BWW Review: Chris Gethard's CAREER SUICIDE is Anything But
It comes as no surprise that Judd Apatow is a good judge of quality entertainment. Along with Mike Berkowitz and Brian Stern, he's currently presenting Chris Gethard's one-man show, CAREER SUICIDE, at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, playing through Nov. 27.
You might recognize Gethard from appearances on "Parks and Recreation," "Inside Amy Schumer," "The Office," and his own Fusion TV show, "The Chris Gethard Show." He's also a regular at New York's Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv group frequented by "Saturday Night Live" cast members.
In CAREER SUICIDE, Gethard is part standup comic and part poignant storyteller, moving seamlessly between self-deprecating jokes and heart-wrenching moments as he candidly talks about his struggles with mental illness and alcoholism. For someone who has contended with anxiety and panic attacks most of his life, Gethard appears remarkably at ease on stage. He speaks to the audience like he would a trusted friend, even admitting to (and laughing about) an on-stage mistake at the performance I attended.
Gethard begins the show by letting everyone know he is indeed seeing a shrink and that despite what he'll disclose in the next 80 minutes or so, he's doing pretty well - even though his shrink (Barb) has few boundaries and isn't the best at her job. Barb remains a running comic character throughout the show, and Gethard paints her for us vividly, also making sure we know that she's 100% on board with his descriptions.
While suicide attempts, alcoholic blackouts, and graphic stories about pharmaceutical side effects don't seem like fodder for comedy, Gethard skillfully makes them funny without ever losing sight of the seriousness of his subject matter. He pulls this off partly because he's talking about his own life, but also because he is unflinchingly honest. He stands up, an everyman, and essentially says, "This is me. This is what I've dealt with and continue to deal with to a large degree."
In the process, Gethard begins to remove the stigma of mental illness, helping audience members who are unfamiliar with it to better understand it. At the same time, I'm sure he helps those who have had similar experiences to feel less alone.
He readily admits that for 15 years of his life, he was convinced he'd never feel better. Yet, he can now stand alone on a stage and talk about his life to strangers, which proves to anyone with doubts that you can have mental illness and not only function, but have substantial success. That he also manages to make his subject matter very entertaining is a testament to his ample talents as a writer and performer.