Nov 15

“Bored to Death”: Spoofs of Therapy and Therapists

The HBO series Bored to Death, a sitcom currently in its third season, is about a writer named Jonathan Ames who pretends to be a private eye. Billed as a “Noir-otic Comedy,” it has been described as a show that “…depicts the variously inept adventures of a lazy, underachieving writer whose natural disconnection from humanity is only strengthened by his dependence upon cheap wine, marijuana, an enabling and wealthy mentor, and a self-loathing comic book artist for a best friend.”

On at least two occasions, therapy has been spoofed by this series.

Spoof #1: In the first season, Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) meets Dr. David Worth (Denis O’Hare), who seems neither very welcoming nor helpful. But when Jonathan’s ulterior motive for being in that particular therapist’s office is revealed, things become clearer to us, the viewers.

Spoof #2: A recent episode had guest star Sarah Silverman as a counselor specializing in “friendship therapy.” In the clip below, she’s supposed to be addressing the rift that’s occurred between Jonathan and his friend/boss George (Ted Danson).

Update June 3, 2012: The video is no longer available.

So there you go. Two shrinks to consult if you’re seeking not one shred of appropriate or professional behavior.

Nov 14

“HIMYM”: The Therapist’s One Helpful Contribution

So now that I’ve managed to get all caught up on HIMYM, I can weigh in again on what’s happening with Kevin, the therapist. (Please also check out my previous posts on this subject.)

  • Between him and his girlfriend Robin—very little chemistry. One can only hope it turns out to be an ill-fated romance because of his boundary-less choice to date a client.
  • As an individual character—nope, not much there either.

The most involvement he’s had, in my opinion, was in the episode that aired on 10/24 entitled “Noretta” (a word blend of the names of “Nora,” Barney’s girlfriend, and “Loretta,” his mom).

Although the series title is How I Met Your Mother (the point of view of the single male character Ted who has yet to meet the mom of his future kids), this episode is sort of a “How I Married My Mother/Father—as in the translation “I married a woman/man who’s very much like my mom/dad” as opposed to incest. Then again, no one’s actually married except Lily and Marshall. So never mind. We’ll stick with “Noretta.”

Toward the beginning of the episode, Kevin makes the general observation that people tend to pick romantic partners who are like their parents. We then witness the regulars proceeding to get grossed out by recognizing the similarities between their mates and their parents.

Regular character Robin, however, and her new beau Kevin are (wisely) excluded from this exercise. I mean, think about it—would the writers have had to make Robin’s father the perpetrator of incest? (Along the lines of Kevin crossing boundaries by dating Robin.)

Kevin’s insight is actually based on some solid ground, psychologically speaking. The work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., for example, is useful if you’re trying to figure out your patterns of choosing your mates and how you relate to them—and goes significantly deeper than just the idea of picking someone who subconsciously reminds you of a parent. Two relevant books of his are Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (also in Workbook format, co-authored by wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.) and Keeping the Love You Find: A Personal Guide.

If you’ve been an avid Oprah fan, you may already know that she in turn is an avid Harville fan (as well as a You fan, in case you thought and/or hoped that’s where I was headed) and big believer in his Imago Theory. Her online Lifeclass “How Your Childhood Affects Your Adult Relationships” gives us a clip of a pertinent therapy session conducted by Harville. The set-up:

For Oprah, Harville Hendrix was the best teacher of validation. Harville developed the Imago Theory, which is that you end up imaging in your adult relationship what you most need to heal from, whether physical or emotional wounds, received in childhood at the hands of your parents or caregivers. In 2006, Harville facilitated an Imago therapy session for Louie, who was abused as a child and was verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his wife.

Check out the website for more info, including finding Imago therapy and/or workshops for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Nov 11

“Why Can’t We” (Be Happy): Asa Getting Rid of Sadness

An upbeat tune currently on my exercise playlist is “Why Can’t We” by female singer/songwriter Asa, age 29, who lives and records in Paris. She asks, Why can’t we be happy?

This track is on Asa’s most recent CD, Beautiful Imperfection,” the title of which she explained when interviewed for Blues & Soul Magazine:

‘Beautiful Imperfection’ basically represents the way I see life. The name actually came about from an interview I did about a year ago. I was asked to describe my life. And my reply was ‘Well. it’s really beautiful – but at the same time it’s IMPERFECT!’… And what I realised from that, is that I actually LIKE the imperfection! I like the little surprises that life gives you, because I feel it HUMBLES you and makes you THINK! You know. I’m always on a journey.

Asa adds that when writing “Why Can’t We,” she was actively trying to lift her own sadness. The tune’s fun, dance-filled video is available below—listen carefully and you’ll hear that living in the moment is integral to Asa’s happiness formula.

If you’re unable to make out the lyrics, though, here’s one of the choruses (and you can always find lyrics to the entire song online):

You worry much about things you don’t understand
But don’t give up, if it doesn’t go with the plan
Why not have some fun
While you’re still young and still ok
Cos’ life is short
Do what you can today today

Why can’t we be happy…

Here’s to a happy staying-in-the-present kind of weekend!

Nov 10

“Funny People”: Characters Could Use Some Therapy

Featuring “funny people” who aren’t necessarily happy people, the movie Funny People (2009) was written and directed by Judd Apatow, a former stand-up comic. It stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a successful comedian who discovers that he has a serious illness. Several other main characters are also comedians, and there are a good number of cameos by such actual comedic stars as Ray Romano and Sarah Silverman.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raved that “…Apatow scores by crafting the film equivalent of a stand-up routine that encompasses the joy, pain, anger, loneliness and aching doubt that go into making an audience laugh.”

And Patrick Bromley, a critic who’s also been a comic, wrote the following:

What the film really gets, and what most previous stand-up movies haven’t, is the psychology of the comic. The comedians in Funny People are, for the most part, dark and angry people who don’t want to be funny so much as they need it; it’s the only tool that makes something like facing down your own death even possible. Comedy is both defense and offense, and provides the characters with a means of communicating with one another that the outside world simply cannot understand.

As far as I know, however, no one in the movie goes to therapy.

If the idea of this movie interests you, and you’re not as turned off as I’ve been when reading the mixed reviews that attest to the length (2 and 1/2 hours) and a significant dose of crude language and sexual jokes, here’s the trailer for your further consideration:

Nov 09

Therapy For Comedians Provided By Laugh Factory

Many people (who don’t know about the Stand Up For Mental Health program I posted about yesterday) presume that people who perform stand-up comedy are inherently happy people—perhaps because our response to them makes us feel happy. But specialized therapy for comedians is needed because they too have their share of underlying issues.

Often not so. There’s Richard Jeni, for example, who committed suicide in 2007, and Greg Giraldo, who had struggled with substance abuse issues and died of an accidental overdose in 2010. These are just two of the better known comics who’ve died as a direct result of their mental health issues; there are many others with serious emotional problems who either haven’t died or who are lesser known.

But feelings about the tragic deaths of the two men noted above were apparently quite instrumental in the creation of a relatively new program at Laugh Factory, a top comedy club in Los Angeles, that now allows comics to seek therapy consultations, pro bono, right there at the club.

Jamie Masada, the long-time owner of Laugh Factory, is also a philanthropist. One of his longstanding projects, started in 1985, has been a summer comedy camp for underprivileged kids. Known to be a true believer in “laughter is the best medicine,” Masada has now found a way for stand-up comics—who help heal others through laughter—to receive their own healing. And from the numbers, apparently it is a needed service. A little over a month after the program started last winter, it was reported that about 80 comedians had already availed themselves of therapy.

Does being a comedian cause mental health issues or are people with mental health issues drawn to becoming comedians? Deborah Vankin reports in this article in the L.A. Times that Ildiko Tabori, one of the two therapists who treats the comics, “…can only speculate about the chicken-and-egg question — whether it’s the pressure of being a stand-up comedian that leads to depression and other emotional problems, or whether certain personality types are drawn to stand-up as a profession in the first place. She suspects it’s a little of both.”

One well-known comedian who has offered patrons of the Laugh Factory her gift of warm and gentle humor, Ellen DeGeneres, experienced her own problems a while back. As stated in W Magazine in 2007:

In 1997 DeGeneres and her sitcom character emerged notoriously from the closet, triggering a fierce public fall from grace that hit fever pitch during her tabloid-fodder relationship with Anne Heche. The episode left her stunned, angry, unable to find work for three years and mired in depression.

Her life has changed significantly since then. She’s now married to actress Portia De Rossi, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show has aired since 2003 and has been a huge success. Here she is doing one of her show monologues a couple years ago that addresses being in a “good mood”: