Stigma-Busting with Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy

Stigma-Busting with Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy

Art Spark Texas welcomes new Director of Outreach, Susan Slattery, who came to us this summer from KOOP Radio in Austin where she has been the Business Membership and Underwriting Director, as well involved with event planning and fundraising for the community station.  Susan’s professional background is with non-profits, the arts and education. Past highlights include the Austin Film Festival, First Night Alexandria (VA), The Torpedo Factory Art Center, FCPS Institute for the Arts and the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau. She has served on several non-profit boards, and is currently an elected member of the KOOP Community Council.

“I am thrilled to return to the arts world, and really excited about all the programs and initiatives at Art Spark Texas,” says Slattery. “I grew up in a family where community involvement and a love for the arts was fostered from an early age, so it’s good to be back in that world.”

Susan is a member of, and occasional producer with, KOOP’s Reflections of Community Outreach radio show and serves on the PTSA at her daughter’s school where she also helped start a Visual Arts Booster Club. She is a writer, filmmaker and visual artist who enjoys putting a paintbrush to canvas.

Here are Susan’s observations from last night’s Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy Show:

Seven newly-minted Austin comics, along with their teacher and emcee Canadian comic and founder of Stand Up for Mental Health, David Granirer, had a sizable crowd of friends, family and “people they didn’t know,” laughing and cheering this past Wednesday night at Cap City Comedy Club in Austin. It was the debut performance of the stand up comedy students’ riffs on funny, and sometimes cringe-worthy, remembered moments: bad dates (including Amish speed dating), psych unit vacations, narcoleptic fashion moments, drugs-the good, the bad and the ugly, ripped psychiatrists, and mannequin impressions, to name just a few.

Through an Art Spark Texas partnership with Stand Up for Mental Health, the seven participants, Mary A., Lonestar, Jourdan Sarate, Nicole Cortichiato, Sarah Beckman, K. Fargo and Jen McKinney, signed up for the six week course with Granirer. The group met weekly for an on-line, face-to-face class with Granirer, then worked individually with him to develop their acts. The class is designed to turn problems into stand up comedy, then perform in front of an audience. It’s empowering for the comics and a great way of fighting public stigma surrounding mental illness.

older comic with glasses sits on a stool and speaks into a microphone on stage
David Granirer

In between hilarious takes on his wife’s chore list, the future of commercially- sponsored mental health centers (think Coors Crisis Center) and professional cuddlers, plus a little razzing of the couple sitting front and center to the stage who were on a first date, (and never should have admitted it), Granirer shared some insights about his journey from 20 “lost” years with ongoing depression to stand-up. “The idea is that laughing at our setbacks raises us above them. It makes people go from despair to hope, and hope is crucial to anyone struggling with adversity.”

woman comic with white cane presents material into a microphone onstage; the MC cracks up while sitting on a stool beside her
Jen McKinney

There was plenty of laughter throughout the show, with some poignant moments woven into the material. K. Fargo mentioned his anxiety and other issues, adding “I’ll probably have PTSD by the end of my set.” His delivery brought the laughs though. Lonestar said she “came out [as mentally ill], but there was no parade for me,” while Jen McKinney recalled her parents repeatedly playing the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in the car as they took her for her first hospitalization – when she was in the 5th grade. The comics were well-rehearsed and the performances well-done. And they were funny. Very funny.

man with long hair speaks into microphone while smiling on stage; the MC laughs while sitting on his stool nearby
K. Fargo

Some favorite lines of the evening. Please excuse any misquotes:

I was eating butter like a refugee from the Paula Dean Show.

On the Austin dating scene – He only needs to have all his teeth and a pulse.

I’d like to marry a therapist-you get a secretary, a medical card and a white noise machine.

Texas weather is just like me – bi-polar!

On making a career change when you’re hearing voices: Psychotic? Or Psychic? You decide.

Did you find this website easier to navigate than your depression?

A big thank you to our host Cap City Comedy who provided the use of their club for the night.

–Susan Slattery, Director of Outreach, Art Spark Texas

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