When some of my peers read my book A Bipolar Quandary, they state that some of the manic episodes written about seem funny now. I quickly tell them that to live through those episodes was certainly not funny, but I can see how humor would be a powerful tool in coping with people who have a mental illness.
Vancouver-based counsellor and stand-up comic David Granirer, author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead To Happiness and Success, is teaming up with the Powell River branch of the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) once again to offer stand-up comedy as a form of therapy. Granirer, whose work was profiled in the CBC documentary Cracking Up, is the founder of Stand Up For Mental Health, a project wherein people with mental illness turn their problems into comedy then perform their acts onstage. "Doing comedy about their illness builds participants' self-esteem and helps reduce public stigma around mental illness," said Granirer, who himself suffers from depression. "Laughing in the face of pain makes people go from despair to hope, and hope is crucial to anyone struggling with a mental illness."
Stand Up For Mental Health comedy troupe performed to a sold-out audience in Powell River in 2006, said Lin Johnson, regional coordinator of the BCSS. "So we decided to bring them back and have been able to do so with help from the Powell River Community Foundation. We think this is a great way to reach out to the community and change people's perceptions of what it means to have a mental health issue."
This year's performance includes two Powell River comics who have been working with Granirer over the past year to hone their skills and fine-tune their routines. "For many years, mental health has been a big part of my life and I have never seen anything that works as well as a good laugh in bringing people together and making them feel good about themselves," Paul McIsaac said.As well, Granirer brings Eufemia Fantetti to join the comedy troupe this year. Fantetti performed her one-woman play My Own Private Etobicoke, to a warm reception during the BCSS Nothing to Hide Film Festival in 2005 and 2006.The Stand Up For Mental Health comics will perform at 7 pm on Saturday, June 7 in the Max Cameron Theatre. Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for seniors and students, and are available at the door or at Breakwater Books. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available for individuals with low incomes. For more information on these complimentary tickets, readers can contact Shainil