In The Hilarious World of Depression (St. Martin’s, May.), podcaster Moe considers depression through his personal experiences and tales of those he’s interviewed.
What inspired this book?
I’ve been amazed at how much conversation and personal storytelling seem to help people dealing with depression and mental illnesses. And, honestly, I came to a very midlife point in my life. But my crisis didn’t involve sports cars and affairs; it involved getting a big dog and then thinking about what I was doing on Earth. All I could come up with was that I was trying to help people carry and relieve some of their burdens. The more I talked about mental illness in a simple, nonmedically trained, conversational way, the more people it seemed to help. So I felt like a book was a good way to get that out there.
How do you think storytelling and comedy help people dealing with mental illness?
I think we’re a story-driven culture. I think that’s how we make sense of our world. We look for the narrative; we look for the experience in order to connect with each other. When I got diagnosed, I realized that I’m a part of something, I’m a part of a group—there are other people who’ve had this experience, and I’m part of that larger experience. I think finding the narrative and finding the group is tremendously comforting for people. And humor about a situation, especially grim or war-trench humor, can benefit us the same way. You interpret the world, and you understand the world, and you feel more capable in it. The laugh can give you a little bit of extra nerve, a little bit of extra strength to walk through the horror.
How is your book different from the many other books on the topic?
So much of what I was going for in the book is to help people to look at where they’ve come from. You didn’t just wake up behind the wheel—you’ve been driving for a while. You started somewhere and are here because you took certain roads. So, because you’ve had certain experiences with relationships, it makes sense that you might be having trouble with relationships now. It’s not a matter of “getting over it,” it’s a matter of understanding why things are the way they are.
What do you want readers to get out of the book?
I want this book to get more people talking, to have more conversations [about mental illness]. It doesn’t have to be with me—in fact, that would be inconvenient. But the simple act of talking to a therapist, a clergy, a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a grandchild, and making that conversation as normal as talking about baseball is important. I always say, if people talked about mental illness the same way they talked about atheism and veganism, my god, imagine the possibilities!