No, Really, We WANT You to Laugh

Mental Illness and Stand-Up Comedy: Transforming Lives

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Welcome to our site for our book “No, Really, We WANT You to Laugh.”
Look around, check out our blog, and let us know what you think.

Let’s start with what you think of when you think of a comedian? Funny, first, right? Then confident, smart, and probably empowered over their “stuff”.

How about when you think of mental illness? Maybe you think of a loved one, or a friend, or maybe even yourself. Or maybe not.

Maybe you aren’t aware that people you know are living with mental illness. (Believe us, statistics tell us you DO know people with mental illness.) So instead, when you think of mental illness, you think about people talking to themselves on the street corner, or crying all day in their room, or committing violent crimes.

Mental illness sucks. It really does. People with mental illness can feel isolated, they can feel hopeless, and they experience powerful stigma and discrimination in their communities.

The book, “No, Really, We Want You to Laugh” shares the inspiring stories of comics who have turned their struggles with mental illness into comedy and been transformed in the process! It includes the co-authors’ own experiences of living with mental illness, or living with family members who are mentally ill, and how taking that hard stuff and turning it into comedy through a program called Stand Up for Mental Health changed their perspectives and changed their lives.

Before comedy, co-author Dave Mowry’s story was one of tremendous loss and grief. Paralyzing anxiety and depression took him from powerful business owner and CEO to losing everything – companies, his home and relationships. Now Dave facilitates comedy classes and helps other would-be comics find their funny the way he did. The power of laughter has transformed Dave’s story into one of healing, restoration and hope for the future.

Co-author Tara Rolstad realized that nothing had prepared her to be a foster mom to a teenage niece with severe mental illness, for suicide attempts, hospitalizations or lengthy residential treatment stays. Now as a comic she advocates for changes in the system and serves as a voice for the experiences of exhausted family members, who have to learn to navigate frustrating ER waiting rooms and psych units.

You’ll also find the stories of other comics we’ve trained and performed with, fascinating people like:

– Lorayne, who has been committed to the state psychiatric hospital six times, been suicidal and lives with severe anxiety, yet is a powerful volunteer in her community who found her voice and shares it through comedy.

– Eric, who is an artist and a therapist when he’s not being a comic, and is enjoying recovery from schizophrenia.

– Molly, who used to be a doctor until bipolar disorder happened, and went from buying dinner at fancy restaurants to buying dinner with food stamps.

– Martin, a young musician and comedian who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome.

By sharing these inspiring and FUNNY stories, we want to raise awareness of the hope for recovery from even severe mental illness, and we want to fight the stigma and shame that still exists in our society.