Marc Maron, Paul Gilmartin: Mental Health and Comedy

Mixing mental health issues and comedy works—at least for two different guys, Marc Maron and Paul Gilmartin, who’ve become well known for this in their careers.

Marc Maron currently has several big things going on. On an ongoing and popular podcast (“WTF with Marc Maron“) he’s open about his own neuroses and interviews other comedians about their personal issues. Then there’s also a new TV series on IFC called Maron and a new book, Attempting Normal.

Attempting Normal came out several days before the TV show. As presented by his publisher:

Marc Maron was a parent-scarred, angst-filled, drug-dabbling, love-starved comedian who dreamed of a simple life: a wife, a home, a sitcom to call his own. But instead he woke up one day to find himself fired from his radio job, surrounded by feral cats, and emotionally and financially annihilated by a divorce from a woman he thought he loved. He tried to heal his broken heart through whatever means he could find—minor-league hoarding, Viagra addiction, accidental racial profiling, cat fancying, flying airplanes with his mind—but nothing seemed to work. It was only when he was stripped down to nothing that he found his way back.

Attempting Normal is Marc Maron’s journey through the wilderness of his own mind, a collection of explosively, painfully, addictively funny stories that add up to a moving tale of hope and hopelessness, of failing, flailing, and finding a way…

Scott Gordon, AV Club, has compared another funny guy with a podcast, Paul Gilmartin, to Marc Maron:

Comedians give audiences thousands of trails into madness and neuroses. Publicly mapping a way out might be self-defeating for someone with a long-running stand-up career, and Paul Gilmartin’s way isn’t Marc Maron’s firestorm of old wounds and eventual atonement. When he began his podcast, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, last year, Gilmartin set a tone of calm and vulnerability, interviewing fellow comedians…and support-group friends about depression, childhood sexual abuse, addiction, and all the other ‘battles in our heads.’ It could easily have become a self-indulgent morass of sordid details and drawn-out wallowing; but it turns out that Gilmartin is a patient and empathetic interviewer who spins the episodes toward how things can improve. His stated goal, in fact, is to get listeners to seek help and therapy. It probably also helps that Gilmartin’s mild-mannered style doesn’t scream ‘trouble.’

Gilmartin went off his meds at one point, and his depression became “awful, awful.” That’s when he got the idea of “interviewing people who have learned to identify the voice of darkness in their lives and separate it from reality, and talk about how we deal with darkness…I thought it would be fun to have a show that deals with that as openly and as honestly as I’ve experienced it being dealt with in support group.”

The Mental Illness Happy Hour is found at http://mentalpod.com.

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