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Chris Gethard: Career Suicide at Soho Theatre until 4th February 2017

| Comedy, Theatre | 01/02/2017

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Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gethard’s excellently scripted and painfully honest monologue on depression makes for uncomfortable yet compelling viewing.

“Sometimes people just … break,” says Chris Gethard early on, after explaining that his longstanding issues of anxiety and depression don’t stem from any traumatic childhood experience.  The lights have darkened and his voice has slowed to a standstill.  His glasses near the end of his nose.  His head jerks nervously once, then twice.  “Welcome to a comedy show!”

The spotlight beams and Gethard picks up the pace again, alternating between storytelling in his familiar New Jersey accent, and dispelling myths about his condition and the medication that helps control it.  It’s quite some performance, although ‘comedy’ isn’t the best descriptor.  Gethard says he and Judd Apatow invested a lot of energy in making the autobiographical show funny.  However, Career Suicide is closer in message and delivery to Fleabag or Every Brilliant Thing than any stand-up routine.  It’s excellently scripted, painfully honest and just-about-hopeful, but falls short of those plays – solely as a piece of entertainment – by refusing to resort to any raucous or heart-lifting fiction.

There are amusing moments, especially when he talks about Barb (the endearingly useless psychiatrist); his love for Morrissey, whose lyrics aptly pepper the show; or his alcoholic younger self waking up in bed to find strangers waiting for him to finish a story.  But don’t go along expecting a night of laughter.  Or, if you do, expect that laughter to catch in your throat when he moves on to his attempted suicides or when he told his mother what he’d been experiencing since the age of 15.  “That was the last moment in her life when she thought she had a normal kid.”

If that sounds like a criticism, it isn’t.  The show’s all the more powerful for its lack of one-liners and aversion to romanticising a condition so many of us encounter first- or second-hand.  Gethard doesn’t pretend the triggers that made him want to end it all were substantial.  Nor does he claim to be ‘fixed’.  “I still get depressed regularly, but nine times out of ten I handle it like it’s a cold.  It’s a pain, but most of the time I can still get on with things.”

This total honesty marks Career Suicide out from far funnier shows about depression – such as Rachel Parris’ Best Laid Plans or Andrea Hubert’s Week – with which I felt it compared unfavourably at the Edinburgh Fringe.  However, especially in this environment – the best place for comedy-drama in the capital – Gethard’s show makes for compelling if uncomfortable viewing.  Go into it with your eyes open, but do go into it.

Chris Gethard is performing Career Suicide at Soho Theatre at 21.45 until Saturday 4th February 2017.  For tickets, head here.  Or for more information, see Chris’ official website and follow him on Twitter @ChrisGethard.

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