The Mental Illness Happy Hour

“Everybody I know is bizarrely, beautifully, fucked up in some weird way…”

-Greg Behrendt talking with host, Paul Gilmartin

All forms of entertainment are ways for us to shut out the horrific thoughts of our inevitable expiration as we meander through the deadening events on which the journey of life is constructed, right?  So why not make a show about how we deal with those thoughts?  Genius.  I can smell the cash from advertisers rolling in already!

Paul Gilmartin’s The Mental Illness Happy Hour is an interview show summarized at the beginning of each episode as “an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads.”  Gilmartin makes it very clear that the show is not a substitute for professional help, but rather “a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck.”

I chose this show as my first post for a few reasons:

  • Unlike many podcasts, TMIHH doesn’t feel like a promotional tool for those involved.
  • The topics and tone used to describe them are seldom found in any mainstream media.
  • It’s genuinely funny throughout each episode, despite the weight and murkiness of the subject matter.
  • By avoiding directly administering advice, the listener can glean subtle and profound insight into serious questions they may or may not have about mental health.
  • Nothing seems sensationalized for dramatic effect.

One of my favorite things about the podcast medium is the depth interviews reach without the interference of advertisers and the temporal limitations imposed by television or radio.  Gilmartin and his guests find themselves diving into personal stories and constructive digressions that would never survive the hasty editing of most talk shows, and these moments of intimate disclosure are the core on which this show is built.

Paul Gilmartin’s background as a comedian coupled with his own experience with mental conflict seem to give him a unique ability to traverse these delicate conversations with the appropriate amount of inherently dark humor while retaining a manner of sincerity.  Likewise, many of the guests are comedians, performers, and writers who are able to express their stories in an engaging fashion without the timbre of a rehearsed performance.

I haven’t listened to every episode yet, but here are a few that I would highly recommend:

  • Kulap Vilaysack: 10/14/11
  • Paul F. Tompkins: 11/11/11
  • Greg Behrendt: 6/3/11
  • Rob Delaney: 1/6/12

I discovered this show by searching for comedians in iTunes, and I initially checked out episodes based on the guests, but I’d urge you to listen to episodes that may not include a familiar name, they are equally as enjoyable as many of the episodes with more widely known artists.



Here is a quick bio of Paul Gilmartin from The Mental Illness Happy Hour’s website:

“Since 1995 Paul Gilmartin has been a co-host on TBS’ Dinner and a Movie, and a stand-up comedian since 1987. His credits include Comedy Central Presents: Paul Gilmartin, numerous Bob and Tom albums, comedy festivals and the Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He is also a frequent guest on the Adam Carolla podcast, performing political satire as right-wing Congressman Richard Martin.

Paul was thrilled to be diagnosed with clinical depression in 1999 because it meant he wasn’t just an asshole. By 2003, he realized he was still an asshole and an alcoholic. Since 2003 he has been sober, mostly happy and a tiny bit less of an asshole. He leads a happy life in Los Angeles with a patient, loving wife and two spoiled dogs.”