May 18

“The Hilarious World of Depression” by John Moe

Public radio personality John Moe, who has a podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression, now has a memoir by the same name. Yes, he’s a funny person; yes, he’s been depressed most of his life. And that’s not all—his brother died by suicide; his father was alcoholic.

From the publisher:

Inspired by the immediate success of the podcast, Moe has written a remarkable investigation of the disease, part memoir of his own journey, part treasure trove of laugh-out-loud stories and insights drawn from years of interviews with some of the most brilliant minds facing similar challenges. Throughout the course of this powerful narrative, depression’s universal themes come to light, among them, struggles with identity, lack of understanding of the symptoms, the challenges of work-life, self-medicating, the fallout of the disease in the lives of our loved ones, the tragedy of suicide, and the hereditary aspects of the disease.

Moe likes being able to put mental health issues out in the open, easing stigma for “saddies” while also educating the “normies.” Melissa Broder, New York Times:

The Hilarious World of Depression…could be a particularly useful tool for those who grew up in homes where seeking therapy was seen as weakness, those who don’t have the language for mental illness, and particularly for men age 50 and older. If you’re looking for a Father’s Day book for a depressed dad who is aware of his condition but averse to seeking treatment, this is the one.

An illuminating excerpt from the review at Publishers Weekly:

Despite his suicidal ideation and his struggle to move past his guilt after his brother’s suicide, Moe’s story is not bleak. While he does not come out on the mythical other side, he learns—with the help of medication, dogs, listening to music, and therapy—to break the ‘habit of converting stress into bleak, goth-eyeliner-wearing despair.’ Such side-eye commentary separates Moe’s story from the ‘trite ’70s self-help’ he loathes, as does the inclusion of quotes from podcast guests Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, and others. Moe’s edifying, enjoyable take on the realities of living with depression will uplift any reader.

Selected quotes from Moe’s recent interview with Terry Gross, NPR:

I didn’t want to be taken away from my family. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I didn’t want to be institutionalized. So I thought, I better keep it a secret. But it was just this unsourced terror that I had….It led to a lot of kind of hyper-achieving mentality. I joined every activity at school. I was elected to class offices of vice president and president of my class. I tried to be the friendliest, most outgoing kid I could — thinking that that could be medicinal and counteract it.

A big thing I’ve been hearing [during the pandemic] is a fair number of depressed people doing miraculously OK through this, because we’ve been preparing for this for a long time.

Andy Richter was on our show and he’s compared his depression to a bad back. Like, you know, that it’s a thing that you have, and sometimes you’re feeling great, and then when it starts to flare up, then you need to take a hard look at it. You need to go back to your therapies and your treatments. You need to look at what’s the best way to address this flare up: Is that medication? Is it physical therapy (if it’s a bad back) or mental therapy (if it’s your mind)? So, things might go wrong, but you have a toolkit for dealing with it.