Review: Chris Gethard Uses a Light Touch to Discuss Dark Topics in Career Suicide


Career Suicide, Chris Gethards new HBO special, starts with a warning: I see a shrink. Were good.

With that out of the way, the comedian explores his past and present experiences with mental health. Adapted from his long-running solo show, Career Suicide doesnt fall into comedians-talking-about-their-shrinks parody territory. He paints his longtime therapist Barb as a fellow weirdo, as a person who has a life outside her office and whos even come to see his shows.

Sometimes people just break, he says. Welcome to a comedy show.

Early on Gethard details how he tried to kill himself at age 21 by crashing his car into a truck on a road in Clifton, New Jersey. In one of the specials funniest bits, he recounts knowing hed survived when three women who all sounded like Carmela Soprano opened his doors. The stigma of suicide, Gethard says, is how its viewed: Suicide has a real branding problem. He also admits he waited too long to reach out for help.

As host of The Chris Gethard Show, which is coming to truTV, he created a place where outsiders and weirdos could come and play. TCGS isnt mentioned in the special, and his writing stint with SNL is only touched on. Gethards focus isnt his career but the valley highs and mountain lows of mental health, delivered not via punchlines but stories that balance absurdity with gut-punch, like opening up to his mother (another Carmela Soprano) about suicidal thoughts. This kind of honesty has made fans open up to him with their own questions about depression.

This week, Netflix released Maria Bamfords latest special Old Baby, which touches on her experiences with mental health but also focuses on how to find yourself again. Neal Brennans 3 Mics devotes a segment to his history with depression. Aparna Nancherla has taken her discussions of mental health to a podcast, Blue Woman Group. As the GOP bends over backward to take away health care for millions of peopleparticularly those with pre-existing conditions like mental illness and substance abusethese specials and conversations come at a crucial time.

Elsewhere, Gethard discusses medication, and how its actually made him funnier, but he resists the Im cured narrative. At 90 minutes, Career Suicide does feel a bit long, but its clear Gethard wanted to take his time. He gets people to laugh at the fact that sometimes people break, and theres always a way to put yourself back together.

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.).

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Chris Gethard: Career Suicide - Official Trailer (HBO)

Comedy can be found in the darkest of places.

Career Suicide, an HBO comedy special presented by Judd Apatow and written by Chris Gethard, premieres Saturday May 6, at 10PM.