Gary Gulman on Comedy and Depression


In June 2017, I bumped into the standup comic Gary Gulman at a birthday roast for Rich Vos at the Village Underground, a comedy membership in Manhattan. It was an old-fashioned roast—the honoree and everyone on the dais was comedians, together with plenty of the visitors, so the brutal jokes got here from firsthand revel in, if now not love. Gulman sat inside the target audience with his lady friend, Sadé, who’s also a comedian.

Instructed me that he become leaving New York to transport lower back in together with his mother. The scientific depression he had suffered from for more than a year wasn’t lifting, he stated. He seemed confused that he turned into leaving a community he’d worked for twenty-three years to gain valid access to as if the selection had been made by way of someone else. I’d to close visible him that February, in a psychiatric ward.

Gary Gulman on Comedy and Depression 1

(He instructed me that he become on his way there is a textual content that examines, “I’m going to the hospital the next day for Depresh.”) On Valentine’s Day, my accomplice and I joined him and Sadé in the ward’s touring room. I met Gulman in 2006, at a more promising time. I turned into reporting an ebook on standup comedy and masculinity. He’d simply finished touring at the call popularity from “Tourgasm,” a frat-boy docuseries on HBO, and had moved to New York to stand what he called.

The comedian’s white whale”—earning his legs at Manhattan clubs. At the time, I became interested in how the best male standups had been mapping out a psychological landscape that changed into sincere and textured, mainly while compared to famous portrayals of guys as emotionally stunted mutes. Gulman became open about his doubts and terrors and extremely beneficial in his admiration of other comedians.

He changed into the type and smooth. These traits had been excellent in the competitive, rough comedy scene. Also hanging, next to the hunched-over slovenliness of many comics, turned into Gulman’s physique—he is six ft six and trim. We bonded over our love of books and language, pleasures that we each skilled as secrets, having grown up within comparable pockets of sports-obsessed Massachusetts anti-intellectualism. He became a gifted writer who didn’t disguise how difficult he labored at it.

In the years that accompanied, I suggested on Gulman as he went via a chain of upheavals: a devastating breakup, near-financial disaster (mainly troubling to him, since he’d worked at a C.P.A. Firm as an accountant), several moves (consisting of one from a farmhouse he’d offered in upstate New York again to a rental condo he shared with 3 different men), two comedy tapings, the dying of his father, and the damaging melancholy that took greater than two years to allay. During that point, standup exploded as an artwork shape, and the subculture that it helped create started to undergo its reckoning.

Gulman slowly recovered his fitness, in element via crafting cloth from the ruptures he had skilled and is now within the high of his comedic powers. His new HBO unique, “The Great Depress,” directed by using Mike Bonfiglio and produced by Judd Apatow, centers on his despair and recuperation and is punctuated with documentary segments that feature Sadé, his mom, the comedian Robert Kelly, and his psychiatrist.

Apatow first got here across Gulman whilst Apatow changed into working out fabric at the Comedy Cellar in New York. “He would be lovely and charming and go onstage and be hilarious and warm,” Apatow these days recalled. “Every time to time, humans might say that Gary went through a sincerely tough time—but it simply didn’t appear to feature up.

The unique explores Gulman’s upbringing in the suburb of Peabody, Massachusetts, and his lifestyle as an athlete who earned a football scholarship to Boston College. He discloses the treatments for his mental contamination that he kept hidden, even from pals; his pleasure in collaging; and his appreciation of the gentler social mores that millennials have ushered in. “It’s the first-class version of comedy to me—it’s hilarious and moves people and allows humans,” Apatow stated. “It’s now not a dark piece of comedy.

He, nevertheless, is going all the way there. It’s deceptively hysterical. Gulman and I spoke closing week by smartphone. After attending the memorial of his domestic-city pharmacist, he became using again to New York City, one of the few folks who knew about the antidepressants he becomes already taking at seventeen. Gulman recalled, “He as soon as requested me how I become doing, and it wasn’t pointed—he was a sincere and earnest guy. I commenced crying. He took me into his office, and we had a top-notch, lengthy talk.

The kindness of folks that recognized your struggling and the dangers of isolation are subject matters of the special. You’ve stated in interviews about your recuperation, “This isn’t always a solo act. The M.V.P. Of this tale is Sadé. We’d most effectively been together six months after I began to disintegrate, and they stuck around. Nobody gave her a credit score outside of my close pals. I don’t recognize why people are reluctant to present caregivers such as credit. It’s the American fable, the rugged individualist. [Also] being cherished is a hard component to speak approximately onstage. She carried me for so long, and I discover it tough to get that across comedically.

I watched you shoot “The Great Depress,” which changed into as near an ideal taping as I’ve visible. I notion, That level of accuracy is my job! You’re a comedian! But, once I visited you one night at a comedy club shortly after, you have been worried about having fudged a few pieces of information to make a purifier narrative—which includes conflating two rounds of electroconvulsive remedy into one. What’s riding that problem?

My dream changed into having an hour of fabric on my melancholy, and as I got nearer, it has become frustrating because I should in no way get it ideal. I become concerned that the seriousness of the despair and its worst might be glossed over by using the funny. It becomes a tightrope: is it standup, or is it a one-person display?