Stand-up comedy feels intrinsically linked to mental health. We all know the trope of the ‘sad clown’ and how huge swathes of comedians battle with depression and anxiety in their personal lives. But can writing and performing comedy ever actually help with mental health? I personally think it can. Here’s why…

Amy Gledhill

Amy Gledhill

Okay, firstly let me say I’m not a mental health worker or doctor. I’m a silly lady who makes money writing about personal failures and embarrassments- so if you’re feeling low, seek professional help, don’t immediately go reaching for the microphone. But maybe reach for the pen. (Well, laptop. It’s not 1970.)

Writing about your experiences, opinions or thoughts can be a really therapeutic experience. Pure escapism. You don’t have to concern yourself with showing people or saying anything out loud yet. Just start tapping away, being creative. Seeing the funny side. Writing the very opposite of what you think is a really great comic tool and feels super cathartic. “I love the government because…” or “10 reasons I’m glad I don’t live in the Bahamas but rent in Hull…”

One of the beautiful things about stand up is when you have an icky experience, (you know the type that live in the bottom of your belly as an awkward knot and flash across your eyes as you’re falling asleep or listening to a particularly long winded speech from your boss) saying that out loud to an audience who laugh is like holding up a cross to that vampire of a memory. Once it’s been laughed at, it holds no power over you anymore. It’s banished. Just this morning I booked a wax via an app. I thought I’d booked for full leg and most of the foof. I arrived at this new salon and asked the waxer if I should remove my knickers straight away or wait until after the legs were done. We hit quite a language barrier partly because English was her second language and partly because my thick Hull vowel sounds are confusing in London as it is. Anyway I slipped off my pants and laid vulnerable on the table while she ripped off all the hair from below my knee and then said ‘finished.’ I’d booked for a half leg wax as it turned out. And I’d taken everything off. We didn’t really have the communication skills to go into what had just happened. So I redressed, left a tip through guilt that, in retrospect might’ve made me look even creepier, and I left. I was mortified. Couldn’t get it off my brain. Until now. I’ve told you lot. And I just know some of you are hard relating or at least thinking - that’s exactly the kind of thing I would do. And it helps.

As well as feeling an affinity with an audience, doing stand up makes you part of a community. Yeah, there’s some bad eggs and some wild egos but I have made friends for life through comedy. There’s a real shared experience in the life of a stand up and being part of that collective is so valuable to me and wafts away feelings of isolation like a mid-priced hand fan.

It also gets you out of the house and breaks a spiral of a low mood. I’ve had some terrible days when I feel hopeless. I haven’t eaten or moved and I’m in a slump. The very last thing I want to do is leave the house and make people laugh. How could I? I’ve cried all day. But the gig is in the diary, I need the money and more than that I don’t want to let anyone down. So I pull myself along to the gig. Lump in my throat. Leaving the house already clears your head a bit. Then the venue staff are happy to see you… the other comics in the green room are a delight and make you laugh… then you go on a room full of people enjoy what you’re saying and on top of that you’ve got a huge shot of adrenaline and by the end of the night, in spite of yourself, your mood is lifted. The curse of the awful day is broken. And honestly, even having a bad gig is usually better than no gig.

It’s definitely not for everyone and the tricky thing is being a stand up comic comes with a whole heap of pressures and self doubt that can cause mental health to deteriorate. There is scrutiny, competition and large levels of introspection. At the moment I bloody love it and it adds more to my life than I ever expected. Now, has anyone got any recommendations for waxing salons in North London?

Amy Gledhill: The Girl Before The Girl You Marry is at Monkey Barrell Comedy in August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022.