5 Lessons on Depression

In his new podcast, “The Hilarious World of Depression,” St. Paul–based author and radio host John Moe talks to professional comedians about making people laugh while living with depression. Five key takeaways:

St. Paul-based author and radio host John Moe

photo by leslie plesser

Yes, it’s really a disease
Moe’s guests all seem to share a similar depression origin story: onset during adolescence, a long stretch of confusion, followed by a trial-and-error process of medication and therapy. That very much fits the profile of a chronic illness, Moe says. “This is just pathology—this isn’t me and my special woes and sensitivities.”

“Funny” doesn’t equal “depressed”
The archetype of the sad clown makes people assume all comedians are crying on the inside, but there’s no consensus on whether comics are more susceptible to depression than people in other professions. Moe thinks that perception is partly because a comedian’s job is to speak frankly, noting, “You wouldn’t want your dentist talking about the meaninglessness of existence.”

“Happy” doesn’t equal “not depressed”
It’s also easy to assume that an upbeat personality or a thriving career is an antidote for depression. Moe says he would have never guessed some of his subjects were depressed. “I kept falling for the same thing that I condemn in others, which is assuming that someone couldn’t possibly have depression because they seem so cheerful.”

Everybody loves Carol
While Moe’s interviewees’ philosophies and therapies varied widely, nearly all agreed on a “deep, abiding love” of The Carol Burnett Show, with its cast of funny people who clearly cared about each other and loved nothing more than making their friends crack up.

Talking can help
Even with an abundance of awareness campaigns, depression still carries a heavy stigma, and silence can literally kill. Moe’s mission is to shine light on a subject that’s often hidden in the shadows. “It’s not an advice show,” he says. “It’s an open discussion about a topic that isn’t usually very open. My only hope for the series is that it gets people talking.”

Learn more: For more insight and hilarity, check out Moe’s “The Hilarious World of Depression.”