I remember doing my last tour, Out of Her Mind, a comedy partially about mental illness. Don't worry, I toured it for two years in mental institutions and made sure I got the inmates' 'seal of approval'; these were my people, my tribe, they knew I never spoke down to them and if you can make a schizophrenic laugh, you're a hit.
I usually got to stay overnight and hang out in the smoking room where you hear the greatest conversations on earth - no bullshit in there. In the second half of the show there would be a discussion and they asked fantastic questions like, "How do you get rid of a poltergeist in your radiator?"
After two years, the show went to 'normal theatres' whatever that means, all over the world and we would also have discussions. Most people wanted to know how to break the stigma. I'd usually suggest that we should learn from the gay movement. In my lifetime they went from pariahs to goddesses.
Perhaps we should do mental illness pride parades; borrow their old boas and high heels, (they must be in storage somewhere) and march to Parliament demanding the laws be changed as far as discrimination. Unless people 'come out,' nothing is going to change.
I remember an audience member, a very butch guy from Newcastle, stood up in the balcony and confessed that he'd been on anti-depressants for ten years and never told his wife. She was sitting next to him.
Then another guy in the audience said, "What's with you Americans always going on about your depression? I'm from Norway, why don't you do what we do?" I said, "What's that?" He said, "We jump off cliffs."
Now in my new show, Sane New World which is for everyone, not just the mentally ill but all of us, I'm getting a lot of questions on how to deal with the digital viagra we're all addicted to (I'm even answering spam these days) - especially, how do we help our kids manage this? How do we deal with all this in-coming bombardment of everything from fashion tips to terrorists? I say all this is here already, we created it, now how do we deal with ourselves as individuals? How do we find our own repose amongst it all, that's the question we need to answer first - and then we can pass it on to our kids.
I'm touring the UK with my new show, Sane New World until May 2014. Full details are on my website.
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