Published Oct 02, 2015Chris Gethard let's you know off the top of his set what you're in for — an account of his life, and it's mostly about suicide, pharmaceuticals and crippling depression. So… "Welcome to the comedy!" What Gethard delivers is more of a one-man show about his struggle to live with himself, because he is, in a most serious way, a depressed individual, someone who thought about killing himself every single day.
In this vessel, he achieves palpable moments of profoundness that could easily crash and burn on stage. The truth is, if you're making some of this stuff seem hilarious, as he does at times, you know what you're doing up there.
His is a tale of madness that searches tirelessly for a bright side. If there's an anchor to his stories, it's the role of his much appreciated, and occasionally unskilled shrink, whom he refers to only as Barb. It is she who validates him. If she's not talking him off a ledge, she's showing him pictures of her house in Mexico during their many sessions (all on his dime). The latter infuriates him, but because of Gethard's ability to draw humour from darkness, clearly the mechanism that has kept him alive, she completes him. She (seriously) wants Chris and his wife to move into that house in Mexico. She displays the cover of his book in her office for all to see, exclaiming proudly that he is a patient of hers, falling short on confidentiality. And once, she informed him that during the '70s, she was in a "pornographic film."
Much of his monologue is framed by her observations, and it's possible she's the reason he is still around to talk about it. A native of northern New Jersey, Gethard relates only to Morrissey growing up, whom he quotes many times during his set, mostly in actual song. Not an impression, either. He sings it quite seriously, cupping the lyrics. He's a superfan, and not at all surprised his favourite artist is a "depressed British narcissist." It's a good representation of his relationship with New Jersey. He was a misfit kid that didn't belong, but he feels this way about most places he's lived.
He lets you know that, tonight, he's exploring a dark place, and there won't be the "dick jokes" he can do in ten minutes. (Straight-faced dick jokes are hard to imagine with this guy.) But he's done something brave, infusing mental illness with humour. It's a safe bet there were people in this audience who appreciated it immensely. Admittedly, there are times when this performance feels purely like therapy for him — "The stage is my church" — and he acknowledges how pretentious that sounds. It's a struggle to keep living for Chris Gethard. Who knew that could be funny?