‘Career Suicide’? Chris Gethard’s New Show is Anything But

Posted June 29, 2017 by Panda Emily Jarrell in Nerdy Bits

“Before I tell you anything else, I want you to know: I see a shrink, we’re good.” This is how Chris Gethard opens his latest show, and the warning isn’t unwarranted. Career Suicide is essentially a one-man adaptation of a message Gethard posted on the blog for his variety show, The Chris Gethard Show, back in 2012, in which an anonymous fan asked him if he had ever had dealt with suicidal thoughts. The post is a beautiful read—I highly recommend it if you or someone you know has ever struggled with suicidal thoughts or feelings—and Career Suicide could not be a better expansion on its themes of mental illness, asking for help, and compassion.

Sometimes, if a work speaks honestly about mental illness and its associated struggles, the work will be praised simply for having the honesty to speak up on the topic at all. However, Career Suicide is not only honest; it’s also extremely funny. In many ways, it feels like the ultimate embodiment of the millennial method of coping with depression and anxiety through comedy. Millennials may not have invented this concept, but there is a certain openness and authenticity in the way young adults born between the 1980’s and the early 2000’s talk about their struggles with mental illness that sets them apart from previous generations. Talking about mental illness is still highly stigmatized for most people, and the sincerity with which Gethard delivers his tales of dealing with mental illness is clearly an attempt at retaliation against that stigma.

Career Suicide is not only captivating due to its grave subject matter; Gethard is a masterful storyteller who seamlessly strolls from story to story, effortlessly weaving clever callbacks to previous jokes throughout. Although the memoir-esque one-man show centers around Gethard himself and his experiences, his characterization of his delightfully quirky therapist Barb—a running joke to which he repeatedly returns—just about steals the show with her theories about human brains being computers invented by aliens and her apparent total lack of healthy boundaries. Gethard and Barb’s doctor-patient relationship has spanned a decade, and I would absolutely watch the sitcom about them he pitches during one of his numerous bits about her.

My only real complaint about Career Suicide is Gethard’s one use of the n-word. In context, he’s quoting a racist person; the joke is very good, and the part preceding his saying the slur contains one of my favorite quotes from the entire show, but hearing him say it was incredibly jarring. He goes on to talk about how he hates that word and hates the sound of him saying it, but I still don’t really think the entirety of the bit justifies his saying the slur himself. In what is otherwise a very self-aware show, it seems strange that a white man like Gethard would be at all comfortable saying that slur, even in a quote, which he also made no effort to censor in the aforementioned 2012 blog post containing the same anecdote.

Chris Gethard is fairly popular among those familiar with his work, but he remains relatively unknown in the mainstream outside his guest appearances on comedies like Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City, and this performance is perfectly poised to catapult him into the public eye. It is a frank and endearing portrait of a deeply neurotic, but very charming man and his journey through mental illness. Some viewers may be disappointed that Gethard doesn’t emerge at the end of his show having learned a cathartic lesson, but that lack of resolution is arguably the quintessence of living with depression.

Being so candid about his lifelong struggle clearly, visibly pains him at times, but the purpose of this production is clearly to show people who may be experiencing similar issues something they may desperately need to hear: you are not alone, things can get better, and there is nothing wrong with seeking help. No matter how difficult life can be, there is always the option that one day, you will wake up and they will no longer be miserable. It may not be easy, but it’s not impossible. All you have to do is make it to Thursday.

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Panda Emily Jarrell