The Hilarious World of Depression Podcast

A show about clinical depression…with laughs? Well, yeah. Depression is an incredibly common and isolating disease experienced by millions, yet often stigmatized by society. The Hilarious World of Depression is a series of frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with people who have dealt with this disease, hosted by veteran humorist and public radio host John Moe. Please visit the American Public Media website to learn more and listen to additional episodes of the podcast.

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Run-DMC was about as successful as recording artists could be. Packed concerts, multi-platinum selling albums, MTV, fame, fortune, the whole thing. But Darryl McDaniels, the DMC of the group’s name, was a mess. He was drinking like crazy, using drugs, and not dealing with mental health issues that he thinks had plagued him since birth. With the help of some tough love therapy in a rehab facility he was able to face his problems and get to the bottom of what was really going on. Hear about his introverted childhood, his meteoric rise, and how he chose to listen to one song for a year instead of killing himself.

You can pre-order John’s book at bit.ly/HilariousWorldBook. Follow us on Twitter: @THWofD. Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/thwod. Support our show today: hilariousworld.org/donate

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Previous Episodes

Run-DMC was about as successful as recording artists could be. Packed concerts, multi-platinum selling albums, MTV, fame, fortune, the whole thing. But Darryl McDaniels, the DMC of the group’s name, was a mess. He was drinking like crazy, using drugs, and not dealing with mental health issues that he thinks had plagued him since birth. With the help of…

Filmmaker and actor Mark Duplass has been prolific over the course of his career. Along with his brother and creative partner, Jay Duplass, he’s made films such as “The Puffy Chair” and “Cyrus,” as well as TV shows like “Togetherness” and “Room 104.” Mark’s also an in-demand actor, starring on “The League” on FX and “The Morning Show” on…

There’s a lot of information being thrown at parents when a baby is on the way: how to make a birth plan, what kind of car seat to get, what shots the baby will need, and on and on. Comedian and actor Angelina Spicer thinks a frank discussion of postpartum depression doesn’t get included in there nearly as much…

Max Heller’s life was falling apart. He was drinking heavily, using every kind of pill he could get his hands on, and isolating from society. He was swimming in New York’s East River, walking through subway tunnels, and hooking up with whomever he could find. Then he met Bob the Drag Queen who, after weeks of cajoling, gave Max…

Actor and writer Charlene deGuzman grew up thinking that women should be like the centerfolds her father had plastered all over the garage: alluring to men and ready for sex. As an adult, this led to a sex and love addiction where the line between sex and love got blurry. Eventually, she hit bottom amid a failed relationship, a…

Can platforms like Facebook or Twitter or Instagram help with depression? They do offer a quick way to connect with other humans, after all. But then again, do they? Are you talking to a human or are you just alone and typing? Tech thinker and Glitch CEO Anil Dash has been addressing the benefits and problems of social media for twenty years, since…

It took a long time for singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham to get to some stability in his life. Growing up, his parents had problems with drugs and alcohol, creating a lifestyle that kept the family constantly on the move or on the run all over the Southwest.  Speaking of instability, his main outlet during childhood was riding bulls on the rodeo circuit. As he grew up, he…

Author and blogger Heather B. Armstrong (dooce.com) was in, by far, the deepest depression she had ever experienced and nothing was working to lift it. That’s when her psychiatrist told her about a study using powerful doses of the anesthetic Propofol. Heather had ten appointments where she was placed in a brief medically-induced coma. The idea is similar to electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) but…

While it was easy for audiences to enjoy Mara Wilson as a perky child performer in movies like Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, the young actress had mental health issues that weren’t enjoyable at all. Mara had been dealing with severe anxiety for as long as she could remember. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Matilda started shooting and Mara developed…

Whitney Cummings has had a lot of success in Hollywood as a comedian, actress, writer and director, and now she’s finally having success in figuring herself out. She’s been making connections between the addiction and mental illnesses in her house growing up, the eating disorders she developed, the depression that has persisted, and the codependency that emerged. Turns out when you are able to take a good…

You might know Pete Holmes from his many standup specials, his talk show, or Crashing, the HBO series he created and starred in. You might not know the long and varied spiritual path he’s traveled in his life. Pete was an incredibly devout Christian, living by the Bible and obsessed with avoiding eternal damnation. Following traumatic life events, he arrived first at atheism and finally at a…

Taking a trip somewhere new can be wonderful: the new experiences, the exciting culture, the unusual foods. For people who deal with depression or anxiety, travel can also introduce a variety of problems. It necessarily involves getting out of the familiar and that can leave one feeling isolated, worried about negative possibilities, and unprotected in a world that sometimes doesn’t work out all that great as it…

Look, we know that THWoD can get a little, I guess, intense at times. Depression is a heavy topic and stories about it are often packed with bummers. So in this special episode, we rounded up some of the funniest moments from our three seasons and packed them all together for a hilarity highlight reel. The laughs tend to come from unexpected places and within the…

The idea was to become an engineer or maybe an architect. Jonny Sun has degrees in both, and he’s a dissertation away from a doctorate in urban studies and planning from MIT. But a phenomenally humane, funny, and popular Twitter account has placed him in an unexpected comedy career. Meanwhile, he realized that this dark sad feeling he’s had…

“There’s a lot to unpack, John,” says comedian, actor, and writer Naomi Ekperigin during the course of this interview and indeed there is. The New York native, now uneasily dwelling in Los Angeles, has dealt with anxiety, depression, a very complicated relationship with her father, as well as problems with alcohol and cutting. Comedy has been in there too…

Mental health is a journey. Rarely does someone have a problem, fix it completely, and never worry about it again. On this episode, we touch base with three popular guests we’ve had on the show to see how they’re doing today. Gary Gulman has a new lease on life and a new lease on an apartment, Linda Holmes has…

True stories of beautiful epiphanies and majestic, horrible disasters. Talk therapy is one of the most popular ways to address depression and it’s one of the most effective. Still, at its root, talk therapy is a relationship between two humans — strangers, mostly — trying to figure out something complicated together, and that is inherently complicated. Our listeners have…

Comedian and writer Guy Branum was expected to be a construction worker his whole life. Maybe a football player. He was large, strong, and grew up in a town more known for agriculture than metropolitan sophistication. After scoring good grades and pining for places usually seen in the movies or magazines, he moved on to college and then law…

Our show took to the stage recently for a live event packed with laughter, insight, and music. We were joined by Paul F. Tompkins, Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, and Ana Marie Cox, who all shared their experience with mental illnesses as well as what it’s like to be out and about in the world with people knowing what they’ve…

Finding and using the right words for something as complex as mental illnesses can be exasperating. And it can take a lot of effort to avoid the wrong words. In this episode, using words, we explore terms like “crazy” or “addiction” or “depression” and how they are so often abused, co-opted, and twisted. Guests include Paul F. Tompkins, Aimee…

He’s a writer, a stand-up comedian, and an actor, but Scott Thompson will likely always be best known as one of five members of The Kids in the Hall, one of the best sketch comedy groups ever. Scott has made a lot of people laugh, but his life has been filled with events that aren’t funny at all: a…

Comedian and actor Chris Gethard has a lifetime of experience with depression. Chris has turned moments of his life dealing with the illness into an off-Broadway show and an HBO special, which is more than one might expect from a fight-prone, often manic, kid from West Orange, New Jersey. We cover a lot of ground in this talk, including…

Young people can be morose, angry, withdrawn. It’s often chalked up to being a “phase,” a natural initiation ritual to adulthood. What if it’s not? What if it’s a mental disorder in need of help? We hear from the always-entertaining comedian and writer Jen Kirkman about her efforts to understand her head. We also talk with Jennifer Rothman, NAMI’s…

Long before Neko Case was known as one of the top singer-songwriters working today, she was a punk teenager running around the streets of Tacoma, having ditched a neglectful and dangerous house. Fortunately for her and her eventual fans, she got her life on track, developed a strong interest in music and threw herself in to making it. We…

We asked you, our listeners, for the songs that help you most when depression is really acting up, and the stories behind those picks. On this episode hear stories about and music from Leonard Cohen, Bjork, Neil Young, Radiohead and so much more. We even get some peaks behind the songs from Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and…

You can think of Dave Nadelberg’s vast Mortified project as The Hilarious World of Embarrassment, Awkwardness, and Redemption. Through stage presentations, film, TV, and books, Dave invites people to share their most mortifying writing. It’s very funny, sure, but it’s more than that. Dave says the process of dragging your younger self out of that old trunk can provide…

A lot of rappers are heavily influenced by the rough and real streets where they grew up. Mike Eagle grew up on those streets too but he was always inside, reading books and watching TV. He loved comedy, cartoons, and especially the wide range of music available on cable, everything from N.W.A to Spin Doctors. Those influences, as well…

You know the feeling, right? You finally achieve something — a new job, a promotion, an award — and while you know you should be proud, you just feel like a big phony who will soon be exposed. You feel like you don’t really belong there and you suspect that someone else should be there instead. It’s called Impostor…

Yeah, you don’t hear a lot of on-stage material from Chris Rock or Sarah Silverman about the time they were on a mission with their unit in Iraq and they took a bullet to the back of the skull. But you hear about that from Thom Tran, a US Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient who not only talks…

Celebrity chef and Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern has made a reputation as a culinary expert with an adventurous streak, traveling the world and sampling tree grubs, shark meat, tarantulas, and horse rectums among many other cuisines. But before his current fame, he was on the street, stealing handbags to fuel his alcoholism, which existed to deaden his long-held…

Although she comes across as confident and happy on her incredibly successful YouTube channel, Hannah Hart has plenty of experience with insecurity and misery in her life. Growing up, she faced severe poverty, hunger, and dealing with a mother who was mentally ill. Still, she made it into a good college where she had to confront issues…

It’s hard to settle on a musical description for Ted Leo. We ended up going with “if The Beach Boys were ’80s skateboarders” to summarize his melodic intense post-punk sound. Similarly hard to nail down is whether Ted’s longtime issues with depression and anger stem from his brain’s built-in wiring or from abuse he suffered as a kid and…

Rachel Bloom has never moved across the country to chase a boy like Rebecca Bunch did. Rebecca is the character Rachel plays in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” the hit show she co-created and stars in on The CW Network. But Rachel does have a long history of messed up romantic relationships — plus depression and intrusive…

In one of the last interviews he gave, Reggie Osse, aka Combat Jack, talks about the connection between the status of the African-American man in contemporary society, the changing role of masculinity in hip-hop culture, and mental health. Osse was an important figure in hip-hop as a lawyer, editor, podcast host, and thinker. This interview was conducted in October…

Before she was the host of NPR’s popular Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, Linda Holmes was an attorney working at the Minnesota Legislature. Before that, she was a student living in squalor. And before that, she was the victim of some seriously messed up mean kid behavior. We hear about her unusual path to a better life, the older…

If you’ve ever heard this show before, you’ve heard singer-songwriter Rhett Miller. He wrote and performs the theme song about “the world’s greatest clown.” On this episode, Rhett tells of his teenage suicide attempt, a mysterious illness, his musical salvation, and his grandmother’s owl fixation. He even brought his guitar along and performs…

New York comedian Mike Brown is a big fan of objective cause-and-effect scenarios. This drew him into playing video games, studying math and engineering, and ultimately getting on stage to tell jokes and get laughs. The thing is, sometimes you have to face events that are completely senseless.

New York comic Janelle James never even imagined being a comedian. She had grown up in the Virgin Islands, worked in fashion PR, had two kids, and was living in Illinois when she first walked on stage at an open mic night. She was 30 years old. But as soon as she hit the stage, she knew this was…

She’s the author of bestselling books and an incredibly popular blog, but Jenny Lawson showed up to our interview wondering, at least a little, if her appearance on this show and her whole career, really, was part of some delusion. It’s not. She’s the real thing: an incredibly funny and honest writer with a legion of fans, a very…

We’ve gathered up a whole lot of tips, tricks, ideas, and stories to help you get through this time of year when merriness and jolliness aren’t always in abundant supply. Hear holiday thoughts from Wil Wheaton, Margaret Cho, Jenny Lawson, John Green, Aimee Mann, and more. Plus, a story about a slobbering zebra.

You know those things that happened but that you don’t talk about very much? Or even at all? Because they’re too upsetting? In this episode, host John Moe and guest Ana Marie Cox put those things on the table. Ana is a journalist, pundit, and podcaster; she talks about the lowest point in her mental health, a horrible decision,…

Growing up, actor and writer Julie Klausner was too busy battling depression and daydreaming about an imagined Merlot-sipping cosmopolitan adulthood to really engage in the world itself. It wasn’t until she entered the world of comedy and improv as an adult that things really started to click into place. That led to creating Difficult People, a show on Hulu,…

Long before Jeff Tweedy was the founder and leader of the enormously popular band Wilco, he was a kid in Illinois with severe migraines and a tendency toward anxiety and depression. He cycled through alcohol, marijuana, and, finally, opioids to try to get to the point of feeling normal and okay, even relying on a fan who worked at…

With one recent appearance on The Tonight Show, Patti Harrison went from being a well-regarded alternative comedian in New York to being a de facto spokesperson for transgender people. She’s proud of who she is and proud to give a voice to that community. But she wants to make it clear that her sense of humor is much darker,…

Although Gary Gulman has been a successful stand-up comedian for decades – with acclaimed specials, a loyal fan base, and appearances on all major late night shows – this was not his original plan. Gary is 6’6” and athletically gifted, he loved basketball, and had a full ride athletic scholarship to a Division 1 program. Problem is, he had…

Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann has a reputation for making music that is raw, emotional, and sometimes not all that cheerful. In real life, she’s perfectly cheerful – thank you very much – and has traveled a long road of depression, anxiety, a difficult childhood, and writer’s block. Through it all, she’s taken a calm, considered, and creative approach to problem-solving…

Author John Green had one of the best-selling books of the last 10 years with The Fault In Our Stars. The problem is, when you write an acclaimed smash hit, everyone wants you to somehow do it again. In attempting to write that follow-up, Green went off the meds he’d been taking for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, hoping it would bring him…

If you’ve enjoyed any comedy in the last 20 years, there’s a good chance Neal Brennan helped make it. He’s a veteran comic, writer, director, and co-creator, with Dave Chappelle, of the acclaimed Chappelle’s Show. Over the past 20-plus years, he’s also tried everything he could think of to tame his depression. Hear Neal’s epic journey to feeling pretty good.

She’s one of the most influential and innovative comedians of the last few decades, but before all that, Margaret Cho was a Korean-American girl growing up in the 1970s in San Francisco. We hear about the sometimes very darkly humorous ways her family and culture dealt with depression and suicide, and how she harnessed her own depression to begin…

Wil Wheaton was a child star in Stand By Me, a regular on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teenager, and has been trying to figure out his role in show business for a long time since then. He was dealing with the pressures of fame and the fickle tastes of Hollywood, all while dealing with a chemical imbalance in his…

Hosted by John Moe
John Moe is the author of three books: Dear Luke, We Need To Talk, Darth; The Deleted Emails Of Hillary Clinton; and Conservatize Me. His writing has appeared in numerous humor anthologies as well as The New York Times Magazine, The Seattle Times, MSN, and many more publications. He has hosted nationally dis tributed public radio programs such as Wits, Weekend America, and Marketplace Tech Report and his radio work has been featured on All Things Considered and Morning Edition. He is also the host and creator of the award winning podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. Locally, he can be heard on MPR News and The Current. He lives in St Paul.