Monday nights are quickly becoming my favorite night of the week. Performing at the Second City on the ETC stage is one of the most thrilling things I’ve done in awhile. The pitching of new ideas, the class time and rehearsals, and the excitement of putting a show on stage and not knowing the outcome is all just an amazing experience.
But one of my favorite things about all of this is hanging out in the green room back stage and thinking about all of the comedic greats who have done it before me. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a real loser when it comes to this sentimental shit, so I make sure and take it all in. And I mean all of it. I stare at the walls every time I enter the green room because they are full of amazing autographs and hilarious one-liners from a long list of famous comedians who all got their start at the Second City.
Last night I played homage to one of Second City’s most recent famous alumni, Aidy Bryant. Don’t worry, this photo was just leaning against a wall, I didn’t take it down or anything. I just danced around with her face on my face for a little bit hoping some of her comedy greatness would rub off…
But sadly yesterday during our rehearsal before our show things felt different. Because around 6:00 p.m. I got a notification on my phone that Robin Williams had died. Without thinking I just blurted out what I had read. Immediately no one believed me and they were sure it had to be a hoax or something. But as everyone else got on their phones we all started to realize the painful truth.
And surrounded by a room full of comedians, it hit us all a little bit harder than we expected. It’s weird how the death of someone you’ve never met can affect you. But I would tend to say there’s not a comedian in this world who wasn’t inspired by Williams at one point in their life. Every one of us at the Second City sitting in the Skybox theater yesterday had our own stories about why we loved him so much. He was just so so good.
And little by little I think we all started to think about that dark thought that Williams was a guy who seemed to have everything that every one of us want so bad. He had achieved what we are all tirelessly working for day and night. And yet. And yet that nasty disease of depression still got the best of him. In the end, making other people happy just wasn’t enough to make himself happy.
Mental illness is a scary thing, especially in the world of comedy where it seems people are so good at hiding it. I read a stat somewhere that said around 65% of comedians suffer from depression or some sort of mental illness. Williams suffered from bi-polar, as do so many of my other favorite comedians. I initially thought that stat seemed a little high, but maybe it isn’t.
I think we’re all a little crazy, comedians and non-comedians. Comedians simply choose to funnel their madness into comedy.
So thank you Robin Williams for everything you gave this world. For me personally, I’d like to thank you for Mrs. Doubtfire. That movie made my childhood. Every time I put on Spanx I will think of you and feel like I’m my own little Mrs. Doubtfire.
The story of the great clown Terrifini-
“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world, where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says the treatment is simple. The great clown Terrifini is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. Man bursts into tears: “But doctor . . . I am Terrifini.”