Gary Gulman is a funny guy. He is tall, handsome, and charming. He seems like he’s got it all together. In his latest special, The Great Depresh, Gulman reveals his life long struggle with depression and anxiety.
I was first exposed to Gary Gulman through the comedy competition Last Comic Standing. His joke about the speed limit signs that tell you how fast you are actually going made me an instant fan.He blew up again in recent years with his stories about Trader’s Joe shoppers and How the states got their two-letter abbreviations. Gulman is a master and landing on the funniest possible word.
In 2019 he started giving daily comedy advice on his twitter feed. He loves comedy and wants comedians to succeed.
The Great Depresh starts with footage from what appears to be a open mic session in 2017. In that clip Gary is talking about struggling with a mental illness. And then it cuts to a travel and chase scene montage for the opening credits.
Gary talks more about his struggle with depression and how it was present throughout his life. He grew up as a sensitive kid during a time when it was expected that boys would be tough and men would be strong. Gary was a big athletic kid who struggled with expectations around athletics and school bullies.
This special is about an hour of jokes with cut-aways to interview/day-in-the like scenes with Gary’s mom, friend, wife, and therapist. Throughout all of this he is revealing more and more about how depression can be hidden from people (his mom has no idea) and how it can affect the people around you. One of the most powerful moments is when he is talking about Sadé, his wife, and how she was the real hero of his story. She walked with him through some very tough years.
As a child of the 80’s I found myself relating to Gary’s talking about loneliness, pressure to be a certain kind of man and not really fitting in. I have never had the depth of struggle with depression that Gulman talks about, but I understood more about depression after watching this special.
This special is very brave. Being vulnerable with strangers can be liberating, built it is also very risky. People could turn on you so fast if you admit weakness. Mental illness in particular is something that people are often afraid to talk about because there is so much stigma. Perhaps the most important thing that this special does is get all the stigma out in the open. Gulman talks about medication and the struggle of finding balance there. He talks about hospitalization and being admitted to an inpatient treatment center for three weeks. Gary talks about lack of desire for every day life. When he talks about eating ice cream with a fork because you just can’t be bothered to wash a spoon, that was all too real. Gulman talks about suicidal thoughts and the idea of writing a suicide note. He put so much of himself out there.
What the Great Depresh does really well is reveal the struggles of depression without glorifying it. Gary is not trying to portray himself as a suffering artist. His message is that if you are struggling with depression, you don’t have to suffer, and you are not alone. There is a call to action in this special, get the help you need because you are worth it.
I wish this special was more widely available. It is an HBO special an the only reason I was able to watch it was because of a free 7 day trial through amazon prime. This was the only thing i wanted to watch, so I’m cancelling my trial. There is almost no swearing and i think you could watch this with your teenager and it would probably lead to some really important conversations.
Gary, thank you for putting this special out in the world. I pray that you continue to walk in a healthy path. You are loved and you are worth it!