Stand-Up For Mental Health

BY Gillian FitzgeraldOctober 24, 2018

Group of comedians in front of polka dot wall smiling

Hi, I’m Gill! You might know me as Front of House at Huckletree D2. Here’s my story of how I stood up to my fears to become a stand-up comedian…

Growing up, I always wanted to be an actor. Age 11, first year of Stage School, I had my first audition. My stomach full of butterflies, palms were sweating, voice shaking. The week afterwards, we were told who had the lead roles… and I wasn’t on the list. I’ll never forget that feeling. It was my first rejection – and one of many to come (we’re not even talking about my dating life yet!). However, I shook it off and went on to be my fabulous self in the chorus.

FUNNY STORY

I was always the messer in my class. Never took school too seriously. “Be grand” has forever been my motto in life – so much so that you’ll often hear my mother saying “She’s so laid back, she’s falling over!” Naturally, I nearly sent her to an early grave during my leaving cert year by refusing to do teaching in college and doing plays instead of studying. Luckily, it all worked out. I got into a performing arts course and my mother was (and still is!) alive and strong. The next two years were pure magic, as I spent my days improvising, dancing, Shakespearing and simply, living my best life.

I was always cast as the comic relief character and after a little while I realised – I’m actually kind of funny. But god forbid I’d say that out loud. It was always seen as snobby or self centered to realise you were good at something and be proud of it… if it was anything other than playing Gaelic football (something I am terrible at and nearly lost my Kerry citizenship over!)

It always made me wonder: why is it considered such a bad thing to embrace and be proud of what you’re good at? I knew I was funny. I knew making people laugh was what I wanted to do – what I loved doing. But I couldn’t say it outside of an acting class. So, for years I didn’t.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to not do something so you can say you didn’t fail.

With stand-up comedy, I can’t blame a bad response on the writing, the directing, story or acting – because they are my stories and my observations of the world. If the audience doesn’t like all of that, they basically don’t like me.

 

TIME TO STAND-UP

Thankfully at the start of this year, I finally let go of what other people thought of me. Biting the bullet, I signed up for a stand-up comedy course. Since I did my first gig in February, I have performed in venues all over Dublin such as Cherry Comedy Whelans, Camden Comedy Anseo, Funny Women and Comedy Gold. I have also performed in Mullingar (got a picture with the Joe Dolan statue – life complete!) Limerick, New York City and my favourite achievement to date, two gigs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (I’m amazed I didn’t full-on basic-girl it and pass out during the set, because I for real, could not deal!). 

The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m meeting so many amazing people, facing the fear of “dying on my arse”, getting better at dealing with my nerves during every performance and realising that having bad gigs is all part of it and not to give up.

 

CHUCKLES AT HUCKLETREE

It’s funny: we learn in the classroom that laughing and having fun is bad and will get you in trouble. We tend to carry this mindset into our adult and professional life. If you’re seen having the craic in the office, you’re not working. Work isn’t supposed to be fun, right? Bullshit. Yes, work hard but don’t forget about what makes you smile.

If you’re lucky, you find a job where you’re expected to bring your own unique sense of humour and authentic self to the table – and are appreciated for it! In my case, I work Front of House for an amazing company (yep, this one!). I’m proud to be part of a business that places mental health at the forefront and empowers its team to follow their dreams.

Earlier this month, I decided it was time for my work life and stand-up life to truly come together – by hosting a comedy night right here at Huckletree D2. Part of our World Mental Health Week activities, it brought together some of Dublin’s very best comedians to raise money for Aware. Aware offers support and information for people experiencing depression or bipolar disorders.

 

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

Girl handing over giant cheque

Depression is a rapidly growing trope in stand-up comedy, with many comedians suffering from it amongst other mental health issues. It’s also well documented that men have a harder time talking about their mental health. As a very male-dominated scene (that’s a whole other story in itself), comedy can actually become a safe space to openly discuss sensitive issues.

On the night, our amazing lineup of comedians talked honestly and hilariously about mental health (most of us had some form of a mental health story in our set). I truly believe laughter is the best medicine and we each played our part in helping to break down the barriers. If even one person in our audience felt they could join the discussion, or even just realise it’s okay to not be okay, it was all worth it.

I’m really proud that we raised over €660 for Aware on the night – if you’re not already googling, get involved and support them here. Big thanks also to our Huckletree D2 members ConsenSys for providing beer and pizza for all our guests – you can’t host a comedy night on an empty stomach!

Look out for future events coming up at Huckletree D2 here. Hope to see you soon!

AUTHOR

Gillian Fitzgerald

Huckletree D2 Front of House