Blog John, Mental Health

Creative Sparks (John)

Q: Why do so many comedians suffer from mental health issues? Or is it the other way around – why do so many people with mental health issues make such good comedians?

A: Again, I know where this comes from. The perception of the clown who’s crying on the inside is very common, but it’s a misconception. When my mental health was really bad I was unable to write for over two years. I also had a long two year period of suffering delusional psychosis, so just turning up for a gig could be a huge challenge. Statistically only about 12%of people with my diagnosis function in the everyday world (so I’ve read, but I take such info with a pinch of salt). So people who are mentally ill make as good comedians as they make good astronauts. It was when I got well that I started to get good at my job. Yes there’s a creative spark that comes with Bipolar disorder, but untreated it will be all over the place and incoherent. Admittedly it was when I was without treatment that I first got up on stage, but I’m not sure you can equate that with normal or even positive behaviour.  (JOHN)

After working in Accident and Emergency for 18 months on a hypomanic wave of energy, she achieved her dream job as base doctor for the British Antarctic Survey, and worked on one of their research bases on the Antarctic continent for 18 months. The weight of mental ill health grew too great on her return, however, and she hasn’t been able to work since. (ELLE)

At a recent performance of my Delusions show I did a Q and A at the end and was again asked if my condition had helped me become a comedian. It’s a really difficult question to answer. Yes and no. You see I’ve been interested in the performing arts since I was a small child and I started to suffer the symptoms of Bipolar in my mid twenties. So in that context if the answer is yes then I was bipolar at birth and if no then I was just a person who loved performing who happened to develop bipolar.

The truth is I think is it’s a double edged sword. It both contributes and takes away depending on the severity of the condition at the time. Hilariously I remember when a sympathetic doctor first tried to take me off meds as they doubted my diagnosis of schizophrenia. After a month I went back for a check up…”How are you getting on John?” Answer, “Awesome I’ve become a comedian!” Then the doctor looked very concerned and said, “Oh dear that is a bit of a worry John” And it should have been. I was pretty high and not exactly exhibiting everyday behaviour.

Kay Redfield Jamison  is an American clinical psychologist and writer. Her work has centered on bipolar disorder, which she has had since her early adulthood. If you are bipolar and haven’t read some of her work I couldn’t advise more that you should do so. Reading one of her books helped me and my wife get a handle on what was happening to me. I remember a really poignant part in her writing where she was asked if she could live again without the disorder would she do so. The disorder had caused as much destruction in her life as it does anybody. However, she felt she would hang onto the disorder. She recognised that without it she may not have had the drive to get to where life took her. It’s a fair point but I reckon she wrote that from a place of distance from the condition. I think when you’re caught up in it fully you’d do anything to make it stop. So as I say… it’s a double edged sword.

My creative spark is measured these days but is always there with me. Sometimes I write daft, slight little poems (You can see much more on my other site here.)  Sometimes I spend a while on them and sometimes I just bash them out, first thing that comes into my head. This one is the latter. I wrote it last night while viewing an episode of Fear The Walking Dead. Maybe this post was just an excuse to draw your attention to that. 😉


Don’t pick on the scruffy kid
Don’t sell our health to the highest bid
Don’t end up like Vicious Sid
Do stimulate your third eyelid

Don’t demonise the refugee
Don’t worship at the effigies
Don’t shoot the sheriff’s deputy
Do take worth in your beauty

Don’t persecute the vulnerable
Don’t say the words unutterable
Don’t suffer the insufferable
Do make each day more tolerable

Don’t put a price on everything
Don’t hide behind a pile of bling
Don’t see peoples colouring
Do take heed of Martin Luther King

Don’t take these words too serious
Don’t get yourself delirious
Don’t listen to the imperious
Do enjoy this life mysterious




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