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Finally: A Comedy Show About Depression That You Can Actually Laugh At

Chris Gethard's 'Career Suicide' casts depression in a whole new light.
Photo by Clay Anderson. Courtesy of The Lynn Redgrave Theatre

An air of nostalgia permeates the room. With suicide prevention flyers in their playbills, the audience watches as a body steps out onto a worn carpet surrounded by comic books and old lampshades. Comedian Chris Gethard wears jeans and a t-shirt, and this is his one-man show, Career Suicide, at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre.

It's about mental health, addiction, and what it means to achieve success, and it's far from the performance's first iteration. Initially formed at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, taken to Union Hall, and later performed at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Career Suicide has gone through many steps to become the show it is today. “It really took a massive turn at the Fringe in Edinburgh. Doing the show there, 26 nights in a row was insane, plus my director Kimberly Senior met me out there and really sunk her teeth into it. I had nothing to do except work on this show all day and then do the show every single night. It really transformed and changed from what it had been during that run in Scotland,” says Gethard.

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Photo by Clay Anderson. Courtesy of The Lynn Redgrave Theatre

Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Kimberly Senior, Career Suicide has an interesting origin story, created within a trusted circle of friends and workshopped in front of crowds to get it just right. “Kimberly Senior's fingerprints are all over this show in a big way, and Judd Apatow's producer role is not in name only. He and I have had many phone calls and in person sit-downs about how to tackle this thing and it would be very hard for me to explain how valuable that's been.”

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Photo by Christian Frarey. Courtesy of The Lynn Redgrave Theatre

When asked about the inspiration for the show, Gethard looks back at a tour he had with colleague and friend Mike Birbiglia. “I told him some grim stories and he said, 'That's hilarious. You have to tell it on stage.' I did not think it would work, but took the challenge he put out there.” Pinpointing exactly what Gethard does is difficult; the palpable vulnerability he displays on stage creates something that goes beyond mere stand-up and storytelling. It makes you feel at home, the very quality that has allowed him to create a cult following for The Chris Gethard Show, has made his radio show Beautiful Anonymous so compelling, and that drives people to fill the seats night after night—so much so, that the show has been extended through January 8th.

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Photo by Christian Frarey. Courtesy of The Lynn Redgrave Theatre

The set, coordinated by scenic designer Brendan Boston, can be described as minimalist at most, with a backdrop that occasionally lights up, old rumpus room-style chairs and carpets, and magazines and comics. “[Boston] had the idea to make the actual first row of seats consist of arm chairs and love seats, and to hang some lights directly above me that evoke a sort of 1980s basement feel. I love that, it makes the set feel personal and makes me feel less like I'm on stage being looked at as if I'm in an aquariumm,” says Gethard

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Photo by Christian Frarey. Courtesy of The Lynn Redgrave Theatre

Speaking about the difficulties of dealing with mental health and success, in a world that often looks upon depression as an unworthy disease, is no easy task. And juggling that with humor? Even more so. Gethard here does an exceptional job, guiding the viewer through a mindset they might not understand. “At the end of the day, I think the two things I'm best at are 1) being very honest with my work and 2) creating a sense of community,” says Gethard. “If I can make this show funny enough that people want to come see it just on that level, but then maybe some parents who watch it go, 'I think maybe my values are a little old school and I'll make it easier for my kid to talk about this stuff,' that would really make me feel good.”

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You can see Career Suicide at The Lynn Redgrave Theatre now through January 8, 2017, and you can see more of Chris Gethard's work here.


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