordering a Sprite. This will sound nuts, but Sprite, amongst the men of my community, was considered a woman’s beverage. Why? How? Because it’s translucent like lingerie? I’ve never been able to figure out— Also, the word sprite is a synonym for woodland pixie. I remember going on a field trip, and on the bus ride home, we stopped off at a fast-food restaurant, and I ordered a Sprite, like a fool… …in front of everybody. And this bully, he came up to me as I was drinking in front of everyone, and he said, “Enjoying your fairy juice, fairy?” And I was, yes, mortified, but also, at the same time, so confused as to how a bully could be that conversant in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was kind of a lonely kid. I think the best way to picture my childhood was think of Charlie Brown had Snoopy died. Oh, I love this.


Are you filming me now?


Oh, please. Just a minute. Oh my God, I love that picture.


Oh, Gary is…

so happy.

Yeah, these were really good pictures.

It’s like going down memory lane.

Yeah. I don’t think he remembers these. Wow. He hasn’t seen these…


…A long time. And here’s the first night that I ever did, um… The first night I ever did stand-up

at Nick’s Comedy Stop.


Was it at Nick’s?

Yeah. Wasn’t it at that little place in Cambridge, Gary?


With the showered screen like… Remember… No?


You went to Nick’s? Yes! So, you don’t that he was

depressed as a kid or—

No. Absolutely not. Nope. A happier kid you couldn’t find. Always had a smile on his face. Aw… See how happy he was? I mean, come on. This is a book I wrote in second grade. It was called The Lonely Tree, and it was, um… To anybody with a, just a small amount of psychology knowledge, you would know this was a cry for help.

That it was an allegory for a lonely, sad…

I didn’t know. See, the tree was being teased by the animals in the forest. And it cried and it grew, and it became beautiful and became the Christmas tree in the city, and… it grew from tears. Happy-go-lucky kid. You see him. You see how he smiles and happy. Well, that’s the way he always was. So, how could I detect anything? I mean it. It’s so hard to tell. Such an insidious disease, um, depression, and loneliness, loneliness sets in with it. Not easy. It’s so sad. The Lonely Tree.

But it—

But when you think of it…


…The tree alone, lonely.

Oh my God.

When you think about it, yeah.

So, I was big. I was big, and I was sensitive and soft growing up. And when you were big back then, you were encouraged/harassed into playing sports. And I didn’t want to play the footballs, the hockeys, the contact sports. That was not for me. I fell in love with basketball, almost immediately, because… because basketball just fits my personality, it still does. Basketball is the only sport you can practice by yourself. I… spent a lot of time practicing basketball by myself. And basketball also fits me because it’s the only sport where if somebody so much as slaps you on the wrist, they stop the game. Stop the game, separate everyone, and let you make two easy shots while everyone else is forced to watch quietly. As if to say, “Think about what you did.” And I was— Oh, I was automatic from the free throw line because free throw shooting is a direct function of childhood loneliness. I have this carnival skill. If you tell me you were a good high school free throw shooter, you can give me your high school free throw shooting percentage, and I can tell you what time your single mother got home from work. I shot 94 % my senior year. My mother was a night court bailiff.

The trouble with my basketball career was that… I felt horrible about myself. I hated myself. And I had it in my head that— and this is classic depressive thinking— I hate myself. If I work really hard at something and get great at it, then I will feel really good about myself. I love basketball players. I’ll get really good at basketball, and then I’ll feel good about myself. But it doesn’t work that way, and it put so much pressure on my basketball career, and I was so devoted. I made the junior high team, and I was captain. And before the season started, we had a scrimmage game against my synagogue. I also played on the synagogue team, and… unfortunately, the synagogue team was not quite as stacked… …as the junior high team. And so, the coach, in order to… even out the teams, he suggested I play with my people. And I remember thinking, “Oh no. This is— I’m gonna put so much pressure on myself,” and I did. I thought, “I’m not just playing for the synagogue. I’m playing for Yahweh.” I’m playing for the synagogue, my rabbi. I’m carrying this religion. And I went out there and I choked. I went “oh for chai.” Chai is 18 in Hebrew, and it would take the rest of the show to explain to you why, but I couldn’t make a shot, and we got crushed. And I went home and I was inconsolable, I was devastated. I felt, I’ve let down every Jewish person. I have let down Sandy Koufax, and Dolph Schayes, and Garry Shandling, and Bugs Bunny. Every Jew… …I have let down. And I remember I was devastated because I thought “Not only am I never gonna be a great basketball player, I’m gonna hate myself for the rest of my life.” And I went into my mother’s medicine cabinet, and she had this bottle of sleeping pills. And I opened them up, and I poured them into my hand. And, thank God, as I looked at them, I thought to myself, “You know, my mom is not much of a housekeeper. And these feel old.” Like, maybe I’m misremembering this, but I remember them, I was like, “These are rusty.” And it didn’t have a childproof cap. It had a cork. And I remember the thinking, it was, “If I take these and they don’t work, we’re broke. “There’s going to be an ambulance, an emergency room visit. My mother is going to kill me.” So, I put the cork back in there, and I put them back in the medicine cabinet, and I just went on suffering silently, which was the only thing you could do back then. The only antidepressants we had access to in the 1970s and ’80s pretty much was, “Snap out of it…” …and “What have you got to be depressed about?” That was the second leading brand of antidepressant. And so, I just… suffered in silence. And the other thing is, millennials have a much healthier attitude towards sports than we had growing up. Like, I grew up with the expression: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Which is so easy to poke a hole in. It’s the only thing, really? What about… collage? Collage is a thing and infinitely more relaxing than winning, honestly. And it’s interesting because millennials take so much flak, so much guff. Flak as well as guff. I don’t know which irritates me more, the flak or the guff. From middle-aged men talking about participation trophies. Their argument is, “How are they gonna learn how to lose? How are they gonna learn how to lose?” Oh, they’ll get some practice. You familiar at all with life? Oh, it’s mostly losing! My 20s? Oh, losing streak that would embarrass the Browns. Cleveland and Charlie! Give them a participation trophy. They deserve it. They’re putting down the most exciting video games in the history of zeros and ones for three hours to play Little League Baseball, a more boring version of Major League Baseball. I… I love Major League Baseball because I was indoctrinated very young. But there’s so much downtime in a Major League Baseball game. You can do your taxes during a Major League Baseball game, and coach first base. So much downtime. Give them a trophy. “It’s a fake trophy.” Oh, as opposed to your real fantasy football team? You spend 20 plus hours a week with nine other lost souls, pretending that you’re a football general manager. Not a player, not a coach. An administrator! And you’re gonna begrudge a seven-year-old a memento of an idyllic time? How dare you! And I don’t feel like I needed nor deserved a participation trophy growing up because, really, there was nothing else to do besides play Little League Baseball. I once spent an entire Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. until dusk, scouring my lawn for a four-leaf clover. Because, at seven years old, I felt I needed some luck. I thought, if I’m gonna turn this ship around, I’m going to need some supernatural intervention. Not realizing, of course, in the irony of ironies, that I would never have greater fortune again in my life than having the free time to scan the grass for a mythical weed! It was the best of times. What’s your name again? I’m Gary Gulman.

The Gary Gulman.

How far back do you guys go? We met in 1993 at the back of Nick’s Comedy Stop,

in Boston.

Yep. And then we worked together— Dude, I remember your first day waiting tables. And I remember you put the apron on, and you went out, you got the little notepad…

Yeah. Right.

…Which looks smaller in your hand.

And your hand was shaking.

Oh, yeah. I was shaking.

You were so nervous.

Yeah. I was like, aw.

But then we became really close and bonded…

Yeah. …Doing comedy at night, that in the morning, and then… cigars and comic books in the afternoon. Yeah, we’d sit there and smoke cigars, talk comic books…


…And then comedy…


…And we would just gossip. Yeah. Yes! One of my favorite people to gossip with. I never started telling anybody about my mood difficulties back then. And I didn’t start telling people close to me until this past year, when I started talking about it on stage. I really thought I had seen the worst of it until, like, 2017, when I went into the hospital and told… told no one.

Yeah, I didn’t know that either, buddy.


I knew you said you were moving back to Boston.

Yeah. I got really sick with depression and dropped out of comedy, dropped out of working. I got a job as a camp counselor at a summer camp

for teenagers.

What the fuck? Really? Yeah, because I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to earn a living to pay my rent. And when you’re depressed, you’re catastrophizing,

and you think…

Yeah. …I’m gonna be homeless, not thinking that, worst case, I could live in your shed.


I mean, the way you paused when I put out living in your shed, I mean, was the shed not open to me? No, the shed’s open to you. I was just thinking how much I would have to charge you. ‘Cause I couldn’t just give it to you for free.

I’d have to give you goals.

Right, right. It’s funny ’cause I didn’t know I had depression until a few years ago.


I just thought that’s— That’s how everybody is. You get great at something, then you feel good about yourself, that’s the reward. And then you get great at something, and you’re like, I still feel the same. It’s also, too, in my depression— If I remove the depression,

Then I’m gonna remove the funny.

Oh, yeah.

Huge myth.

Yeah, it’s a myth. Like, if I get married, I’m not gonna be funny anymore.

If I have a kid…

Yeah. …I’m not gonna be funny. If I get healthy, mentally— Any kind of contentment is the enemy of… Is the enemy of funny when, actually, it’s the reverse. Yes, absolutely. Isn’t it weird though? Why do we think that? Why are we so old and figuring this out? I envy millennials. Not just their healthier attitude toward sports, but their nine ESPNs. You have nine ESPNs. Literally. My generation’s version of literally. That’s my one quibble with millennials is how you hijacked the word “literally” from us. Literally, a rich history— since its inception in 1525, it meant “actually” or “unequivocally.” And then, around 2008, millennials said, “Oh no, it also means figuratively.” Yes. Yes, it will contain its own antonym. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t have the energy. You’re too exhausted. And you know what? You’ve destroyed our future and buried us in debt. It’s the least you can do, is give us “literally” for the time remaining. Nine ESPNs. I grew up— basically, we had three channels. But because television was so mediocre, there was only one conflict each week. Sunday nights at 7:00. I had an 8 p.m. bedtime, and at 7:00, I wanted to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, which was a beautiful animated— They would show animated Disney movies. And it opened with Tinkerbell flying around Cinderella’s castle, shooting live-action fireworks out of her animated wand, to the tune of…

♪ When you wish upon a star ♪
♪ Makes no difference who you are ♪

A promise that Disney could not keep. Historically, in America, certain groups have had more luck wishing upon stars than others. But at seven, I couldn’t disagree. I have no idea how that song ended because it was always at that point that my mother would get up and change the channel from The Wonderful World of Disney to 60 Minutes. The exact opposite of The Wonderful World of Disney. From… ♪ When you wish upon ♪ to… The most sinister theme song in television history. That noise…, to this day, gives me a pit in my stomach. Oh dear God. Is all my homework done? In nine hours, I’ll be bullied! And that clock, that stopwatch, in the middle of the TV would count down the final hour of my glorious weekend. And the entire show was just inventory for nightmares. Every feature was just miserable. And they were all about Soviet aggression and nuclear apocalypse and… The Soviets are coming to blow up your toys. And then they would have a lighter story kidnapped children. There was a hysteria over kidnapped children. It started in 1981 when a man went on all the TV news programs and he claimed that 50,000 American children a year were being abducted. And then later on that decade, he would recant and say it wasn’t quite 50,000. In fact, it was no more than 300. He was off by… 50,000. But the damage was done! Nobody pays attention to the retraction. They only pay attention to the initial assertion, which was, “You’re about to go missing.” The entire nation went into a panic. We were traumatized. There is not a single person my age who doesn’t break into a sprint whenever a van slows down. And this will sound crazy, but up until that time, vans were beloved! They were used, almost exclusively, to solve mysteries. And then this man destroyed vans and our innocence. With information, by the way, completely inactionable. There was nothing we could do with the information that there were missing kids. We didn’t have the technology. There was no AMBER alerts, no text messaging, no social media. All we had… was milk. Now, that sounds made up. But it’s true. They would put a picture… of a missing kid on the side of every lunchtime milk carton, and these doomed waifs would stare at us throughout our lunch, accusingly, as if to say, “How can you eat at a time like this?” “I’m at the bottom of a well. You’re eating peanut butter and jelly on matzo.” And I’m looking, and I feel terrible. I’m like, what, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but… what am I supposed to do about it? I’m six! Yeah, Mrs. Burns, I’m gonna miss music class again today. The West Lynn Creamery has me on another case. Yeah, I’m just gonna follow up on this one lead. It’s probably a dead end. But I’ll run it up the flagpole. Getting too old for this. Moving into this apartment was a big step for me because when I left New York last year, I was in complete despair, and I really didn’t know if I’d ever be able to take care of myself again. This is the apartment I moved in a few months ago, and… I… still haven’t unpacked, as you can see. This is the view. The light is very important to a depressive, so it has great light. Of all the 600 square foot apartments I’ve lived in in New York, this is my favorite. I had a sick dog, so it looks like this entire cabinet is just filled with medication, but… I only take three of these. I take… mirtazapine, duloxetine. This was just something that was added recently to keep me from getting ravenously hungry in the middle of the night. That was really, really hard because one of these makes you really hungry. So, it was hard to not gain weight during the… during this, and I’m very vain, so… So that was, that was hard. This is a collection of great thinkers finger puppets. Sadé, you be Mark Twain— We have some other cool ones though. We’ve got Harriet Tubman.

What about Zora Neale Hurston?

Oh, Zora Neale Hurston

because she’s from this neighborhood—

Right, so— All right, so Mark Twain, and, uh, lemme give you a topic. The, um, “Hey, do you think I used the N-word enough in Huck Finn?” “Oh my God, not enough. I’m a writer.” “I’m an author myself. It’s not nearly enough.” “Oh, really? Think I could… I really enjoyed Their Eyes Were Watching God.

High five.

All right, high five. There we go. Yay. At 17 years old, in 1988, I was six-foot-six and 255 pounds. I had built a very convincing… man-costume. I looked like a bad, bad man. But I was still the same inside. I was still soft. I was sweet. To put it in millennial terms, I have a Gryffindor body but a Hufflepuff soul. But I remember the high school football coach started to suggest that I should play football. And up until that time, I had just said, “Well, my mother won’t let me.” But then, at six-foot-six, 255 pounds, they… probably felt I could overpower her. And I went out for the football team, and I made it, and… I stood out mostly because I was just bigger than everyone. I was six-foot-six. The average height of a high school football player in Massachusetts in 1988 was maybe five-ten. And if you weighed 200 pounds, you were an offensive lineman. I played tight end. They would throw the ball very high. I would catch it one-handed because the ball was so small, and also I needed to protect my ribs with this arm, and then I would try to avoid danger for a little while, and then dive to the ground before anybody got a good headshot on me. Because one time, I got… a helmet-to-helmet hit, and it woke me right up. It was… It was exciting yet frightening because I got the helmet-to-helmet hit. It sounded like a gunshot. I went to the sidelines, and the coaches and my teammates were like, “Gulman got his bell rung! Gulman got his bell rung!” “Bell rung.” That was the sweet euphemism we used for what we now know is a severe concussion. I got my bell rung, yeah. I don’t know the nines in the times tables, but yes. I’m one of the guys. And just went back into the game. The concussion protocol in 1988 was not as elaborate as it is now. Now, you see a doctor, they hold you out, you have to be cleared to play again. The concussion protocol in 1988 was, “You good?” So, I played football my senior year. I made it through the entire season. Played in the Thanksgiving game, and… breathed a huge sigh of relief, and thought, okay, nobody can really question my manhood after this because I played football, and now, I can just drink my Sprite in peace. What I didn’t realize was that my high school coach had sent videos of my games to a bunch of colleges. And then, these college coaches came to my high school to recruit me to play for them. And I wound up accepting a scholarship to Boston College because the head coach of the Boston College Eagles football team two years prior had coached Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie. And then two years later, he was recruiting future participation trophy advocate… Gary Gulman. And he sat in my living room and he was just a striking figure. I recognized him from television, so there was a charisma in that. But also, he had this great head of black hair and a strong jaw. He was about six-four. He was a man’s man, and I— Ever since I was a little kid, I needed to gain the favor of man’s men. I just wanted them to think I was a man’s man. And I am a man’s man, depending on the man. For instance, if the man happens to be Michael from Michael’s Arts and Crafts. He would love me. We would get along famously. I love Michael’s. Oh my word, I… I call it Classy Joann’s. Joann’s is fine, but it’s always in disarray, whereas Michael’s is always in array. But this… coach sat in my living room, and I’ll never forget it. He said, “Son…” And you call me son… I will get right in your van. It’s like an arm around the shoulder. He said, “Son, I’m gonna go ahead and offer you a scholarship.” And I remember thinking to myself, “I was afraid this was gonna happen.” ‘Cause I knew I had to accept it. It was February of my senior year. I hadn’t applied to a single college. I had tried, and then I would get to the part where they ask you to write an essay. Made me so anxious. I really feel, in some way, that… my aversion to essays had saved my life again and again, because anytime I’ve contemplated suicide, I’ve thought, “You gotta leave a note.” I’m not spending the last hour of my life… …doing something I’ve dreaded throughout it. So, I knew I was going to accept it. One, I hadn’t applied anywhere else. My grades, because of my depression and anxiety, were… very mediocre. My SAT scores, very average. This was the best school I was gonna get into. Also, we didn’t have the money to pay for a private college. I wasn’t going to be able to go to as good a school as Boston College. So, I had to accept it, but I also knew… I just had this feeling that there was a catch. Like that he was gonna expect me to play football. But he was just so convincing. He said, “Son, “you’re 17 years old, and you have an NFL body.” And I remember thinking to myself, “Well, that may be true, but I— “Oh, how I wish I could tell you that “no more than 10 feet from where we’re sitting, I also have a blankie.” I had a blankie at 17 years old! Let me rephrase that. I have a blankie! It’s on my pillow right now. I can’t sleep without it. It’s something doctors call “Linus Van Pelt syndrome.” And I accepted the scholarship, and I went to training camp, and I trained hard before I got there. I got into excellent shape. I put on another 10 pounds, I was 265 pounds. But I got there, and… I just, I knew before I even got there I thought, yes, against the Lilliputians, I can stand out. But I’m going to a place where everybody’s as big as me. And I just— oh, these guys, they love to hit. And I loved to read. And within days, I came undone. I remember. I was 265 when I got there. I couldn’t eat. I lost 30 pounds in three weeks. I was sleeping from the moment practice ended until it started again the next day. I was oversleeping practices. I… was so sick. I was suicidal, and after three weeks, I went to the trainer, and I told him I need to quit. I can’t do this anymore. But I explained to him what was going on, and thank heaven, this guy was sharp, and he sent me to a therapist. This was 1989. This was 10 years before The Sopranos made it cool for big men to seek therapy. This guy was ahead of his time. And he sent me. He said, “I’m excusing you from practice. Go meet with my friend who’s a therapist here.” And I met with him, and therapy, oh my word. What a revelation. Saved my life over and over again. Therapy, yes… Yeah. I still see a therapist. I still see a therapist. I believe I broke him on Monday. Yeah, I was leaving his office, and I was shutting the door, and I heard him go… But yes. Therapy, as well as medication. Antidepressants. I have taken antidepressants on and on… …for 30 years, and because of the nature of antidepressants, sometimes they don’t work, and you have to try something else. Sometimes, they work, and then they stop working, and you have to try something else. Sometimes, they work, but they’re not good enough. You need to augment them with something. So, over the years, I have tried… Pamelor, Nortriptyline, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Paxil, Abilify, Adderall, Ativan, Klonopin, duloxetine, mirtazapine, sertraline, Effexor, Celexa, Zyprexa. At one point my doctor said, “Let’s just try drugs that rhyme.” Thank you, Dr. Seuss.

Sadé, you ready to go?

Yes. Okay. Bye, ‘Gor. We are going to see Dr. Friedman, my psychiatrist, and Sadé always comes with me to the sessions. She’s really the MVP of my story. You know, way back, in the very beginning, when you were really depressed, you were just as Sadé is describing. You know, not just sad and feeling critical about yourself, but very, very anxious. And you were crying and you felt, you know, inconsolable. And then that’s when I said,

I think you need to come into the hospital.

Right. It was very disturbing and heartbreaking to watch because there was no point when your eyes were open that you weren’t in pain. And I didn’t know how to help. Was there a time that you had told me about, and I can’t remember it, where… where you said I was speaking gibberish? Yeah. It’s… You couldn’t think straight. When you were very agitated, you would try to to just keep a coherent thought together, and you couldn’t. It was very disturb— I don’t think you remember at all, but you don’t remember, and I remember all of it.

You don’t remember any of?

Well, it… as I’m hearing it… I don’t… it sounds like it happened to somebody else. Did you ever worry that, you know, when you were feeling at your worst, that you would not get better? I was convinced that I would not.

I would not get better…

And so was I. Well, I have to say, you were a good actress then. Because you were consistently supportive of him. And if you did feel hopeless, it wasn’t obvious. Because I knew there was so much out there being done. Even though it seemed like such a long road. I always knew that there was something next. Whenever I tell people that I take antidepressants, their biggest question is, “What about the side effects? “Aren’t you concerned with the side effects? “I always hear about the side effects. I read the side effects.” The side effects… of the drugs? Oh, those don’t bother me at all. No. No, the only side effect that concerns me are the side effects of depression. One of the more troublesome… …side effects of depression is death. I’ll take dry mouth… …over death. I can sip water, chew gum, go like this every once in a while. I know of only one Jew who’s overcome death. They call it suicide, but I feel like that word is incomplete. I think they should call it death from depression, not suicide. So, I’ll take any of the side effects. Hair loss, dizziness, blurred vision, muscle aches, joint aches, diarrhea. Of course. Diarrhea is so much more productive than depression. I can get out of bed with diarrhea. “What about impotence?” Impotence? Oh yeah. I was having so much sex in the fetal position! Yes, give me impotence. What do you mean, more impotence? Yes, I will take… I will take diarrhea and impotence simultaneously… …if I can smile at a sunset? I will stand there, in my soiled underwear, and flaccidly grin ear-to-ear. Because when I’m in my right mind, a sunset is justification for existence. And when I’m depressed, I look at a sunset and I think, “Yeah, you gave up, too?” Five p.m. in the winter, I get it. I’m ready to call it a day. I feel you, sun. Over the years, I’ve tried all the antidepressants. I’ve taken them on-label, off-label, off-legal. I won’t say it was illegal what I did, but I took something called ketamine. Jesus! Ketamine is a horse tranquilizer… …in a very large dose, but in a microdose, ketamine is one of the most effective antidepressants, and, more importantly, anti-suicidal medications. The problem was when I needed it, it was not available… easily. I had to go to a doctor, one doctor in New York City who was licensed to give you a ketamine infusion, and it was $800 because it wasn’t covered… by insurance. So, it was $800 a visit, and worth every penny. Oh, for an hour every other day, I felt like myself. I smiled. I enjoyed things. It was remarkable. The problem was is that it’s supposed to work after you leave the office, and in most cases, it does, but in my case, it didn’t work after I left the office. And I remember the doctor said, “I’m really sorry. I can’t take your money anymore.” Which was so confusing… “No, I have more money.” He says, “I can’t take it.” I went back a couple of times dressed as a horse. But I feel like he recognized my voice. And then, I… had a choice to make, and I discussed it with my doctor, and with Sadé, and my friend Amy,

who is here tonight—

Woo! And yeah… And she was… It’s so interesting how some people only tell you after the storm is over how big the waves were. But Amy was very honest with me. Like, I had one friend three years ago. He said, “The last time I saw you, I thought was going to be the last time I saw you.” And, I remember thinking, “Oh man, I would’ve liked to have known that.” I get it, but gee whiz! But I remember Amy said to me, she said… “You’ve got four years.” Yeah, and it sunk in. And so, we discussed it, and I went into the hospital, into the psych ward, and I was terrified because, unfortunately, pop culture has given us an image of the psych ward that is so dangerous and so frightening. But I can tell you, I was there for three weeks. It was a very ordinary experience. It was, I was fortunate in some ways, but it was really the average experience because I didn’t go to a private hospital. It was covered by my insurance. And there were men and women, poor people, rich people. It was such a diverse group. And I think I had, pretty much, the average experience in the hospital. One very fortunate thing was that I got recognized within a half hour of turning in my belt. Another patient came up to me, and I’ll never forget it. He said, “Excuse me, I’m really sorry to bother you.” He was so sweet. He said, “Are you Gary Gulman, or am I crazy?” And I laughed, and I hadn’t laughed in months at that point. I probably hadn’t cracked a smile. But he said, “Am I crazy?” And I laughed. Are you cr— Yes! Yes! But only getting that from the context. It’s 6:30 p.m., we’re in pajamas. But I am Gary Gulman. The good news is I’m Gary Gulman. The bad news is your self-esteem is so low, you felt the best you could hallucinate was Gary Gulman.

I hear a lot of people come out of the psych ward, and they say something to the effect of, “within a few days, I realized that “those people really had it much worse off than I did. “And I felt better about my condition, and I left early.” And I remember sitting in art therapy one day, and thinking to myself, “This feels just about right.” My finger paintings are as dark as anyone’s in here. It was very ordinary. I can’t really think of too much that was out of the ordinary. The first night when I went to call Sadé on the payphone, the cord… to the payphone was, like, the length of a candlewick. I remember being so confused. I thought, why is the cord, why am I bent over? I haven’t used a payphone in a long time, but I don’t remember the cord being this shor— Oh, that’s right, I’m crazy. Okay. All right. And then, I remember, I said to the nurse, I said, “Can you take it out? ‘Cause I’m just calling my wife. Then you can take it back in when I call my mother.” You know, the reason we’re all here. My mother. I love her, but even when I’m not on the phone with her, sometimes I’ll hear her voice. Like, whenever I spend lavishly. Like, I got room service the other night because I got back to the hotel after my show and all the restaurants were closed, and I was hungry and… I don’t need to justify it to you. And I could hear my mother. “Oh, Gary’s getting room service.” “Excuse me! “Mr. Big Shot. Must be nice! Must be nice!” That’s how my mother says congratulations. “Must be nice!” Or I ran 10 miles the other day and I told my mother, and she said, “Oh, good for you. How long is a marathon?” Twenty-six. “Twenty-six-point-two!” If you knew down to a tenth of a mile how long it was, why did you ask me? “Well, I wanted you to internalize your mediocrity.” So, I’ve been working on a piece that I’m gonna try out for the first time tonight. Yeah, and I’m anxious about it, and… but it… excited. The hardest thing to talk about on stage and the thing that people have the least understanding about and the least information and knowledge, and the scariest thing is about the treatment that I had. And I’m only comfortable talking about it now because I have come out the other side. I have no idea how this is going to go. Much like the first time I ever did stand-up comedy. I had no idea how the jokes were going to go. I mean, I was anxious before I got here. As I was getting coffee, I kept thinking, is it possible that this subject isn’t even funny? It’s not… Like, all my observations come from a place of recognition. It’s like, that’s, this is so obscure. This is so obscure.

Everybody make a lot of noise for Gary Gulman. Thank you! Thanks so much.

2017 was… the best 2017 was Chris Pine. He was Captain Kirk in Star Trek and the love interest in Wonder Woman. Yes! Let’s compare it to my 2017. I, um, I spent three weeks in the psych ward. All right, so… I lied for a long time about why I was in the hospital. I would tell people that I went there to adjust my medication, which if you know how health insurance works, that’s… that’s not done. But I was ashamed and I was concerned about people’s reactions to the real reason I was in the hospital. And the reason I went into the hospital was because my psychiatrist is an advocate for, and an expert in, something called electroconvulsive therapy. Which used to be called electroshock therapy, but they felt electroshock was not quite horrifying enough. They said, yes, electroshock is disturbing, but I feel like we’re soft-selling the convulsions. Yes, the writhing. If we could underscore the writhing, make that the centerpiece, I feel like we could really weed out the sissies and the mama’s boys. Electroconvulsive therapy, ECT as it’s always called now, it has a very bad branding problem. Even electroshock to electroconvulsive is, at best, a lateral move. And, again, pop culture has ruined the reputation of this because of one movie. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the most disturbing scene in the most disturbing movie. Jack Nicholson is held down by a dozen orderlies as they put electrodes up to his temples and mock-execute him. He’s writhing in pain. And I just have to tell you, it’s not done like that anymore. It’s not. They give you a general anesthesia and a muscle relaxer, and it’s delightful. The anesthesiologist would say, “Now Gary, count down from 10.” And I never once got past “Nuh.” And not the nuh in nine. The nuh in 10. It put me out. I felt nothing. I remember nothing from it. I finished up an hour later. I would come to in the recovery room. About 15 minutes later, I was back upstairs watching The Office with my best friend and biggest fan. We would watch The Office every day, and one day, I felt very comfortable with him one day, and I said, and this is true. I said, “Did you know that I auditioned “for the role of Jim when they were casting it? Long ago, I auditioned for the role of Jim.” And this was so sweet. He says, “Did you get it?” I haven’t heard back yet… But the other thing they don’t tell you about ECT is that it’s considered the gold standard in treating treatment- resistant depression. It’s very effective, and it works very quickly, and it works well. I was so anxious, I was shaking all the time, biting my lip. Within three treatments, one week, all my anxiety went away. Within about 10 treatments, the depression started to lift. I felt a little bit better, and I was released from the hospital. The timing was an issue because my lease was up in my New York City apartment, and I didn’t have the energy nor the will to look for a new New York City apartment, and to pack and to move. I thought it might set me back, so I decided, and discussed it with Sadé and my doctor, I decided to move back to my home town in Massachusetts, and, this is wild, I moved back into the exact same house I grew up in. And coincidence of coincidences, my mother still lived there. I moved back into my childhood bedroom. And the timing… I got an invitation to my 25th college reunion, and it had an invitation, and then a request for a donation of $1,000 or more. And I remember thinking, “do you not realize you sent this to the exact same address you sent my acceptance letter?” You think there’s $1,000 rolling around? And you think I want to go? Knowing what I’ve made of myself? I’m back where I started! And I remember thinking, there’s no way I’m going to this because, at that point, I was so sick of lying about how I felt to make other people less uncomfortable around me, and that’s… People lie at their reunions even if they’re doing well, and I just don’t want to continue lying. What, I’m gonna tell the truth? “Hey, what you been up to?” Well, I’m allowed around belts again! These are laces in my shoes, and my socks don’t have any treads on them! And I thought, there’s no way I’m going to this. But then, luckily, I said no. All you’ve been doing is isolating for years. You need to get of the house. You should go to this. Just go for an hour, and if you’re having a good time, stay. And, I must say, one of the best moves I made in my recovery was going to that reunion because I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years. We made plans, I made appointments, and I started to… incrementally improve. And part of it, I know, was the getting out of the house, and, studies have shown, that those interactions with other people, even if it’s just at the grocery store, at the Starbucks, it increases the level of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. And I would go and I would feel a little bit better for a little while, and it was so helpful. And I just started to be able to exercise a little bit, a walk around the block. I started to be able to eat a little bit better, and I started to do a little bit of stand-up comedy, but it was so obvious that I was sick that I had to acknowledge it. I had to open up about my suffering. And I found that I got such incredible feedback on that from people after the show, and I realized something. If you are suffering from a mental illness, I promise you, you are not alone. You are not alone. Oh no, no, no. I’m sorry. You are alone. You are alone, but only because you can’t leave the house today. But you should. It will— it well help. At the very least, it will distract you from those critical ruminations that are a big part of depression and anxiety. And then maybe, you can do a little bit more, slowly. You have to just be patient because there is hope. I can’t stress that enough. I was ready to give up so many times, but there is… And I never thought, I am so glad, are you kidding me? That I stuck around for this? Oh… I’m just so grateful because I was so sick. When I went into the hospital, I was sleeping every day until at least six p.m. And you’re being generous. You’re giving me the benefit of the doubt. “Oh, you went to bed really late.” Ten. I was getting a solid 19. And I wouldn’t wake up refreshed. I would wake up groggy and hopeless. And then if I did a show and got through a day, I would reward myself by getting a pint of ice cream. And I would always say to myself, “Just eat half the pint.” But invariably, I have this like obsessive compulsion where I need to leave a flat surface… For who, the day crew? But I would keep eating it flat. And then I’d come across a chocolate chunk, and I need to excavate that, and that leaves a pothole, so I gotta smooth that over. Then it starts to melt along the perimeter, and that’s gelato. You can’t let that go to waste. And before I know it, I’d hit bottom. Literally and millennial literally. And I would just say, “Just finish it, Gar. Just finish it.” And I would finish it. And I would put the fork down. More times than not, I would eat ice cream with a fork. Which is like an unofficial symptom of depression. People say, well, why does that mean you’re depressed? It may not. But it does mean, at least, that you did not possess the zest to wash a spoon. People would say, why don’t you just wash a spoon? Why don’t I shower? I didn’t have the energy. But if I see fork prints in your ice cream, oh, fork prints in ice cream are evidence of a life in chaos. I can extrapolate your entire home from fork prints in ice cream. I don’t need to go into your bathroom. I know that the new roll of toilet paper is resting on the empty spool. It’s the only household chore we can do whilst sitting on the toilet… and I’m thinking, “Pfft, not today.” I know you need to do laundry. Depressed people hate laundry. So many steps. Separate the laundry. Put it in the wash. Take it out of the wash. Put it in the dryer. Take it out of the dryer. Put it in the laundry bag. Dump the laundry bag on the bed and sleep around it for two days. I put it on, it’s all wrinkled. What am I gonna do, iron? I haven’t touched an iron since Monopoly. But I know my depresh is in remish because I ironed this. And also… Also, I have flossed 19 days in a row. I get out of bed, and some days are a little bit more difficult than others. Never as bad as it as it was, but some days it’s hard to get out of bed and… People say, “Why is it hard to get out of bed?” I think I know why. This is my theory. The thing they don’t tell you about life when you’re growing up is this. Life, mm? It’s every single day. Thank you.

♪ I want to be your rock ♪
♪ Your Saturday cartoon ♪
♪ I want to be the jam ♪
♪ Your peanut butter, too ♪
♪ I want to be the skin ♪
♪ Of your favorite tattoo ♪
♪ Just to be the man ♪
♪ I never was to you ♪
♪ Some days you’ll feel great ♪
♪ Somedays you’ll feel so low ♪
♪ Don’t let your sorrows ♪
♪ Drown in tomorrows ♪
♪ And take it as it goes ♪
♪ I want to be the vase ♪
♪ Of your favorite bouquet ♪
♪ I want to be the pill ♪
♪ That gets you through your day ♪
♪ Don’t let your sorrows ♪
♪ Drown your tomorrows ♪
♪ And take it as it goes ♪
♪ Take it as it goes ♪
♪ Take it as it goes ♪
♪ Take as it goes ♪


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