I don't know why I have suddenly started talking about the episode of depression I went through as part of my stand up act. Perhaps I am following in the footsteps of the MPs who outed themselves, or Alastair Campbell's book The Happy Depressive. Perhaps it is because I believe that comedy should nobly hold up a mirror to the truth, and conduct a forensic examination of the foibles of humanity. Perhaps it's just because I've written some killer jokes about it.
It is certainly a stand up's duty to get from laugh to laugh in as short a space as possible, but it is also part of the job to take people on a journey. The dramatic moment that follows my revelation is one I savour. In a world where discussion and depiction of sex and violence in vulgar language and HD clarity are commonplace, a simple admission of mental illness still sends a frisson through the audience. The laughter that follows on the next punchline is one of relief: relief that this isn't going to be the downer that it might be, and that this is an experience that I am inviting you to laugh at. The brilliant Dave Millett had me in metaphorical stitches telling me about the car crash that had given him literal ones: it was either tell jokes about my own treatment, or write a misery memoir, a task for which I haven't the memories, imagination or enthusiasm.
Is depression funny? No. Is misunderstanding funny? Yes. Much of my shtick employs the examination of the gap between expectation and reality. SSRIs are wonder drugs; the side effects I found less than marvellous. Therapists can be helpful; mine wasn't. Some people battle depression; my experience can best be described as a mud-wrestle with all aspects of eroticism carefully removed.
Most of all, then, I am telling this story because every audience contains someone who has, is or will one day go through something similar. If I can reassure just one person that someone can go through these things and come up smiling on the other side... then I have chosen a massively inefficient way of doing so.
Ian Hawkins is performing at the Edinburgh Festival as part of the PBH Free Fringe in 'Everything is Purple'
5-25 August (not 14 or 21) at 22.10
Venue 63 - The Dragonfly, West Port
Biog: Ian Hawkins wrote for The 11 o'clock Show, The News Quiz, Loose Ends and Stephen K Amos. He's sung for the Queen, played piano for Rob Brydon and left his good shoes in the Club Class Lounge at Gatwick. He regularly dissects the news on BBC London, Bristol and Three Counties.