Do I think laughter is the best medicine? Nope. 

Jess Robinson

Jess Robinson

Depression and anxiety is something I’ve battled with since my early teens… so about 5 years (insert winky face emoji here). A huge proportion of people who make others laugh for a living, often suffer with mental health issues off stage. And on stage. Thank goodness nobody can hear the voices in my head when I’m doing my act.

Which came first, the tears or the clowning? For me, comedy came from feeling sad at not fitting into any of the friendship groups at school. I was at my lowest point when Mrs Parker told me off for not finishing my homework (again). The voice came out a little louder than I’d anticipated as I mimicked her under my breath - just at the one of those rare times when the class was totally silent. It was such an accurate impression even Mrs Parker laughed. That was the beginning of my career as an impressionist. Comedy made me more popular, which in turn boosted my confidence. Most friends weren’t so interested in me if I wasn’t ‘being funny’, but at the time it was a deal I was willing to make.

Making people giggle is the easy part though. Well, it is for me - in comparison to actually doing comedy for a job. The Edinburgh Festival in particular is something I find horribly challenging in terms of my mental health; the worry of whether I’ll sell any tickets, the anxiety around what the reviews will say, the strain of trying not to care, the financial burden, the pressure I put on myself. Every August I have to remind myself to keep swimming towards the September horizon, when I’ll finally allow myself to stop comparing my show's success and therefore my self worth to everyone else and… just… sleep.

Well, that’s how I feel this week. It’s mid July. I’m sitting at the table with my husband saying “I’ve got to write this article on how comedy helps my mental health - at this point I don’t think it does. I think it’s doing the bloody opposite”. I said “PLEASE - sit me down next year and remind me how much I hate it and tell me not to do it”.

He said “you always feel like this at this point… You’ll spend the month laughing with your friends and by the end of August you’ll be inspired to do another show next year”.

He’s right. Edinburgh is a place where I’ve found my tribe. My friendship group. The peers who will support me if I’m down, but more than that, who make ME laugh. And doing my show for one hour per night in the centre of all that external (and internal) mayhem is my bubble of joy. A crazy sanctuary. So do I think laughter is the best medicine? Definitely not but a dose of comedy can help…

Jess Robinson: Legacy is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe this August. Tickets available from