Burst Your Bubble collaborated with the Ministries of Equity and Student Life to host the Mental Health Comedy/Variety Night in the Blind Duck last Thursday. The groups hoped to work towards removing the stigma of mental illness through the event, and donated the proceeds to Children’s Mental Health Ontario.
The first half of the night was a round of comedic performances hosted by Allan Strong, a self-proclaimed expert on “how to win friends and influence your other personalities”, and his personal flair permeated each introduction. The comedy group that performed was part of the organization Stand Up for Mental Health, which works to raise awareness and money for the mental health cause through comedy and unravel the myths and stigma surrounding mental disorders.
All of the routines were based on the performers’ experiences with their own mental health. Many people live with mental disorders every day, but many don’t seek help because of embarrassment or denial. The comedians alleviated this embarrassment by drawing on the humorous tendencies of their disorders. The first comedian, Marcie Gray, was a recovering agoraphobic, with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Agoraphobia is the excessive fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas. Just climbing up on stage and performing in front of a large crowd must have been daunting for Gray, but she said that medication helps her deal with the anxiety of agoraphobia. “Is that a bottle of Prozac in your pants, or are you genuinely happy to see me?” Gray joked. All of the comedians referred to their dependencies and tendencies, rather than “symptoms”, to explain how ridiculous their behaviour could be.
The second half of the night was dedicated to the contributions of UTM students to mental health awareness. Style and Profyle performed a jazzy dance called “Circus”, whose orderly yet playful choreography seemed to tap into the same humour the comedians had displayed. Ace Ting, who was the winner of this year’s UTM’s Got Talent, played to a fantastic toe-tapping rhythm with elastic melodic precision to conclude the performances.
Raising awareness of mental disorders requires changing the way society sees people with mental disorders, as well as changing the way these people see themselves. With the participation of UTM students and organizations that understand this need, the Mental Health Comedy/Variety Night reached its audience.